Tag Archives: Denominations

What Underground Churches Don’t Worry About

In a sermon I preached not long ago, I made mention of the fact that you never see “First Baptist,” “Methodist,” or “Community Non-Denominational” plastered above an underground church. When all one wants to do is worship God without being imprisoned or killed, denominational distinction is one of the least of their worries.

That led me to think of other things that an underground church might not worry about:

  • The color of the carpet
  • The font on the church bulletin
  • Whether or not they sing a hymn or a praise song
  • Whether or not the pulpit is made of wood or etched glass
  • Business meetings
  • Bible Versions
  • Post-graduate or seminary training
  • Projection screens
  • Padded pews
  • Pews
  • A family activity building
  • Gold or silver communion accessories
  • How long the worship lasts
  • What people wear
  • Parking

No, I don’t think underground churches ever have time to worry about all these things. They are more concerned with fellowship, encouragement, prayer, reading God’s Word in any version they can get their hands on, and keeping each other alive.

Does having things over which to argue make us more spiritual?

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Filed under Christian Living, Christian Unity, God, legalism, Uncategorized, worship

What Underground Churches Don’t Worry About

In a sermon I preached not long ago, I made mention of the fact that you never see “First Baptist,” “Methodist,” or “Community Non-Denominational” plastered above an underground church. When all one wants to do is worship God without being imprisoned or killed, denominational distinction is one of the least of their worries.

That led me to think of other things that an underground church might not worry about:

  • The color of the carpet
  • The font on the church bulletin
  • Whether or not they sing a hymn or a praise song
  • Whether or not the pulpit is made of wood or etched glass
  • Cassette tapes or CD’s
  • Bible Versions
  • Post-graduate or seminary training
  • Projection screens
  • Padded pews
  • Pews
  • A family activity building
  • Gold or silver communion accessories
  • How long the worship lasts
  • What people wear
  • Parking
  • Youth activities
  • Revival Meetings

No, I don’t think underground churches ever have time to worry about all these things. They are more concerned with fellowship, encouragement, prayer, reading God’s Word in any version they can get their hands on, and staying alive.

Yet, it would seem we think we are closer to God than the underground, persecuted church because, after all, we have more things to worry about.

Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. Jesus  (John 17:20-21)

Maybe we should concentrate more on what really matters…”that the world may believe.”

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Filed under Christian Living, Christian Unity, God, legalism, Uncategorized, worship

Barriers to Church Growth. #1

A very revealing study was done, leading to a book detailing how 300 churches went from declining or dying, to growing. In Comeback Churches, written by Ed Stetzer and Mike Dodson, there is a list of 30 different barriers to church growth. Having received permission from the publisher (B&H Publishing Group), I would like to discuss a few of this barriers.

“Churches aren’t concerned about God’s glory, believing the church is just for them (Isa. 42:8; 48:11).”

I [am] the LORD: that [is] my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images. – Isa. 42:8

For mine own sake, [even] for mine own sake, will I do [it]: for how should [my name] be polluted? and I will not give my glory unto another. – Isa. 48:11

When we read the above verses it should be very clear to us that God is not interested in sharing His glory. Yet, too many times we rob God of the glory that is due Him by seeking it for ourselves. We do this in many ways, including the reason many of us go to church.

Lest we forget, “it’s not about us.” However, if you polled the majority of church-goers, I believe you’d find that the reasons for attending congregational worship are more selfish than we’d like to admit. To many believers, church is about what one can get, as opposed to what one can give.

The Tale of the Hymns

Have you ever stopped to listen to the words of those old-time hymns many of us grew up with? You may have sung them all your life, but stop and think about the following: “This world is not MY home, I’m only passing through. / My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue…;” “I’ll Fly Away;” “I’ve got a mansion just over the hilltop;” “All I Need.” What is the common denominator of these lyrics and titles? “Me, me, me.”

If the Church Hymnal (© 1951,1979) was used as a tool to determine what we think of church, stop and think about this: there are 80 hymns with a title that starts with the words, I, I’m, I’d, I’ll, I’ve, or My. In contrast, less than 10 contain the word glory. Those that do include “Glory Hallelujah In My Soul” and “I’ll Live in Glory.

I think it is pretty obvious that many of us come to church to get from God, not to give to God. He deserves our worship and our praise. He deserves all the glory because His is God, and not man (Hosea 11:9). We deserve nothing, yet His grace and mercy bestow upon us all the treasures we enjoy. Why do we come expecting anything?

