Category Archives: Christian Unity

An Open Letter to an Average Disgruntled Church Member

Dear Disgruntled:

I noticed that coming to church has become something of a dying habit for you (well, to call it a habit might be stretching it a bit; habits do require some sort of consistency). From what I’ve heard, you’ve become disheartened and disillusioned with the whole church “thing.”

Is that true? If it is, my heart breaks for you. Believe me, there’s not a single church-related heartbreak or disappointment I haven’t already endured. However, there is something simple you can do to turn things around.

What you need to do is develop a Christ-like love for your brothers and sisters, then even the worst of disappointments will have a hard time turning your heart cold.

You could start by repeating the following statement over and over: “Because He first loved me… Because He first loved me…” Why? Because He first loved you (1 John 4:19)! Believe it or not, Jesus loved you long before you were loveable…long before you stopped breaking His heart on a daily basis…long before you became perfect and quit messing up.

Wait, you are perfect, aren’t you? No? Wow! And He loves you anyway?

Amazing, isn’t it?

So, if you would just try to love others the way Jesus loves you – faults and all – His Spirit would turn those tears of disappointment into healing streams of grace.

Then, if you’d keep your worship more vertically oriented and less horizontally irritated, there’d be a lot fewer things to complain about.

Loving and missing you,

An Average Pastor (without a jet) 

 

P.S. Service times haven’t changed, and no one has claimed your seat.

 

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Filed under Christian Unity, Church, grace, Struggles and Trials, worship, writing

Thinking Out of the Box? Or Out of My Mind?

The Facts

It should be common knowledge for most of you, at least those of you who regularly read my blog – because you are the more intelligent of all readers – that not all pastors are “fully funded.” In other words, over half of church pastors are what we call bi-vocational (i.e., they work at least a second job).

Well, it might come as a surprise to learn that many pastors, such as myself, receive no compensation from a denomination, either. At best, most bi-vocational pastors receive a small or modest salary and possibly an expense account, even more rare a parsonage (house). In other words, we are not getting wealthy from what we are called to do.

You see, the fact is that mega-churches make up only a small percentage of all churches. The vast majority of congregations in America have regular attendances of less than 400, and a good 30+% have less than 100 regular members. Why, then, would one choose to enter the ministry (accept the call), spend tens of thousands of dollars on years of education (4-10), only to expect a career that pays, on average, less than a 1st-year school teacher? Believe me, it’s not about the money.

We do it because we are called. We go because we are sent. And, in whatever way we can, if we have to, we will make tents (Acts 18:3). That’s why we work more than one job, if we have to, so that we can do what pastors do – shepherd the flock of God.

The Thought

But here is where I feel I was thinking out of the box yesterday afternoon: What if bi-vocational pastors could be supported like missionaries?

Stop and think about it. There are some areas where churches are few, and the ones that are there cannot afford to pay a pastor any kind of living wage (and, by the way, it’s biblical to pay a pastor). These little churches would love to have a seminary-educated minister teach and preach the Word of God, but most of the time end up searching for years until they wind up accepting whomever they can get. Not a good situation.

What if pastors of smaller congregations could raise support, much like what many missionaries do before going into the field? You do realize that the small, bible-teaching church down the road – the one which still serves a purpose and meets a specific demographic need – is still as important to the Body as the large church on the hill, don’t you? Whenever a small church closes its doors because of a lack of available leadership, the whole Kingdom suffers. Would it not be reasonable, therefore, to suggest supporting at least in some small ways, the pastors of these churches? Granted, there must be some considerations, but is it not a reasonable thought?

Pastoring a church takes time, and there are only so many hours in the day. When one has a family (if only a wife), puts 20-30 hours a week into church-related work and activity, and then has to maintain a “secular” career on top of that, something will suffer. When you add to the mix a pastor who is primarily trained and educated in ministry, not a technical skill-related field, the types of employment available – including the hours and days one must work – become more and more limited.

Am I thinking out of the box, or am I out of my mind? Are there ways this could be developed? Would it be something you would consider? Are there other options worth exploring?

What are your thoughts? 

