Matthew R. Perry

Archive for the ‘Missions’ Category

Sunday’s Sermon: “Jesus Saves, Jesus Sends” (Luke 9:1-9)

In Christ, church, Evangelism, Leadership, Missions, Salvation, Worship on March 23, 2009 at 12:32 pm

(If you wish to listen to the mp3 of this sermon, click on the title of this sermon in the sidebar of this blog.  This sermon was preached on Sunday, March 22, 2009 at Boone’s Creek Baptist Church, Lexington, KY where I have served as pastor since September 2003.)

Every leader, no matter who he is or what he is engaged in, must multiply himself. If a leader does not pass along his vision, delegate that vision out, and then give away some of that responsibility, that influence will be small. That influence will only go as far as that person can. But leaders and organizations’ influence multiplies when others are involved in making the vision a reality.

When I became a minister of music and youth at a church in South Florida, I went from a small church with a very small choir and about a ten-voice children’s choir to a church that had five large choirs from preschool to senior adults. While they already had people in place for the preschool choir and children’s choir, I was directly in charge of the youth choir, adult choir, and senior adult choirs which had a combined 90 people involved. I was swamped.

Yet, my greatest challenge was the youth choir. We formed an instant bond, and I knew how to direct choirs—but the youth also were involved in large dramatic musicals. This wasn’t where you just gave them some lines and said, “OK, guys—do your best!” There were tryouts, auditions, and some serious practices. It was not my strength, and it showed at our first musical.

So I had to swallow my pride and get some help with this. Someone in our church was good at drama and had experience doing it, so I enlisted Sean and he took over all the drama. We would coordinate, I’d tell him my thoughts, and he’d either run with what I said or improve on what I said. But the burden was lifted, ministry was expanded, and the youth choir absolutely flourished.

Jesus understood this. As we have been going through Luke, we have seen that Jesus was very busy in doing ministry. He would do the preaching, he would do the healing, he would talk to the opposition—and he did this alone! Even the account of Jairus’ daughter and the woman with the issue of blood, people pressed in around him so much that he struggled to get from Point A to Point B. He was it! He even had to divert his attention from Jairus’ issue to tend to the woman. As far as the perspective of heaven was concerned, this was exactly how God planned it. But from heaven’s and earth’s perspective, Jesus needed to give away his ministry not only so he could spread his influence—he needed to train these young “interns” to carry on after He ascended to the Father.

It’s interesting that Jesus chose this path—involving flawed and frail human beings to expand his ministry and work through them and all who follow the Gospel.

1 And he called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, 2 and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. 3 And he said to them, "Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not have two tunics. 4And whatever house you enter, stay there, and from there depart. 5And wherever they do not receive you, when you leave that town shake off the dust from your feet as a testimony against them." 6 And they departed and went through the villages, preaching the gospel and healing everywhere.

7 Now Herod the tetrarch heard about all that was happening, and he was perplexed, because it was said by some that John had been raised from the dead, 8 by some that Elijah had appeared, and by others that one of the prophets of old had risen. 9Herod said, "John I beheaded, but who is this about whom I hear such things?" And he sought to see him.

As we look at this passage, we must remember this without fail: those whom Jesus saves, Jesus sends. He calls you, he empowers you, he directs you, and when it comes to the church he stays with you in his Spirit. Not only this, but the Spirit moving you along gives you the desire to point others to Christ. The connection is such in the New Testament that if you find yourself not wanting to be sent or resisting it, there is always a question as to whether you are saved. Spurgeon says:

Any Christian has a right to disseminate the gospel who has the ability to do so; and more, he not only has the right, but it is his duty so to do as long as he lives. The propagation of the gospel is left, not to a few, but to all disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.[1]

1. Jesus saves us and sends us, armed with the gospel (1-3).

Again, look at verses 1-3:

1 And he called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, 2 and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. 3 And he said to them, "Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not have two tunics.”

