The Three Real Reasons That Cause People Not To Come Back . . . . Though Often Unstated

All of us may have given secondary reasons for not coming back after visiting a local church —  “It’s a little too far away from where we live.”  For many, distance is a secondary factor!  We all know that finding a good church ministry is worth the drive.

In fact, I might well suggest that many of the smaller factors are crossed off the list of reasons not to return when these three factors are resolved.

#1 – Mediocre Sermonizing:  People stand in long lines, sometimes for hours, if they are convinced they will experience a good meal. When the sermon is mediocre-to-terrible, they ain’t coming back.  While other factors may cause them to come back a second time to see if the sermon was representative, it is over and done if there is little-to-no significant difference.

I have often asked pastors if they think they can grow a church on good preaching.  My answer was “ALMOST.”  While other factors can enter into people joining a local church ministry, the “meal” matters most — “All-Most.”

After spending a week in the real world, people want a hearty “meal.”  They come to be fed, and blaming the listeners [1] for not enjoying a “weak-to-poor-to-terrible” meal may make some pastors feel better, but it doesn’t lead to church growth.  It sure doesn’t work in the real world.

^

#2 – Pastorally Aloof:  I have known, attended, and seen churches with “average-to-above average” pulpit ministries thrive and grow.  Over the years, my observed read has been outstanding relational contact with God’s people.

In contrast, there are pastors who . . . .

  • are uncertain of the names of members and family members
  • fail to know names of repeated visitors over a period of weeks
  • do not take the time before and/or after a service to sincerely show interest and concern
  • do not know if a member or family is or is not in the church service
  • unwittingly imply that they know little or nothing about a family’s situation
  • unwittingly communicate that they were not listening the last time they interacted [2]

“Well, some are just good at the relational!”

No, relational pastors work at it, and they genuinely care! 

They work at remembering names, and that is why they remember.

They sincerely care about what is being said, and that is why they ask about it again.

They personally visit God’s people and talk and pray with them so that they model and reflect the love of our Lord to God’s people.

They don’t just care for some, but instead genuinely try to show care for all and any! [3]

They set aside their schedules, agendas, free time, “like to watch or attend a social/sporting event,” and personal aches and pains to be present when God’s people are present. [4]. They care and are naturally “highly visible” and present for all the various parts of church life!

^

#3 – Unremarkable Ministry & Outreach: God’s people know, and have been taught to know, that the mission of the church is others, not them.  When a church’s focus is inward and not outward, the events and activities of the church reflect that.

“A Dead Chuch” means that they are doing “little-to-nothing” regarding Gospel ministry.  Few people, and surely not God’s people, want to identify with a self-absorbed and/or dead church.  We want to, personally and corporately, accomplish something that is meaningful, a ministry that matters and makes a difference.

^

^

While kinder and/or smaller reasons may be given for why this-or-that family is not revisiting or has decided to leave, the reality may be that . . . .

  • the preaching is mediocre at best; it fails to lift up those who lived in the real world this past week
  • the pastor is self-absorbed; he reflects a lack of personal care and interest in others, or
  • the church is dead in the water; it seems to be going nowhere.

^



^

1. Pastors are known for pointing to God’s people when they say they are not being fed.

  • “If you are not being fed, then it is probably you.”
  • “I just preach the Word, and the rest is up to you!”
  • “We just lay out the truths of God’s Word, and whether you listen and follow what the Bible says is your responsibility.”
  • “There are two sides when preaching, and the radio needs to be tuned into the right frequency to hear what is being said.  They need to get their hearts right!”

While all such statements may have a kernel of truth to them, the reason some churches are well attended is because of the “meal” that is served.

It is counter-intuitive to believe that the same-old week after week builds believers. The same, predictable, or “down-in-the-pits” sermon, week after week, attracts few and edifies fewer.

There are “Great-Very Good-Good-Average-Mediocre-Weak-Poor-Terrible” preachers!

And, not all pastors are effective and/or successfully work at improving!

P.S.
Reading your sermon is like serving a frozen TV dinner on a dinner plate!

