Category Archives: Church

But the Church Prayed

It Happened In Acts

It may come as a shock to some of you, but, believe it or not, there’s a lot more to the book of Acts than chapter 2.

As a matter of fact, the book of Acts is full of exciting, foundation-rattling accounts of God moving through the Church by the power of the Holy Spirit. Chapter 12 is no exception.

In Acts 12 we read Luke’s account of how Herod Agrippa (the 1st) thought he’d found a way to demoralize and ultimately defeat the young Church. After seeing that killing the apostle James made the Jews happy, he then arrested Peter with the intent of doing the same. It seemed like a fool-proof plan…

…but prayer was made without ceasing by the church unto God for him” (Acts 12:5).

That was the hinge on which the door swung…the church prayed.

Think of all the insurmountable obstacles we’ve encountered. How many times have we (as the Church or individuals) been faced with situations where there seemed to be no way out, no positive solution, no hope? What has been our usual response? Has it been fervent, unceasing, continual prayer? Not usually.

Imagine what would have happened to Peter had the story been more like: “Herod was going to kill Peter, but the church hired the best Gentile lawyer from Rome.” Or, maybe Acts 12:5 could have read like: “Herod was planning on killing Peter, but the church hatched a full-proof escape plan.”

No, the Bible says that the church in Jerusalem did what all of us should do – but we usually don’t – they prayed without ceasing.

If Acts is supposed to be an example of how the Holy Spirit can work through the Body of Christ (the Church), then I have a feeling we’ve lost a lot of battles by ignoring our most powerful weapon – PRAYER.

It’s Happing in Soddy Daisy

Well, my friends, I pastor a small church in Soddy Daisy, TN, that needs a few miracles. We need some locked doors opened…some chains to fall off…some manna from heaven…some pioneering workers for the field.

We need people who will work. We want to see souls saved. We want to make an impact on our community. We want to build the Kingdom. We want God to receive the glory for rescuing what many have deemed a lost cause.

So, we’re praying.

Every evening we are meeting to pour our hearts out in prayer. Every evening we are asking God to meet our needs. Every evening I am hoping others will join us, preferably in person. You are invited.

This past Sunday (May 6) I preached a sermon that laid out the context for Acts 12:1-5. I then called upon our congregation to join with me in serious, desperate, concentrated prayer for the rest of the month. You can listen to the sermon by clicking on the link below or the picture of our church sign.

Let us look forward to what God is going to do, but don’t be too surprised if He answers in a way that has never even crossed our minds.

“Now About This Time: The Church Prayed”

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Filed under Church, community, Prayer, Preaching

Are You Glad?

I am!

church glad to go

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They Did Believe, But…

I’m on my last day of “vacation” in Charleston, S.C., visiting with our oldest daughter and her husband, but I’ve still found time to sit and quietly study. As a matter of fact, I’ve had some wonderful times of peaceful, uninterrupted periods of reading and note taking. 

Which brings me to what I want to share with you this morning, while I have a moment and it’s fresh on my mind. 

I’m good friends with a legendary Church of God gospel group, the Branham Family. In one popular song that Donna Branham (Coleman) wrote, she sings about the story of Peter being released from prison (Acts 12:1-19), then coming to the house where the church was praying. In short, the song makes the argument that even though they had been praying all night, because they were shocked to see Peter at the door, they must have not really believed the prayer would be answered. 

Then, as the title of the song describes, the chorus leads us to acknowledge that “someone in that house believed when they prayed…” because the proof was that Peter did get released. The assumption, then, is that because the people were amazed to see Peter at the door they must have not really believed God would deliver him from being executed the next day. 

And honestly, that’s what a lot of people think about these early Christians. They tend to detract from the fact that they were in one accord pleading with God all night long for Peter’s life, and then describe the prayer warriors as “faithless.”

I disagree. 

You see, as I have been studying Acts 12 (along with the rest of the book), it doesn’t appear that the church that prayed for Peter was faithless; it’s just that they were shocked at how God answered. 

Think about it, just because Peter and the other “apostles” experienced a similar angelic deliverance in Acts 5, that doesn’t mean they were going to assume it would happen again. After all, both Stephen and James had now been killed, not delivered, so why were they to assume the doors would open on their own for Peter this time? 

Yet, they did pray all night for Peter, which is far more than we might see today. Could it be that what they were praying for was Peter’s life to be spared, and possibly by changing the heart of Agrippa? 