Jesus chose these twelve out of many, and he poured his life and teaching into these twelve men. During this mission, they were only armed with the power of the Word of God to do both physical and spiritual healings. This is great in seeing how Christ uses people to expand and conduct his ministry. In John 6:69-71, we read:

After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. 67So Jesus said to the Twelve, "Do you want to go away as well?" Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, 69and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God." Jesus answered them, "Did I not choose you, the Twelve?”

Christ chose the Twelve to serve as an extension of himself in the world. This is a foreshadowing of how his church would serve. Remember from Ephesians 2:19-21:

19So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.

Jesus saves us and sends us to be an extension of Him as well—the apostles were sent, yet we are His body that’s living and active in the world. What is the resource He gave them to use? “He sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal.” I read this, and two things came to mind. I recall in Acts 1 after Jesus rose from the dead, he spent his last days: “He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3).

The other thing that came to mind was a conference I went to in Elizabethtown this past Tuesday called “Essential Church?: Reclaiming a Generation of Dropouts.” Dan Summerlin gave a breakout session talk about the necessity of a church understanding its mission. He recommended to us pastors gathering together your key leaders and spend three months on this. He said, “The first four weeks of this, do a study on the Kingdom of God to get that framework in mind. Then you’re ready for the particulars of your church.”

Notice over what Jesus gives them authority: demons and diseases. Why is this significant? Did not Jesus have power over the demons and to cure diseases in Luke 8? Jesus called them, saying that they now have His power and authority over these issues as well. He doesn’t just save them. He doesn’t just empower them. He sends them to proclaim the Kingdom of God and to heal.

We must realize that this was a short-term mission for a specific purpose. In this passage, they were to take nothing for their journey, when in another missions trip they were to take extra supplies. This was a time where they would get used to sharing the gospel in various communities, especially after the time Jesus was ascended—given great evidence of this in the Book of Acts.

We must also realize that Jesus is bringing together his apostles (and this word, from the Greek, means ones who are sent—in this case, ones who are sent by Christ for a specific purpose).

2. Jesus saves us and sends us to work the Gospel out in our communities (4-6).

Look with me at verses 4-6:

4And whatever house you enter, stay there, and from there depart. 5And wherever they do not receive you, when you leave that town shake off the dust from your feet as a testimony against them." 6 And they departed and went through the villages, preaching the gospel and healing everywhere.

Verse 6 is telling: “And they departed and went through the villages.” Jesus sent out the Twelve to “proclaim the Kingdom of God and to heal.” Notice too the parallel understanding of proclaiming the Kingdom of God and “preaching the gospel.” So that’s the what—now we see the where: the villages. They went into the communities where people lived.

Christ empowers us to be witnesses from our neighborhoods to our nations. How? “The Holy Spirit will empower you, and you will be my witnesses…” (Acts 1:8). Do we understand that the power that God gave to Christ and that Christ gave to the disciples is ours as well? We need to realize a few things: one, the one who calls us; two, what he arms us with; and three, who he sends us to.

John Benton in his book, “Why Join a Small Church?” tells the story of when U.S. troops captured the Pacific Island of Okinawa towards the end of World War II. The island by and large contained great moral and social issues, except for one city—Shimbakuku. Upon their arrival there, they were greeted by two men, one carrying a Bible.

Everything in that village was neat and tidy, a far cry from the state of the other villages they had encountered. The reason? Thirty years prior a missionary had stopped in Shimbakuku on his way to Japan. He didn’t stay long and only two people (the old men) became Christians. He left them a Bible and begged them to shape their lives by it. They did so, and the whole community changed.

Do we not need to go into our villages? Has not God called us to go into our communities as part of the Great Commission? You see, in every case where God saves, He sends! And He arms us with the Spirit and His Word! We are to know our Savior, we are to know His Word, but we are also to know the people to whom we minister.

Have you ever talked to someone who feels called into international missions? In Southern Baptist life, if someone goes into missions through the International Missions Board, whether career or a two-year journeyman stint, end up spending some time a the Missionary Learning Center. There, they are trained to learn the language and culture of the people to whom they will serve and minister the Gospel. Why? Because some of our American traditions and customs may not only fit, but some may take offense. Plus, we need to be ready to adapt.