2. Have you heard this said?

  • “Are they here this morning?”
  • “I haven’t talked to them about it over the last week or so.  Does anyone know?”
  • [Baby dedication] — “How do you say your name?”
  • “I think it was her grandmother . . . . or was it his mother-in-law.”
  • “Oh, you are here today.  It’s good to see you here.”
  • “That’s right; you did tell me that last time we talked.”
  • “I haven’t heard if they are getting out of the hospital this week or not.”

3. Let it become obvious that you only know and care about a small circle of people, and see how that plays out over time.  Some pastors unwittingly and unknowingly communicate just such a message by who and how often they reference and recognize them.

4. If you don’t get to know God’s people before and after the services of the church, you won’t get to see most all of them during the week.  They are at work, not church!  They truly want to know their pastor and desire to know that their pastor knows them!
P.S. Thank You “Pastor Dan Gelatt”

“Desiring God” — It Is Getting Bizarre!

Here is the link to the article, put out by “Desiring God,”  one of the ministries of John Piper. Read it yourself if you have doubts about how bizarre this is becoming!

LINK: O Beard, Where Art Thou — August 22, 2022

 #1 – Saying it, but not saying it: That is the way these kinds of articles protect themselves from legitimate criticism.  They are really saying it, but they make sure they include caveats that they can then point to in order to argue that they are not saying it — “Look, I said in the article that . . . . ”

Make no mistake; the article is making a point and saying it while denying that they are saying it.  No, growing a beard is not God’s will for all men, but it is the way God created men, in contrast to being a child, or a woman . . . .

“Why did God make men with the capacity to grow beards? Why grow beards at all, or why not give them to children and women. . . .”

I’m not saying that beards are God’s plan for all men, some men have difficulty growing a beard, but God did put it into your created DNA . . . .

“He shaded the man’s face with his pencil from the very beginning.”

“What ecstasy of Adam observing the beautiful and smooth face of Eve.”

I’m not saying you have to don a beard — but look at all these Bible verses (for whatever reason?) I have cited! [1]

^

#2 – Lost Credibility: Regardless of the fact that the Scriptures nowhere (nada — zippo — zilch — zero)  makes any argument for or against facial hair, such “theological scholars” will find verses in the Bible that address that issue for an application today.

There is no doubt that there were ways to shame men by shaving their beards, stripping them naked, mocking them publicly, or pointing out one’s inconsistencies. [1].

Nevertheless, to call up various biblical references about facial hair and then seek to apply it to God’s people today is ludicrous — at best!  At worse, it reveals one’s ability to make the Bible stay whatever you want it to say.  Such articles only bear witness to how easily they can contort the Scriptures!

^

#3 – Shameless Motivation:  The motivation of such an article is clearly stated by the author . . . . .

That makes literal beards, in my opinion, worth having. Beards protest against a world gone mad. In other words, beards beard. They testify, in their own bristly way, that sex distinctions matter, that manhood will not be so easily shaven, shorn, or chopped by the Hanuns of this world. Its itchy and cheeky voice bears witness, “Male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). [3]

This is an attempt to use the Bible . . . .

  • to provide a “biblical” and useful line of argument [4]
  • to encourage the use of facial hair as a means of protest in our world [5]
  • to be scripturally, AND politically and culturally relevant [6]
  • to counter the political and cultural trends of today [7]

^



^

1. Per the citing of the movie “Braveheart,” he had no beard, but he did have very long hair!  Even though the author states that “Rome’s men were clean-shaven in biblical times,” in the movie “Gladiator,” as cited, he has a very short and sleek, styled shadow beard.

Also, I have never seen a picture of a bearded John Piper.

Also, in the ’60s, a beard was considered “nada” for God’s people.

Yes, this is how twisted it gets in reformed circles!

2. Paul even publicly shamed some of God’s people for their biblical ignorance, hypocrisy, or inconsistency — I Corinthians 6:5; 15:34; II Thessalonians 3:14-15

3. Again, I’m not saying you should don a beard, but hey, if you want to stand and protest in support of God’s design, you should think about this, but don’t misunderstand me since I did say that you don’t have to be bearded to be biblical.