Surely our churches would grow if God was glorified. Imagine a congregation of people who came together to lift up praise and adoration to Jesus for His glorious love. Imagine a group of folks who set aside all their own desires and petty differences in order to lift up holy hands unto the King of Glory. What did Jesus say? “If I be lifted up…I will draw all men unto me.”

So, what do you think? How could we do better in giving the glory to the One who truly deserves it?

Related Post: Un-“Christian” Ministry?

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Filed under Christian Maturity, General Observations, God, Uncategorized, worship

“You Might Be a Legalist If…”

The following list is not original on my part, I am unsure of who came up with it. But even though I didn’t write it, I want you to read it.

All that’s needed is Jeff Foxworthy to add his voice and declare, “You might be a legalist if…”

1) God’s love for me depends on what I do.

2) Meeting the expectations of others, especially those in my congregation or in positions of authority, are paramount.

3) Moral and ethical questions are usually black and white and only made into fuzzy shades of gray by hand-wringing, bleeding-heart types.

4) I try hard to obey God and it irritates me that others think they can get away with avoiding the same level of dedication.

5) I fall short because I don’t have enough faith, or because I haven’t prayed enough, or because I just need to be a better person.

6) God is predisposed to be angry with me because I am a sinner. My main goal in life is to try to gain God’s favor by doing things that will impress him.

7) My sense of spiritual well-being is linked to a Christian leader or membership in my church rather than a personal relationship with God.

8) I tell my children not to do something in church or around other Christian families that I allow in my home.

9) I believe my church is God’s true church and that most other Christians may be sincere, but are sincerely wrong.

10) The exterior choices a person makes in what they wear, hairstyle, piercings, tattoos, etc. is a clear indication of that person’s character.

11) I sometimes worry that people might take advantage of grace if it’s preached too much —people might think they can do anything they want.

12) After being around Christians for a while I feel drained —weary of putting up a false front.

13) When I happen to miss a service or activity of my church I feel guilty.

14) I will likely get into heaven, even though I’m far from perfect, because I have tried to be a basically good person and God will take that into account.

So, are you a legalist? I used to be, but I still struggle. That is the reason for this blog. That is why I call myself a “recovering” legalist.

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Filed under Church, legalism

Serving Up Thanksgiving, Family-of-Faith Style

A Combined Service

Anthony Import 11 30 14 194Last week we welcomed the congregation of Tiftonia Church of God to our Riverside Baptist. It was the Tuesday night before Thanksgiving, the night many churches set aside a time for a community fellowship.

Being that it was a Tuesday night, there wasn’t a big crowd. However, enough showed up from both of our churches to, well, “have church.” And that we did.

Brother Michael Fugatt, the new pastor of Tiftonia Church of God, brought a great message from Psalm 100, blessing us all. And, for the record, he didn’t speak in tongues (just in case some of my Baptist brethren were wondering).

All in all, we had a wonderful, intimate time of godly fellowship. At the end of the sermon, Bro. Fugatt requested that all of us gather around the altar, hold hands, and pray. But when Pastor Fugatt prayed, he prayed that God would bless and encourage us (the Baptist church!!) and cause us to grow in number! It was truly a Kingdom prayer from a fellow believer and brother in Christ.

The Challenges

Now the sad part is that so many would have never allowed another denomination to worship with them. That’s very sad.

For the record, I am a Baptist, and for that I make no apology. But just because I am Baptist, that does not mean I may only worship with other Baptists. No, Baptists aren’t the only ones going to heaven, I can assure you; only those who have been born into the family of God through faith in Jesus Christ.

Many of my fellow Baptists would never come together in worship, even once a year, with those in the Church of God denomination because of our different takes on several ecclesiastical issues and certain doctrines, especially those regarding the gifts of the Spirit. However, as it is with Baptists, not every Church of God congregation is exactly like the next, nor is their pastor. It really pays to be more gracious than writing off every congregation just because of the name above the door.

Believe it or not, there is room withing the family of God to disagree on the interpretation of certain passages in First Corinthians. There is room withing the family of God to disagree on how to handle church finances, ordain and hire ministers, etc. There’s room for differences, just as long as what it takes to make us “family” is agreed upon.

The Family Table

On Thanksgiving most of you probably sat at a big table, surrounded by family, and had a meal. Some of you, if not most of you, sat across from other family units, like brothers and sisters-in-law, or a crazy aunt and uncle. Maybe you shared a meal with some cousins you see only once a year – for good reason. But here’s the thing: you did it because they were family.

My wife and I lead a family unit, and our unit does things a little differently than the rest. So, when we come together with other family units for Thanksgiving or Christmas, we rarely discuss the different ways we run our households; we just enjoy the fellowship and the food. Why can’t we do that more often as Christians?