What is so interesting to me is, we do not question those methods of the IMB in training these missionaries to study their culture. Yet, we fail to see that this is what we need to be doing as well! 1 Chronicles 12:32 says, “Of the sons of Issachar who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do.”

You see, there is a difference between the church being like the world and the church understanding the world. Some Bible-believing churches want to completely cut themselves off from anything in the world

3. Jesus saves us and sends us, challenging outsiders to deal with Him and His Gospel (7-9).

7 Now Herod the tetrarch heard about all that was happening, and he was perplexed, because it was said by some that John had been raised from the dead, 8 by some that Elijah had appeared, and by others that one of the prophets of old had risen. 9Herod said, "John I beheaded, but who is this about whom I hear such things?" And he sought to see him.

Consider the progression here. Jesus saves us in order to send us. He gives us His power and His love and His desire for His prized creation and re-creates them, making them new creatures in Christ who no longer desire their own wills and appeal to their own flesh are sold out to the Kingdom of God—such a disparity will make a great difference in the world.

Yet, Jesus’ ministry had gotten the attention of none other than Herod the Tetrarch (also known as Herod Antipas). Herod ruled Galilee from around 4 B.C. until 39 A.D. He was every bit as evil as his father. Luke alludes to the fact that he was “perplexed because it was said by some that John had been raised from the dead” (v. 7). He by the urging of Herodias beheaded John the Baptist who accused him of adultery by having his brother Philip’s wife. He was familiar with John’s powerful preaching on the Kingdom of God, and Jesus (as far as he knew) had the same powerful preaching as well. “John I beheaded, but who is this about whom I hear such things?”

Herod wanted to meet him. Yet later on Herod wanted to kill Jesus. But in Luke 13:32, Jesus told the messengers, “Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my course.’” (Luke 13:32). Later on in Luke 23, during Jesus’ trial, Herod finally meets Jesus in person and wants a miracle from him—something in which Jesus did not oblige him.

What do we see from this? For one, we see that on the surface, Christianity looks very good. The disciples were preaching, yes, but they were healing! Many saw these incredible miracles and wanted to be a part of what was going on. They liked what they saw on the outside concerning Jesus and Christianity in general.

Yet, as we see with Herod, when people hear of the very nature of Christianity and the message that not only saved us but the message that we as saved people are armed with, they want to silence us. They may like what we do, but the world will hate what Christians say because it will not just involve an enjoyment of physical miracles, but it involves a spiritual change. When the Scriptures say, “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness,” they will resent the notion that a change, a spiritual transformation must take place.

A.W. Tozer calls for a certain type of preacher to step up:

Another kind of religious leader must arise among us. He must be of the old prophet type, a man who has seen visions of God and has heard a voice from the Throne. When he comes (and I pray God there will be not one but many), he will stand in flat contradiction to everything our smirking, smooth civilization holds dear. He will contradict, denounce and protest in the name of God and will earn the hatred and opposition of a large segment of Christendom. Such a man is likely to be lean, rugged, blunt- spoken and a little bit angry with the world. He will love Christ and the souls of men to the point of willingness to die for the glory of the One and the salvation of the other. But he will fear nothing that breathes with mortal breath.[2]

Yet, we may wish to silence Jesus, but there is a little seed that still intrigues us—as it did with Herod during Jesus’ trial. He wanted to see a miracle. Even with his skepticism, he still wanted to see if Jesus was all he said he was, but the only thing he could muster up was a desire to see an external magic trick. He still felt as if the world bowed to him, yet Jesus showed numerous times that He followed another King!

Our lives must be lived both in private and in public in such a way that the world and its leaders will have to contend with Christians—not politically, but spiritually. First Peter 3:15-16 says,

“In your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.”

Conclusion

One time, Billy Graham took time to speak to President John F. Kennedy about the gospel and the Second Coming of Christ. Kennedy disregarded what Graham had to say. Yet, sometime later when he and Graham were together, President Kennedy asked Billy if he could ride with him to his hotel room—clearly something was on his mind. Graham was suffering from a nasty cold and told the President he did not want to give this to him. So they settled for another time. Yet, just days later, JFK was shot in Dallas, and the conversation never took place.