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Filed under Christian Unity, Church, Preaching

When you hear the sound of the trumpet…

Nearly seven years ago (Oct. 28, 2010) I wrote the following post. Now that a new school year is upon us – and now that I’m actually pastoring in Soddy Daisy, TN, it seems appropriate to be reminded of some some things that are as true today as they were back then.


Last night (10/28/2010) I had the honor to participate in an event of community prayer.  I was invited to speak by a student at Soddy Daisy High School.  If you don’t know what happened, a whole bunch of people gathered together in the park to celebrate our right and freedom to pray, even though it was recently mandated that prayer be stopped before football games.  This meeting was organized by students who decided enough was enough.

In my closing remarks (I spoke for 7 1/2 minutes) I brought up the story of Nehemiah, specifically a part in chapter 4, verse 20. Nehemiah, in response to threats from enemies intent on stopping them from rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem, set people on the wall as lookouts.   Being that the wall was big and spread out, and being that there were few people, Nehemiah came up with a plan.  He said :

“The work is great and extensive, and we are separated far from one another on the wall.  Wherever you hear the sound of the trumpet, rally to us there.  Our God will fight for us.” Nehemiah 4:19-20 NKJV

To me, and I am just little ol’ me, there should have been a lot more people present last night.  Why?  A trumpet was sounded for the body of Christ to come to the aid of not only Soddy Daisy, but for all of Hamilton County.  An attack on our freedoms, as both Christians and Americans, has come to our soil.  Why is it that our schedules and programs and our own sections of the wall are more important than stopping the enemy somewhere else?

Last night was your typical “Wednesday night prayer meeting” night.  Besides the fact that prayer is rarely the object of attention at a lot of these meetings, what would have been wrong with jumping in the church bus and heading to where the trumpet was sounding?  Where there may have been 500+ at this event last night, there should have been 1-2000.  Why were they not there? Because it was more important for local congregations to remain safe and snug in their own little sections of  “the wall.”  

Here was a prime example of LEGALISM in action, for many did not want to participate in an event that featured speakers who weren’t part of a particular denomination.  

Here was a prime example of LAZINESS, for it may have been difficult to get people together to go somewhere on a weeknight, especially if it wasn’t to Ryan’s (the local steak house) or the bowling alley.  

Here was a prime example of DENIAL, PRIDE, and APATHY, for there were others who did not attend because they either didn’t think there’s a problem, it wasn’t their idea, or they just really didn’t care.  Folks, what has been “typical” needs to be trashed.

This past Sunday I told my congregation that I would be in Soddy Daisy on Wednesday night because a trumpet had been sounded.  I went to stand in the gap with my brothers and sisters who cared enough to make a public stand against the tyranny of a few over the wishes of the people.  

In the future, when other trumpets sound,  I pray that the churches of our county and our country will rally together in defense of the few walls we have left in this nation… a nation that, for now, claims to be “under God.”

May our God truly fight for us, for we don’t seem to want to fight for ourselves.

…Remember the Lord, great and awesome, and fight for your brethren, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your houses. – Nehemiah 4:14

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Filed under baptist, Christian Living, Christian Unity, General Observations, Independent Baptist, legalism, Southern Baptist, World View

Unity, Liberty, Charity: Disagreeing With Grace


The Way It Should Be

Isn’t it wonderful to have a platform where we can openly discuss the Bible? Isn’t it wonderful to be able to express our thoughts over the web without fear of retribution or imprisonment? Unfortunately, we often misuse the wonderful gifts we’ve been given, the gifts of the internet and our blogs, to bellow out our opinions as we blast our opponents, rarely taking advantage of the freedom we have to show grace, mercy, and love to our brothers and sisters in Christ.

A few days ago we started this discussion of glossolalia (speaking in tongues) and its modern relevance to the Church. What I have seen so far, both by way of posts and comments, has truly been encouraging. The series is still young, but I’ve yet to see a single critical, ungracious comment! Everyone who has written has been cordial, even in disagreement. That is the way it should be!