Many in the world make excuses for their atheism by pointing at Christians and their denominations. They say things like, “See, your beliefs can’t be true; you can’t even agree!” What community services provide is the chance to show that real Christians, true believers in Christ, can have their different ways of doing things when at home, but still come together for a family reunion, a meal around a common table of faith.

Of course, there are times when fellowship with other churches must be avoided; heresy cannot be tolerated. But the fact is that there are more times than not when genuine believers should come together once in a while to break bread, if for no other reason than to show the world that we are children of the same Father, co-heirs with Jesus our brother, regardless how we run our individual homes.

Now, will someone pass the manna?

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Filed under baptist, Christian Unity, Christmas, legalism, Relationships and Family, Thanksgiving, worship

What Underground Churches Don’t Worry About

In a sermon I preached not long ago, I made mention of the fact that you never see “First Baptist,” “Methodist,” or “Community Non-Denominational” plastered above an underground church. When all one wants to do is worship God without being imprisoned or killed, denominational distinction is one of the least of their worries.

That led me to think of other things that an underground church might not worry about:

  • The color of the carpet
  • The font on the church bulletin
  • Whether or not they sing a hymn or a praise song
  • Whether or not the pulpit is made of wood or etched glass
  • Cassette tapes or CD’s
  • Bible Versions
  • Post-graduate or seminary training
  • Projection screens
  • Padded pews
  • Pews
  • A family activity building
  • Gold or silver communion accessories
  • How long the worship lasts
  • What people wear
  • Parking
  • Youth activities
  • Revival Meetings

No, I don’t think underground churches ever have time to worry about all these things. They are more concerned with fellowship, encouragement, prayer, reading God’s Word in any version they can get their hands on, and staying alive.

Evidently we are closer to God – we have more things to worry about.

Some may even worry that these Iranian Christians are dancing and using a drum to chant the names of God. For shame!

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Filed under Christian Living, Christian Unity, God, legalism, Uncategorized, worship

Pooped Pastors

At first you may think it strange to combine the words “pooped” and “pastor,” but for many it is an every day reality. The fact is that there are more pooped pastors, ministers, elders, etc., than you can imagine. That is why I would like to introduce you to…PoopedPastors.com.

Loneliness Kills

Let me be as serious as I can be – being a loner is deadly. That is why it is so important for those in church leadership to have friends they can trust. However, what most people fail to understand is that pastors have a very hard time making close friends.

There are limits to what we can share, and with whom we can share it. The burdens we carry, many times, have to be held in the strictest confidence. Besides our Savior, there are some times we literally have no one else to talk to. This can lead to feeling isolated, alone, and depressed. Some have even committed suicide.

You may think, “Well, why don’t pastors just get some help?” It’s not as easy as you think, believe me. For instance, when a person needs encouragement, the pastor is there to offer Scripture, prayer, and hope. Who does the pastor go to when he is discouraged? The parishioner? Does the pastor want to discourage the very people for which he is burdened?

When the shepherd is lost, does he ask the sheep for guidance? Not usually. The sheep would run away! A pastor with a heart for souls will even find it hard to talk with a professional counselor for fear of turning that one person away from Christ. So, he stays silent. But there is hope…

PoopedPastors.com

Dr. Steve Brown and I at a fundraiser for Harvest USA

If you are a bona fide pastor or minister, there is a place for you to go and be yourself. You don’t have to worry about what others think when you express your frustrations, your worries, your fears, or your doubts. Pooped Pastors is a place where you can communicate with others who are walking down the same road. It is not meant to replace flesh-and-bone friends, but it can help. I have been a forum member for about 3 years, and I am eternally grateful for what it has meant to me.

Anonymous

What is so unique about Pooped Pastors? Well, Dr. Steve Brown (Key Life Ministries) started this site in order to encourage those who minister. There are many helps and links that are useful, but the hallmark of the site is the pastor’s forums. There, once you are confirmed to be who you say you are (they check), you are assigned a personal number (yes, you become just a number). Once you have your number, you can log into the forums and feel the refreshing breeze of freedom. You don’t have to worry about sharing what’s on your heart. You can be 100% honest, and no one will come asking for your resignation (but don’t go too crazy).

Pass the Word

If you are a minister, please go visit Pooped Pastors. If you are not a minister or pastor, tell your pastor about it. Let him know you are praying for him and that you want him to be encouraged. Write the web address down and give it to him, or, as you know, he’s likely to forget (I’m just say’n).

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Filed under Christian Living, Christian Maturity, Christian Unity, Do not judge, God, ministry, Preaching, Relationships and Family, Uncategorized