[1]C.H. Spurgeon, Lectures To My Students (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 2008), 19.

[2]A.W. Tozer, The Size of the Soul, 128-129.

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Book Review: “Why Join a small Church?” by John Benton

In church, Evangelism, Missions, small groups on March 21, 2009 at 12:24 pm

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I came across John Benton’s wonderful little book, Why Join a small Church? at a very important and crucial time in my ministry. Benton serves as pastor of Chertsey Street Baptist Church in Guildford, England, and has written such a helpful work in this area, that I cannot recommend it highly enough.

I serve as pastor of what some consider a small church (approx. 160-170 on a Sunday morning when the weather holds up). We have a number of folks who come through our church either just to visit, or are looking for another church that is, well, smaller than a number of larger churches that are in our area.

(An interesting trend here: many in our larger churches are looking for a smaller church to develop some close relationships, and others are in smaller churches looking to larger ones because of larger ministries and programs in which they may be involved. No wonder we see so many jumping churches all the time. Just a thought.)

Benton comes along and says

To join a big and thriving church is not always wrong, but it is frequently the easy option. To join a little needy congregation is not a decision to be taken lightly. It will probably require far more guts, love, resilience and spiritual exertion. But how the devil would love to herd Christians into a few big city centre churches, getting them to travel miles from their communities, and leaving vast tracts of our country with no viable witness for the gospel.

In Chapter One, Benton gives seven reasons to “throw your lot” into smaller churches (11-15):

    1. The big churches can spare you.
    2. The small churches need you.
    3. Small churches give opportunities to serve.
    4. Small churches enjoy closer fellowship.
    5. Smaller churches will stretch you more as a Christian.
    6. Small churches offer you a life’s work of real significance.
    7. Small churches offer you the chance to confound the world.

Benton closes the chapter by saying what many look for in a church.

  • What’s the music program like?
  • Is the church building impressive?
  • Can I find me a marriage partner? (Translate: are there young people there?)
  • Do the services employ the latest technology?
  • What’s the coffee like?
  • Will I be asked to do a lot? (16)

Rather, we should ask, “Is the love of Christ shown? Is the Bible taught faithfully? Is the church seeking to win others to Christ?” (16)

Chapter Two, entitled “Problems You May Face,” deals honestly with the plight of many smaller churches (bad facilities, nothing for children or youth, discouragement, lack of spiritual life, idiosyncracies, stale worship, etc.). Benton even questions the need for planting churches, for he feels that “it is far better, whatever the difficulties, if we can help to build up what is already in existence” (24).

Chapter Three, entitled “Why It Is a Tragedy if Small Churches Close,” he answers up front:

Everyone needs to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ and if possible to see it lived out in practical life. When a Bible church closes it usually leaves an area where people have been robbed of the possibility of hearing the gospel. But, in fact, everyone needs to become a Christian and local churches are the God-ordained means of holding out the world of life to the community.

Crafted around 1 Peter 1:3-12, Benton gives some helpful and necessary principles on why small churches are so needed. Chapter Four, entitled “How to Make a Small Church a Great Church,” was covered in a previous blog post, so I’ll move on to Chapter Five, entitled, “Encouragement for the Task.” Allow me to list off seven encouragements Benton believes (and I would agree) will help small churches to persevere and achieve great things for God.

  1. The potential of the church is far greater than we realize.
  2. The Lord is able to use small groups of Christians to transform whole communities.
  3. The Lord is able to use the most unlikely people to do remarkable things.
  4. The Lord Jesus will build His church.
  5. The Lord’s power is not dependent on great human resources.
  6. The power of God’s Spirit is available to all Christians
  7. The breakdown of secular society is a sign of how much each community needs small churches.

Conclusion

While each person must seek after God as to which church to join, we must make sure that our reasons are not simply due to external looks and resources, but rather they must match up to biblical mandates. We have become a consumeristic society, where we look at churches to see what they can offer us, rather than pouring our gifts into them.