Therefore, before I go any further or get any deeper into the discussion at hand, I feel it best to clarify some things about my personal beliefs. The reason for doing so is to lay the groundwork for any further posts or comments I may write while addressing this particular subject of contention and misunderstanding within the Body of Christ.

Clarifying My Position

First of all, I am happy to say that I have many dear friends who differ with me on the issue of glossolalia (speaking in tongues). Those friends are not only in the Charismatic/Pentecostal branches of Christendom, but even within my own Baptist circles. Therefore, it is not my intention to belittle or demean what they believe, nor is it my wish to harm our relationships by openly disagreeing with certain doctrines they hold dear – they are family, and I love them. No, my sole intention is simply to state what I believe and why I believe it.

To be very honest, there are times when I wonder if it would be best just to leave things as they are and never discuss our differences. For example, some of the most godly and faithful people I know have a different understanding of the passages on which I will expound in a future post: they truly believe that the 4th and 14th verses of 1 Corinthians both affirm and give evidence for the faith to which they hold. Therefore, when they enter into their prayer closets and humbly bow before God in intercession, should their view of secondary or tertiary doctrines be a concern of mine? So what if their persistent, fervent, private prayer leads to ecstatic speech? If they are encouraged in the Faith, and it only leads them to stand stronger in it, why should I care? Honestly, at least they are praying! Lest we forget, right theology does not a prayer warrior make.

Nevertheless, as a minister I am tasked with the responsibility to read the Book distinctly, give the sense, and cause the listener to understand what’s being read (Nehemiah 8:8). As a preacher I am supposed to be “instant in season [and] out of season,” speaking the truth in love, despite the consequence or mood (2 Timothy 4:2). And should I choose to remain silent, never offering a proper treatment of a particular passage, even if doing so would seemingly cause no harm, then my shame would be justified (2 Timothy 2:15). Scripture is not up to “private interpretation” (2 Peter 1:20), so it is always appropriate and ultimately edifying to get closer to the interpretation that’s correct.

The second thing I would like to make clear is that I cannot, in good conscience, label myself a total cessationist (i.e., one who believes the spiritual gift of tongues ceased with the apostolic age); there is still room in my understanding of glossolalia for God to work outside my denominational box. However, it is of my opinion that the overwhelming majority of modern-day examples of glossolalia are nothing more than “ecstatic speech” (emotionally-induced language-like sounds). Even without referring back to the directives issued by Paul in1 Corinthians 14:27-33, the average example of glossolalia fails the most simple of linguistic tests, therefore demonstrating that whatever is being spoken may sound like a language, but it isn’t. Then, when one does insert 1 Corinthians 14:27-33 back into the equation, the average Charismatic or Pentecostal worship service becomes incredulous (i.e., ten people running around the sanctuary and speaking in tongues at the same time, all without an interpretation).  Simply put, if glossolalia is a gift still being given, the actual practice of it in public worship is probably extremely rare.

In my next post on this subject I am only going to address one particular verse of Scripture, 1 Corinthians 14:4. There are obviously several other passages which could be discussed, but for the sake of brevity (as if this post was short), this one verse, viewed in context, will be enough for me – at least for a while.

For the time being, “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity” (Rupertus Meldenius, circa 1627).

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Filed under Christian Maturity, Christian Unity, Christianity, Relationships and Family, Theology


Guest-Post Gamble

As most of you know, I have been making use of guest posts for the last several weeks in order to free up some time during preparation for a move. For the most part, all of the posts submitted by guest authors have been well-written pieces with acceptable content (content that doesn’t conflict with my personal beliefs).

However, just the other day I received a guest post from a blogger friend who has a different take on a particular teaching. His view is that the gift of speaking in tongues (languages unknown to the speaker), as mentioned in the books of Acts and 1 Corinthians, is still applicable and important for verifying the validity of one’s personal faith.

But here’s the thing: I don’t believe that. Shocker?

So, I had a discussion with the contributor of the post and stated that if I published his work without any clarification, there might be some confusion and unwanted repercussions.  Essentially, to publish his post without a caveat would be a big gamble on my part.

Therefore, I have decided to try something… a guest post open discussion on the topic of speaking in tongues.