4. This “biblical” reasoning will be repeated and repeated “to say, but not say.”  Whatever the issue, this handling of the Scriptures, and this duplicitious approach is being taught by example to ministry leaders and pastors across the reformed spectrum!

5. Rather sad, isn’t it?  That is how we counter our culture — “by this shall all men now that you are my disciples?”

6. It is all part of the distorted view about the “sufficiency of Scripture.”  You see, the Bible even addresses facial hair and cultural protest.

7.  As stated, these kinds of articles are part of today’s evangelical church life, which desires to weigh in on just about any and all political, cultural, economic (i.e. student debt forgiveness), or sociological issues on the front pages.

^

P.S.   This “I’m not saying, while saying it”  is how the argument is made on other issues that are just as questionable, such as eternal security.  Caveats are included to protect, not to clarify.  In fact, they fog the issues by saying what they really believe and then adding that they are not saying what they just said.

There Is A Different Way To Look At It . . . And It May Make A Difference!

There are different ways to view an event, a situation, or an experience.

That is obvious when we speak to our doctor about a problem we have been grappling with for a period of time.  We have a vantage from the inside out, and the doctor looks at it from the outside in.

Often, a patient’s thinking is dismissed, immediately corrected, or even silenced when offering his/her perspective on what has been happening.  They are the patient, not the professional.  “Did you see my sign?”

Warning:
Patient will be charged EXTRA
for annoying the doctor
with self-diagnosis.

It is clear that there are times when we look at what is happening from a different vantage, and many who are in the medical profession have little-to-no interest in what we think is happening or causing the symptoms.  We are not the “professionals.”  What is happening can only be known and understood by those who are the specialists.  There is little room for the layman to offer some possible insights from a different vantage.

The reality is that we will identify problems dependent on our vantage.  The value of different viewpoints is acknowledged in a number of ways . . . .

  • Outside consultants are paid big dollars to look at an organization or business to evaluate what is actually happening.
  • Questionnaires are given to new customers or visitors to get their perspectives.
  • Feedback emails
  • Suggestion boxes at retail stores.
  • “YELP”
  • Outside executive hires are considered because they bring a new vantage, instead of the same institutional perspective.

Sometimes it is said this way . . . . “We need a fresh set of eyes to look at this.”  Because over a period of time . . . .

  • We begin to “believe our own press.”
  • An “echo chamber” develops where we hear back what we have been saying.
  • Other leaders begin to “drink the cool-aid” and fail at providing the needed controls.
  • Relationships become more important than speaking the truth about what is happening.
  • The “same-old” is the “same-old” because there are no fresh eyes looking at the situation.

While the value of seeing a situation from another vantage is acknowledged, the fact remains that discordant or “non-professional” vantages are often dismissed or immediately refuted with professional jargon.  Outside opinions — and they must be considered non-professional OPINIONS — may be given a nod of possible consideration, but they carry very little meaningful attention or weight!

Laymen vantages are often labeled “annoying”  . . . . and such people “will be charged extra for annoying” the leader with their vantage.  The “charge “is usually a relational disparaging, a cavalier indifference, and/or even the rude and ungodly ghosting of brothers and sisters in Christ.

The Results: The results are a combination of a steady decline in attendance, weak finances, low morale, little real outreach, and/or the loss of that ministry’s influence and reputation.  The professional viewpoint controls and the patient’s health declines further.

A better diagnosis of what is actually happening is squashed, and/or the “prescriptions” for the needed changes are never written.

The patient takes the “professional advice” only to return with the same problems for the next visit — and again he/she attempts to suggest his/her insider viewpoint.

Like was said by Hemingway . . . .

How did you go bankrupt?
Two Ways . . . .
Gradually, Then Suddenly

If You Think Who Your Pastor/Teacher Regards Doesn’t Matter . . . . .