Are you someone who prefers a larger church? Why? Do smaller churches not have the ministries or programs you desire? Do smaller churches make you feel conspicuous, whereas larger churches give you a place to blend in and hide? Would you be willing to be used by God to roll up your sleeves and help those small churches out so they may focus on a lost and dying world?

Frankly, are you elevating personal preferences to tests of faith? If so, you may well be walking in pride and selfishness, all the while deluding yourselves into thinking you are doing these things for spiritual reasons.

(John Benton, Why Join a small Church?, Rosshire, Scotland: Christian Focus Publications, 2008, 61 pp., $7.99.)

To read another fine (and far better) review of this work, click here.

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Be Wary of Contextualizing the Gospel

In Gospel, Missions on February 28, 2009 at 1:02 pm

Reading List on my Plane Ride to Trinidad

In Missions, Trinidad & Tobago on January 9, 2009 at 10:21 pm

I like to read… but only certain things.  Some love reading fiction and just have to read the latest bestsellers that are out.  I enjoy reading books that deal with theology, ministry, and the trends of the culture. 

In 3+ days, I will be heading out to Trinidad with 38 copies of “Spirit Empowered Preaching,” one copy of the ESV Study Bible for the Trinidadian pastors.  But what I find myself truly concerned about is not what clothes to wear, but what books to take on the trip.  The nature of the pastorate at this point along with me being at the writing stage of my DMin project does not always allow me to do a lot of leisurely reading.  Fiction is out of the question (although it’s not a huge loss for me–I just have a hard time losing myself in something not in reality). 

I have to make sure that with my five-hour flight from Houston to Port of Spain, Trinidad and back, plus a 5 1/2 hour layover in Houston.  It’s following the mandate of Ephesians 5: “making the best use of the time, because the days are evil” (Eph 5:16). 

So, I have decided to get reacquainted with an old friend, read a new book, and read up about a new ministry.  So here is the list of books I shall be reading:

I’m loading up my iPod with some sermons by Alistair Begg, Ken Ham, Don Whitney, Tim Keller, plus a boatload of Sovereign Grace Music, Christafari, Dave Brubeck, among others. 

Pray that I would use this time away from phones, e-mail, computers, etc., to really connect with my Lord and Savior. 

Video for My Upcoming Missions Trip

In Evangelism, Missions, Trinidad & Tobago on December 22, 2008 at 9:33 am

Do You Have a Kingdom Longing?

In Church Life, Culture, Evangelism, Missions, Preaching, Sermons on April 16, 2008 at 9:39 pm

(If you want to listen to this sermon in its entirety, click here. This sermon was preaching on Sunday, April 13, 2008, at the Boone’s Creek Baptist Church, Lexington, KY. Click here for the archive.)

The introduction continues: “He went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him” (Matthew 5:1b). Jesus didn’t just see the crowds and then give a simple gesture or a nod. He went up to a place where he could be seen, sat down as if he planned on staying a while a communing with them, and the people came to him.

Do we have this Kingdom longing? John Piper in his book The Supremacy of God in Preaching wrote:

“People are starving for the greatness of God. But most of them would not give this diagnosis of their troubled lives. The majesty of God is an unknown cure. There are far more prescriptions on the market, but the benefit is brief and shallow. Preaching that does not have the aroma of God’s greatness may entertain for a season, but it will not touch the hidden cry of the soul which cries, ‘Show me thy glory!’

Jesus understands this longing — and Jesus is the only one who can satisfy that longing. Over and over, they were stunned by an authority coupled with compassion. The Pharisees wouldn’t give those the time of day! They were more interested in their traditions than in God’s creation!

All of us, dear friends, are looking for something we can count on. And the world is searching and scraping to fill a void that nothing in this world can fill. But for you who are Christians, let me ask you: do you long for God’s kingdom to be a reality within you and within this church and within this community? To put it another way, do you and do I long for God’s rule and will to be done, regardless of the pain or cost?

Art Azurdia in a sermon I heard on the radio this past week that the biggest turnaround in our churches over the past fifty years is that the average person looks at the church and asks, “How can the church serve me?” What has happened? We have fallen into the trap of our selfish flesh in that we desire to be our own kings where everyone around us caters to us.