Loose Your Tongues

Let us have a discussion on the topic of glossalalia (i.e., “speaking in tongues”) within the church. If you have a particular view, why not share it? The only thing I will not permit is attacking each other.

The first post on the topic is going to be the one submitted by David Fuller: “Tongues and the Church Today.” David is not a cessasionist (cessationist = one who believes the gift of tongues has ceased), consequently he will be arguing that the gift of tongues is still alive and well, even under-used.

The next post will come from me, and that post will be a treatment of 1 Corinthians 14:4, the verse where Paul talks about self-edification. That post will be argued from the perspective of a near cessasionist (nearly 100%, but not quite…more like 98%). I’ve yet to write it, but it will be done soon.

After that, I would love to publish more posts from other bloggers willing to enter the discussion. All I ask is that you focus on good scholarship to support your understanding, not attacks on those with different beliefs. The posts will publish as regularly as you submit them.

How This Fits My Blog

You might be wondering, “Why do this?” I mean, why bring up a topic with so much potential for hurting feelings or exposing differences and inconsistencies within the Church? Well, the answer is pretty simple.

  • We don’t all have to agree on secondary issues to be family
  • Open and honest dialogue helps to clear up confusion, not create it.
  • Atheists use our differences to bolster their argument against Christianity; therefore, it benefits the Church and the Gospel to demonstrate how followers of Christ can differ on certain non-essential doctrines and still remain connected by the fundamental and primary doctrines of the faith.
  • An open discussion of this topic will help to combat the legalistic tendencies we all have to lessen the spirituality of others as we judge them through the lenses of our own particular beliefs.

A Challenging Challenge

So, before I publish the first post in this open-ended series, let me issue a challenge to you all (or y’all, if you’re here in the South). When you submit your views on the subject/doctrine of speaking in tongues, remember to exhibit grace.

For example, if you don’t believe the gift of tongues is still in effect, that’s fine, but try to find a way to say something positive about those with whom you disagree. The goal of this series of posts is not to offend, but to build up and encourage each other as we seek to better understand Scripture.

If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, Fulfill ye my joy, that ye be like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. – Philippians 2:1-2

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Filed under Bible Study, blogging, Christian Unity, Guest Posts, legalism, Theology

The Parsonage Project

What I’m Doing

I would really appreciate your prayers. Pray that God would give me wisdom and a steady mind. Pray that I will keep my eyes fixed on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of my faith, for stormy waves are trying to distract my focus. Pray for me, if for nothing else, that I will myself remain in constant prayer.

This week the house that we are living in will be listed on the market to be sold, and we are not as ready as we would like to be. On top of that, the house in which we are planning to move is the parsonage of the church where I now pastor – but it is FAR from being ready.

Right now I am having to work a job and pastor a church; record a weekly radio broadcast; record lectures at the seminary; move a lot of stuff into storage; see that a house is ready to be seen by buyers; and oversee the restoration of an old house – a restoration which costs more money than we have and will have to incorporate the expertise of many people. That doesn’t count being a parent and a husband. Can you see why I wanted people to send me guest posts?

That’s why prayer is so important. In James 4:2 we read that we have not because we ask not, so I’m asking – pray for us.

The Parsonage

It is a well-known fact among pastors and their families that parsonages are a mixed blessing. For one thing, when you live in a parsonage (a house owned by a church, but meant to house the pastor), you live in a house that is not your own. Secondly, living in a parsonage usually means that you are not building up any equity or means to move into a normal home. So, what happens is that when the pastor ends up leaving the church where he pastors, if nothing else is done, he and is family are effectively homeless.

But, there are times when a parsonage can be a blessing, like for us, because without it we would have no place to live at this point. Also, the parsonage, if used properly, can be a tool for evangelism and discipleship. The parsonage can also show that the pastor and his family are personally invested in the health of the congregation he shepherds. Therefore, if the church does have a parsonage, it should be well-maintained in order to make full use of its potential.