If you think who your pastor/teacher regards, follows, imitates, promotes, admires, emulates, or reads doesn’t matter, you might not grasp how it impacts a ministry!   How it can and does change a church’s DNA.

Here is but one example!!!! — and I mean but one example — from one of the most prolific leaders in “reformed” theology.

^

This article is based on . . . .

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word. (Ephesians 5:25–26).

Let me just point out that the article is hardly an exposition of what this passage teaches!

It is BIZARRE Theology that will be repeated by others of the same stripe and thinking!
And some wonder why we have lost our platform and influence!

One of the appropriate responses was . . . .

^

There are pastors and teachers across America who have been following the writing, preaching, teaching, books, conferences, and publishing of DesiringGod ministries and John Piper for decades!  It is his theological-ideology that undergirds such a bizarre statement!

How’s that been working out?

Church Been Growing? [1]

Part of what we are seeing in many local churches — a continued decline in growth — is the product of a “renewed” emphasis on an extreme Calvinistic ideology propagated for decades!

As recorded in the book of Acts, the early church never got caught up in this extreme theological-ideology, and souls were “added to the church.”[2] I know, “numbers don’t matter,” even though the repeated mention was part of the inspired record for a reason! [2]

God causes His work to GROW.

GROWTH has been part of His DNA since the Creation of His world.

^



1. Yes, there are many other factors to examine in church ministry, and all of them should speak of a growing church!

  • Believers marked by increasing faithfulness & service?
  • Greater separation from the things of this world?
  • Teens and young adults staying connected?
  • More outreach?
  • Are disciples effectively sharing the Gospel?
  • Discipleship resulting in consistent personal evangelism?

2. The most obvious are Acts 2:41 (3,000) and Acts 4:4 (5,000).  However, the Scriptures repeatedly speak about the many who responded to the Gospel!

Acts 4:4 —  b
Acts 6:7 – and many
Acts 9:42 – and many
Acts 11:26 – a great many people
Acts 12:12 – where many were gathered
Acts 13:48 — and many followed
Acts 14:21 – had made many disciples
Acts 17:4 – a great many
Acts 17:12 – and many believed
Acts 18:8 — and many heard, believed, baptized
Acts 21:20 — and many thousands

♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

How about this one . . . .   Yep — this is what “precious stones” means!

3 Indicators Of “Church Stall”

In the field of aerodynamics, an airplane “stalls” when it can no longer produce lift. It has nothing to do with the engines but with the wings. The engine or jets can exert full power, but the wings are no longer properly cutting the air and producing lift. In fact, in commercial airlines, an alarm goes off when a stall takes place or is about to take place. [1]

You see a stall take place at an air show when a small aircraft begins to pull up in a sharp climb, and at a point, it begins wobbling in that upright position. The air is no longer breaking across the wings properly. It begins to fall out of the sky like a rock. No aerodynamic lift is exerted on its wings. Now, the pilot’s job is to regain lift by navigating the airplane into a position, so the wings cut through the air at a forward “angle of attack” and again produce lift on the wings.

When I took flight lessons, one of the most important parts of the training was understanding “lift.” Flight instructors would purposefully put the plane into a stall, and your job was to regain lift. Actually, most all flight instructors put the airplane into a moderate stall because of the dangers that a serious stall poses, especially when you lack the altitude needed to recover from a serious stall. Instructors have died at the hands of student pilots who made the test stall worse because the flight instructor lacked the time and altitude needed to recover.

Churches stall as well. They lose lift and begin wobbling. The leader’s job is to regain lift by navigating the ministry in such a way that it doesn’t crash. 

Many do crash and have crashed in the last two years. The crashes do look very different at times. Sometimes the “passengers” survive the crash and seek a new pastor. Other times, the church closes or merges under another “pilot.” Sometimes the pastor learns quickly and is able to do an emergency landing, all to fly another “day.” Far too often, the “pilot ” walks away from a crash unharmed and begins piloting yet another aircraft. It wasn’t his fault. It was the “craft,” the “crew,” or the “passengers.”