What has happened? Does this not sound like Jesus’ words? Mark 10:42-45

And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. [43] But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, [44] and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. [45] For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Do you have a kingdom longing this morning? Do you long for false idols that try to capture your attention to be knocked over by the one True and Living God?

Do You Have Kingdom Lenses?

In Church Life, Evangelism, Gospel, Missions, Preaching, Sermons on April 15, 2008 at 9:38 pm

(If you want to listen to this sermon in its entirety, click here or here to read the Introduction. This sermon was preaching on Sunday, April 13, 2008, at the Boone’s Creek Baptist Church, Lexington, KY. Click here for the archive.)

The first portion of this introduction is three simple words: “Seeing the crowds… .” There is a difference between seeing a crowd and seeing a crowd. When I first moved to Lexington, I was warned right away, “If you plan on driving on Nicholasville Road, do not drive when there’s a ball game letting out, or when it’s rush hour. Why? Because of a crowd of cars filled with a crowd of people. You can see that crowd and get annoyed.

Or you can go out to eat and find yourself avoiding certain places because of a line rolling out the door. Or you can be the head of a company or a department and see the crowd of people working under you, but you can use those people simply to advance your own agenda.

I’m glad Jesus doesn’t fit into this category. While this little portion seems to convey a simple looking at the crowds, we get a glimpse into the heart of Jesus as he looks at the crowd in Matthew 9:36, “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” The key word to all of that is “compassion.” Sympathy. Having pity. He put himself in their place and began taking time to see life through their eyes.

It reminds me of a story I read about a man who put up a sign in his yard that read: “Puppies for Sale.” Among those who came to inquire was a young boy. “Please, Mister,” he said, “I’d like to buy one of your puppies if they don’t cost too much.” “Well, son, they’re $25.” The boy looked crushed. “I’ve only got two dollars and five cents. Could I see them anyway?” “Of course. Maybe we can work something out,” said the man. The lad’s eyes danced at the sight of those five little balls of fur. “I heard that one has a bad leg,” he said. “Yes, I’m afraid she’ll be crippled for life.” “Well, that’s the puppy I want. Could I pay for her a little at a time?” The man responded, “But she’ll always have a limp.” Smiling bravely, the boy pulled up one pant leg, revealing a brace. “I don’t walk good either.” Then, looking at the puppy sympathetically, he continued, “I guess she’ll need a lot of love and help. I sure did. It’s not so easy being crippled.” “Here, take her,” said the man. “I know you’ll give her a good home. And just forget the money.”

The situation for the people in Jesus’ time was one perpetual limp after another. John MacArthur noted that the religious factions of the day were leading the people astray. The Pharisees believed in keeping all the law and traditions in great detail. The Sadducees were religious liberals who rejected all things supernatural and changed the Scripture and tradition to fit their worldview. The Essenes separated themselves from everyone, like the monks. The zealots were activists who sought to overturn the political system. MacArthur wryly notes, “The Pharisees said, ‘Go back”; the Sadducees said, “Go ahead”; the Essenes said, “Go away”; and the Zealots said, “Go against.” They truly had no shepherd they could count on.

Let me ask you: when you see the people around you, what do you see? Do you see people as a way to be avoided, exploited, changed, or as many churches and cults do and aim to indoctrinate? It’s time to see people where they are. It’s time to take time to see the crowd around us. And many, whether they realize it or not have a longing for something more. No matter how hard they try, this world cannot meet their true longing for more, for better, for something to grant them purpose.

Interviewed by Western Recorder!

In church, Church Life, Missions on April 3, 2008 at 10:34 pm

After a wonderful Comeback Churches conference in Bowling Green, KY, this past March 25th, I received a call at my house from a reporter from the Western Recorder, our state Baptist newspaper for a small interview gathering my impressions from the conference. Why they called, I don’t know. I was likely a name drawn out of a box. But here is the article. This conference was so very helpful, that I would recommend Ed Stetzer’s website, blog, and books.

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From the parking lot of the First Baptist Church, Bowling Green, Kentucky!