Unfortunately, the parsonage at the church where I now pastor has fallen into serious disrepair. I am working with different groups and individuals in order to restore the old house, but that will take time, manpower, and a lot of something we (the congregation) don’t have…money. One group of men estimated that it would take $10,000 to make the parsonage livable. On the other hand, I was told by someone else that the costs would be closer to $30,000. And right now this little upstart of a little church only runs around 15 in a decent Sunday!

The Video

Below is a video I made last Sunday. In it I take you through the parsonage and let you see for yourself what needs to be done. Look, Nehemiah rebuilt a wall which his enemies swore would fall down if only a fox pushed against it. Noah built a huge ark with the help of fewer men than volunteers I will have. What needs to be done will get done, but this ship won’t sail without a strong wind of prayer.

If all things were easy and well within our own power, we wouldn’t need God’s help. But, when things seem impossible, we call upon the Lord to do for us what we cannot do (Psalm 57:2), thereby allowing Him to get the glory and praise.

The more impossible the project – even a parsonage project – the more praise, glory, and honor is due our Savior and King.

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Filed under Christian Living, Christian Unity, Church, Prayer, Preaching, Relationships and Family

Bumper Stickers

The following was first published in 2010…7 years ago! I sure do miss that car. That was a “preacher’s ride” if ever I saw one. Now I drive a white mini-van. What has the world come to?

“The Ride”

My wife will not let me put a bumper sticker of any kind on her car.  Even if she was driving a rusty Chevy Vega which desperately needed the qualities of something with adhesive properties to keep her bumper stuck to her car…”no bumper stickers!”

Not so with my steed.  Staples and zip ties already hold parts of my car together; sticky things are no biggie, you see.  Really, what I mean to say is that “The Ride” is not too good to advertise TheRecoveringLegalist.com, even though my wife thinks her car is too special.  HA!

Bumper stickers are something akin to free advertisement…

…They promote whatever you want other people to know about you and what you think, or for that matter, how well your kids think.  Plastered to the back of a rolling billboard, they catch the eye of total strangers who have the random chance to find themselves behind you and I in traffic, or who catch a glimpse in a parking garage.  Some people, I have come to realize, are advertising more than they know, for some bumper stickers betray a hidden (at least to the owner of the car) stupidity.

There are so many bumper stickers that scream “MORON!

Here is one that I saw.  What a profound question.  Why do we kill people that kill people?  Could it be that we don’t want them to kill people again?  Could it be that they deserve to die for taking an innocent child’s life?  Could it be that there are those out there on parole who would love to shoot your stupid…..(calm yourself, Anthony)…..well, they would love to steal your car and leave you beside the road in a ditch, then drive away with your false advertisement on THEIR bumper.

The one that I would have to say gets me the most, maybe because I see it the most, is COEXIST.  I just love all the little symbols that are used to make up the happy little plea for love and harmony.  Too bad what it tells me is that the owner of the car is a blooming idiot, at the very least, or somehow an ostrich has learned how to drive with his head in the sand. 

The message behind the little sticker is really, “Hey you Christians!  Can you quit being so narrow-minded and hateful?  Don’t you know that we all just want to get along, but you keep screwing it up?”  All religions are the same, you know, or that’s the idea.  We are all worshiping the same god, just by a different name, or so they say.  All paths lead to heaven, it’s just that some choose to take a shortcut by blowing themselves to Allah in the name of Jihad…is that so wrong?

Tell that to the “C”

I like the following verse. Psalm 107:2 says, “Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom he hath redeemed from the hand of the enemy…”  As Christians, we should be speaking out about the goodness and mercy of our God, not trying to seek favor with false gods by “COEXISTing” in perfect joy and mutual admiration. 

People in this country have the right to free speech and to freedom of religion, but if you haven’t noticed, we are in a real religious war.  The “C” doesn’t like the “T” or any other symbol in that bumper sticker.  If you’re going to put something on your bumper, make, it something that points people down the narrow road, not the wide one that leads to destruction. 

Show your intelligence and advertise your faith…just don’t be tacky and weird about it…or then we get back into the looking-like-a-moron thing that my wife so desperately wants to avoid.

Now here’s an idea for the “perfect” bumper sticker!

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Filed under America, Apologetics, Christian Living, Christian Unity, General Observations, Uncategorized, World View