Many churches experience an “aerodynamic stall” over time! It is part of learning and the immense time “in the air.” It is just part of reality, and pastors ought to be taught what to look for when it is about to happen or happens.

^

 There are “alarms” that will go off.^

#1 – Interest Wains: There are ways, legitimate and creative ways, to build and grow a church ministry ( no less a school in today’s culture, but that’s another issue). The proof is found in the local churches around an area that are doing it. 

The handful of mega-churches across America is not the issue or concern. But the many area churches that are experiencing growth are! When interest in visiting, attending, faithfully attending or joining a local church ministry wains, an alarm ought to go off. 

Sporadic attendance is also part of the lack of interest. If members and friends of the church are not consistent, why? Why have those who are “connected” lost interest, commitment, or appreciation?

Attendance and giving are legitimate independent indicators of where a church is in flight. Both are legitimate indicators of care and concern of a ministry! Pointing to one over the other is a way to ignore the alarm that is sounding.  

Unfortunately, most also realize that a meaningful drop in “giving” will be the loudest alarm alert given due attention. 

^

#2 – Reality Is Ignored Or ^Denied: “How did they not see what was happening?” Probably, you have heard that said or said it yourself. It was obvious what was happening, and no steps were taken to address it. 

  • Attendance dropping, or 
  • Finances getting tighter, or
  • People leaving, or
  • Weak Gospel outreach, or
  • Few visitors, or
  • Fewer new members, or
  • Long-time supporters left, or
  • More difficult to find lay help, or
  • Sporadic attendance, or
  • Lost “excitement” about our church, or
  • Any number of the above . . . . 

I understand the language that accompanies the disregard of the alarm — “We are growing deeper, not greater.” One might argue that deeper and greater work hand in hand. Depth should also result in breadth.

The language of failure is invoked and used to explain or divert what is actually taking place. This may be the first alarm that goes off when what is happening is avoided or denied. “We are not interested in numbers but faithful followers!” “We want to see disciples made, not just people who attend church on Sunday” — as if it is “either-or.”

The wording changes to divert attention away from what is actually happening.

^

#3 – The Cost Of Staffing Overrides The Budget: You may have heard it said this way . . . . “We are too heavy on administrative costs.” The organization is top-heavy. A high percentage of the income covers salary, benefits, and supporting staff. What is a “high percentage” or “top-heavy?” 

You may find out the answer to that question when the “overhead” costs begin to weaken ministry, when money gets tight, and the ministry struggles to do what it was called to do. 

An alarm ought to go off when you total the cost of salaries, support staff, and various elements of compensation far exceed the total of all other monies used to minister to and through God’s people and the programs in which they serve. 

^

Churches do stall, and some crash because they lack the altitude needed to recover.

There is a reason that long-term Sr. Pastors are able to avoid a fatal crash. It is not that they don’t find themselves in any “stalls.” Rather, they don’t ignore the alarms.  They adjust and are able to navigate back into forward flight. 

Those who have been in the position of Lead Pastor for only several years, and ignore the alarms that accompany a “stall,” are likely to walk away from a crash, leaving the passengers to deal with the wreckage — an unfinished building program, financial troubles, hurt and damaged believers, a failing school, a bloated staff, struggling ministry programs, fewer members, low morale, poorly supported missionaries, dwindling bank accounts, etc. 

Yet others will continue to stay seated in the cockpit while the alarms sound, offering a very bumpy ride and maneuvering to stay aloft.

There is a “reality stall wall” that a church will hit when the alarms are ignored. When the alarm can’t be ignored or denied any longer, then, suddenly, everyone sees what has been happening and may even profess having had prophetic ability — “I saw what was happening and I should have said something.”

C.S. Lewis

^



1. https://simpleflying.com/aircraft-stalls/

Perseverance of the Saints

There is a broad spectrum of beliefs and positions when we talk about “Calvinism.”

While few, if any, would ever accept the label of being a “hyper-Calvinist,” such a category exists!  There are those who are theological-ideologues and are on the EXTREME edges of Calvinism.