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Ed Stetzer

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Me and Mark Combs, Pastor of Salem Baptist Church, Salem, KY!

The Church Needs Creeds and Deeds

In Apologetics, Culture, Evangelism, For Preachers/Pastors, For Seminary Students, Missions, News, Preaching, Religious Organizations, SBC, Theology on January 8, 2008 at 8:59 am

Recently, in response to a letter submitted to our Kentucky state Baptist paper‘s Baptist Forum section that seemed to say “No creed but the Bible,” I felt the need to respond to this mindset. Given how many Southern Baptists are straying to other cults such as Mormonism and the Jehovah’s Witnesses because of the lack of biblical depth they possess, I wrote the following.

I am saddened and stunned at the outcry of those who lament how Southern Baptists seek to clarify doctrinal issues concerning the Scriptures, God, Christ, the church, and family. And yet all of us show the same type of shock when we see that of all the denominations from which the cults steal their sheep, Southern Baptist are their primary source of growth. Why is this?

It is because we Southern Baptists define ourselves more by what we do than by what we believe. Look back over older Western Recorder editions: they spent more time teaching what the Scriptures say rather than talking about missions and church growth almost to the exclusion of doctrinal beliefs. In fact, when Southern Baptists take a stand, they are derided as uncaring, academic, and divisive.

I am all for loving Jesus, but I believe creeds are just as valuable as the deeds. Both must be present — both the content of Scripture as well as the fruit of obedience to the Scriptures. I am for loving the Jesus of the Bible who has clear attributes and had a clear mission for His people. Until Southern Baptist rigorously study who Jesus is, what He has done, what the implications are for us who claim to be Christ-followers, what he expects from His Church and its individual members, we will continue to be fodder for those who deny the faith as we will cease to grow in any significant and spiritual way. Numbers are not the only way to grow a church — we need to be sure there are enough faithful in the church already as well!

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Your Burning Bush Speaks, Part IV: I Don’t Have What It Takes

In Church Life, Missions on October 27, 2007 at 1:47 pm

(Be sure to read the Introduction, Part I , Part II and Part III to this blog series.)

In Exodus 4:10-12, we read:

But Moses said to the Lord, “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.” [11] Then the Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? [12] Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.”

First, Moses doesn’t know what to say, now he claims he cannot say it! Was he afraid that he forgot how to speak the courtly language with which he grew up in Egypt? I don’t know. Did he have a speech impediment? Possibly, although we don’t know for sure. We do know that he felt quite inadequate and did not possess the necessary gifts.
I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard a similar reason by many well-meaning Christians who, when confronted by a task of great importance, will often say, “That’s just not my thing — I’m really not gifted in this area.” We tend to be well aware of our weaknesses and shortcomings — and if we aren’t, others have a way of making us quite aware. Many understand the need to learn how to evangelize and tell people about the Gospel, but too often the fear or just the lack of desire to do this makes us says, “That’s just not my thing.” Same with singing in the choir, working with us in the community, working in an area of ministry such as working with children, youth, or adults; or even coming to Sunday School. These are things that we may believe that these things are important, but we just don’t think we have what it takes to pull it off.

How did God respond? In Exodus 4:11-12, he says, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.” Moses was hoping that this reason, this excuse, would be legitimate. After all, what boss would send someone to do a job unless that person was gifted to do so. Sometimes, we feel as if we have to remind God of who we are and where our strengths lie. We think we know where we should be and what we should be doing. We draw our own little box and say, “I know me — I really do!”

Tomorrow, we are going to start going over not just an evangelism course but a great discipleship class called “Two Ways To Live.” This training is so different because it starts at a point where it should have — with God as Creator. This doctrine of God as Creator must be recovered in our churches. For if God created us, then he wired us and knows best how we operate. And when He calls us to do a task and be obedient, we know that since He made us in His image, He knows what we are capable of — especially when He leads and strengthens us.

You don’t have what it takes, you say? That statement is rife with unbelief in Creator God. He has what it takes to work through you!

For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
[26] For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. [27] But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; [28] God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, [29] so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. [30] He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption (1 Corinthians 1:25-30, ESV).

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