I guess what I’m trying to say is that there is a message to the Church in Acts 12, and I think it’s more than “believe when you pray.” 

I believe the message to us today might be more like, “Don’t be amazed when God answers your prayers in an unexpected way.”

I mean, the church might have been expecting to wake up the next morning to hear word that Herod Agrippa had accepted Christ as his Messiah, or something. But I think it’s unfair to judge this fearless and committed group of early believers as unbelieving pew-warmers just going through the motions.

They DID believe, but they never expected how miraculous the answer would be. 

So, keep praying and believing; you might be surprised at what God has planned. 

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Filed under Bible Study, Church, Faith

A Sermon On Legalism

You can go to other posts I’ve written and read why some people choose to be legalists. This, however, is a message I preached this past Sunday morning.

Maybe some of you will find it encouraging or helpful.

Click here to listen to “Romans 14: A Sermon On Legalism”

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Filed under Christian Maturity, Church, legalism, Preaching

8+ Reasons Why Smaller Churches Are Better

The Survey

In a recent study conducted by the survey pro’s at TheRecoveringLegalist.com, pastors from both large and small congregations shared why they thought a small church could be better than a big one.

The survey sample was made up of pastors from various denominations, from different parts of the country, and consisted of men from my personal contact list – and my wife. It was VERY scientific – sorta.

The Question

I had my own thoughts, but I wanted to know what others thought, so I asked a question. The question I posed to other pastors went something like this:

“I’m doing a quick, non-scientific survey for a blog post (no names will be mentioned). Can you give me 1 or 2 reasons why a small church could be better than a big church?”

Within moments I received multiple replies through text, email, and Messenger. It took them very little time to respond, like it was something they didn’t even have to think about, and the answers they gave were practically the same.

The Answers

If the answers from the pastors in the survey I conducted mean anything, it would seem that smaller churches are the place to be if you want to be:

  1. Known by name;
  2. Have intimate relationships with others;
  3. Have a pastor who misses you when you’re not there; and/or
  4. Experience more accountability.

Other answers suggested that in larger churches it is harder to keep track of what is being taught in “small groups,” while in smaller churches everyone is more on the same page. But overall, the most common reason given for smaller churches being better than bigger churches was knowing and being known by others in the congregation.

As a matter of fact, what the pastors in my survey said echoed the hopeful and encouraging words of Karl Vaters’ article “Why Small Churches Are the Next Big Thing.” Speaking of Millennials, he said:

“[There’s] growing evidence this new generation will bring the greatest opportunity for small church ministry in 2,000 years.

Why? Because, as the first generation with a majority born and raised outside traditional marriage, genuine relationships and intimate worshipwhat small churches do best—will matter more to them than it did to their parents.” [emphasis added]

So you see, even though larger churches offer a lot – unlimited numbers of ministries in which to get involved; professional-quality childcare; servant pastors for every niche; and the best technology money can buy – many people are coming to understand there’s something special about the community of a small, loving congregation.

But There’s MORE!

Should you surmise that intimate, supportive relationships, accountability, and being able to talk with your pastor without an appointment are the only qualities that make small churches better than bigger ones, think again. There’s more! Much more!

The following are 8 more reasons why small churches could actually be better than large ones, at least for some people:

  1. Parking Spaces. Why should one have to search ten minutes to find a parking place within walking distance to the trolley you must ride to get to the front door? Small churches have plenty of parking, usually no further than a hymnbook’s throw away.
  2. No Auditions Necessary. Forget having to try out for the choir, the praise team, the annual play, the children’s musical, or the worship orchestra. If you can sing, play an instrument, or read a line – or even if you can’t – there’s always a place for you in a small church, at least in the choir.
  3. No Training Necessary. So, you want to run sound? You want to operate the lights? You think you have a desire to operate the recording equipment? Well, you’d better have a resume and a list of references if you want to do any of that in a big church. Seriously, they can’t let just anyone with a desire operate a $25,000 camera or push the buttons that link to the network satellite feed. But in a small church? HA! There’s always a need for someone to flip the cassette or press “record.”
  4. The Best Seating Anywhere. If you come in late to a service at a big church, no kidding, you might need binoculars to see the holes in the pastor’s jeans. But in a small church, well, the back row might as well be in the reserved section! Compared to a mega-church, the back row in a small church is practically within spitting distance of the preacher.
  5. Genuinely-Experienced Childcare. Do you have small children? Do you care about them? Why let Buffy or Bianca watch your crumb cruncher while you worship? Why not trust them to the experienced, floppy-armed grannies who’ve raised more kids than a champion goat farmer? Who better to make sure you young’ns act right and learn about Jesus than a few ladies who’ve washed out more than a few mouths with Ivory soap? [Disclaimer: Washing out mouths with soap is no longer approved]
  6. Free Interactive Technology Museum. Bigger churches are all about the newest, most advanced technology. Smaller churches, on the other hand, rarely have the funds for regular upgrades to sound equipment, etc. Therefore, where else can you go to find working 1980’s (if not older) sound equipment still being used? Small churches are like free interactive technology museums where everyone can listen to both the preacher AND the local radio station at the same time!
  7. Food, Food, and More Food. Go to a large church and you’ll find plenty of opportunities to eat. They have Wednesday night meals, socials, finger foods, and all kinds of stuff before Sunday School (morning Bible study). Some large churches even have coffee bars and sit-down restaurants on campus! But seriously, how does any of that compare to what a bunch of ladies can whip up for a homecoming dinner on the ground? Believe me, when you’re sick at home and can’t fend for yourself, those small-church ladies can keep you well-maintained with cornbread, beans, fried chicken, and homemade stew.
  8. It’s Your Community. If nothing else, your typical small church is made up of people from your own community. Large churches – the ones with huge TV ministries and social programs – are made up of people from all over the place; small churches are filled with your neighbors. It’s in the small, hometown churches where people learn to shoulder up with each other through a community’s hard times. It’s in the small church where a pastor attends your daughter’s graduation, the funerals and weddings are no charge, and someone always notices when you’re not there.

Seriously, I have nothing against large churches – every pastor would love his church to be one. However, most churches average no more than 80 members, and they are where the majority of solid, faithful, salt-of-the-earth Christians still attend.

So, are small churches really better than big ones? Well, that all depends on where God wants you. But if you don’t want to get lost in the crowd – or in the parking lot – a small church just might be what you need.

Y’all are welcome any time! (11055 Dayton Pike, Soddy Daisy, TN)

 

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Filed under baptist, Church, ministry, worship

Saturday Night View

View of the church I pastor from the back door of the Parsonage.

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Rainy Sundays, and What God Evidently Needs to Know

Rain Rain Go Away

Photo credit: Haley Baker

Well, according to the weatherman (or as Canadian PM Trudeau might say “Weatherperson”), it’s going to be a rainy Sunday. But doesn’t God realize rain on Sunday is a bad idea?

I mean, seriously, with the documented decline in church attendance, you’d think God would know better, right? Why does He choose to place such a heavy burden on the faithful? Why does he choose to put their health and lives at risk by covering the roads with slippery precipitation (rain)?

Maybe its a simple case of miscommunication. Maybe the One who covers the sky with clouds and prepares rain for the earth (Psalm 147:8) should be better informed.

Informative Prayer

So, in an effort to help my fellow brothers and sisters, I’m going to put together a bullet-pointed list of issues that must be addressed if God wants to get more people out of their houses and into His house on a rainy Sunday.

Let us intercede for each other as we take the following concerns before the throne of He who calms the stormy seas. Would you pray with me?

Dear Heavenly Father, Maker of Heaven and Earth, Mighty God,

  • It’s too hard for us to wake up in the morning when it’s raining; you make our beds too comfortable. Yes, we know we can get up and go to work when it’s storming, but we’ve got to do that – it’s expected of us. However, church is a choice, and you make it much too difficult.
  • You love a “cheerful giver,” but it’s too hard for us to wake up “cheerful” without sunshine. How can the church pay its bills if we’re not there to cheerfully give our $5 bills? You need us.
  • You say it’s a sin to be presumptuous (Psalm 19:13; 2 Peter 2:10), so why would you want us to presume your angels are going to keep us safe on these wet roads? If Jesus wouldn’t jump off the top of the temple, then is it wise for us to leap into traffic? Of course not!
  • And, Lord, we feel we must remind you of something: We are not Jesus. Not even close. So, please understand, walking on water and hydroplaning are not the same thing.

Amen.

Now, if you actually did pray the above prayer, you need more than church – you need Jesus.

The sea is his, and he made it: and his hands formed the dry land. O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the LORD our maker. – Psalm 95:5-6

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Filed under Christian Maturity, Christianity, Church, Humor, Weather