Typically the “extremes” revolve around the “L” and the “P” of “T-U-L-I-P” — “Limited Atonement” and (more damagingly) “The Perseverance of the Saints.”

The damage is caused by a fogging of the biblical truth that one is secure in Jesus.  That fog is the result of stating that one cannot lose their salvation, that they are secure, and then implying that one can lose their salvation.

The damage is that God’s people are continually shaken in their confidence that the Lord saves and keeps them!

Here is an example of just that, from one of the most prolific writers of our day, and an extreme Calvinist.

“It follows from what was just said that the people of God WILL persevere to the end and not be lost. The foreknown are predestined, the predestined are called, the called are justified, and the justified are glorified. No one is lost from this group. To belong to this people is to be eternally secure.”

That statement is followed by this . . . .

“Our faith must endure to the end if we are to be saved. . . . Nevertheless, we must also own up to the fact that our final salvation is made contingent upon the subsequent obedience which comes from faith.”

(If you want to read these statements in their full context,
here is the link to the total statement of faith.)

How does put together “eternally secure” and the words “if” and “contingent?

(If you read the whole statement of faith,
you will see that fog & tension throughout!)

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones does a masterful job of revealing the extreme nature of this Calvinistic position and, as he states, the ridiculous nature of such a position!

Here is an audio clip taken from Lloyd-Jones’ message on eternal security.

AUDIO CLIP

As Lloyd-Jones indicates . . . .

“The main purpose of salvation is the glory of God, the vindication of His glory, and the sovereignty of the character of God. This ultimate purpose, says Dr. Lloyd-Jones, changes everything, namely the assurance of the outcome of God’s glory. Moreover, there are opportunities for pride as those who deny the final perseverance of the saints are forced to deny that it is ultimately God who causes endurance until the end, and instead must affirm that there is some quality inside those who are received into glory that is different from those who fall away.”

“The glory would have to go to you for holding on!”

It is to our glory if holding onto our salvation is up to us!



Link To Lloyd-Jones’ Full Message

External Link To Lloyd-Jones Full Message

https://jameslau88.com/2020/05/10/the-doctrine-of-being-saved-eternally-by-martyn-lloyd-jones/

♦♦♦♦♦

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones on Eternal Security . . . .

“If this doctrine (Eternal Security) isn’t true, well then if you ever find yourself in glory, the glory will have to go to you for holding on.

The position would be this — that you like a number of other people, have been given the same gift of salvation and eternal life — They foolish didn’t hold on it, but that you did.  And therefore the glory goes to you for holding on.

But that’s a blank contradiction of the teaching of the Scriptures everywhere. . . . Man has nothing to boast of at all.  And when you and I arrive in heaven — my dear friends — we realize that we are there not because we held on while others gave up — but because He held on to us. . . . and we’ll give Him all the praise, the honor, and the glory.”     

How Do You Know If It Is The Pharisees Running The Institution?

#1 – More Focused On Their Preservation Than The Needs Of People — Luke 16:1-13, 14-31

When money is easily spent for the pastor(s) or leadership’s preferred programs or projects rather than on needed raises for staff members who are knowingly underpaid, or on God’s people or others who would be personally or spiritually benefited, you are dealing with the spirit that worked in the hearts of the religious Pharisees — self-serving, selfish religious leaders.

“For me, but not for thee.”
“For ours, but not for them.” 

I often said . . . . “Let’s just close the doors if we can’t help . . . .

  • teens or children go to snow/summer camp
  • buy a handbook or vest for a kid in AWANA
  • cover the cost of ladies who want to attend a retreat
  • give away free “cassettes” / CDs of the message
  • pay for 300-400+ kids at VBS,
  • pay for an over-the-road bus for the 60-120 teens who want to go to snow camp
  • cover the cost for all visitors at the golf outing
  • faculty and staff earn a decent and honest living with some sense of equity etc.

^

#2 – Think They Are Above Others – Luke 18:11

When there is a spirit of superiority, speaking and acting as if one is above others, you are dealing with a pharisaical heart. The attitude of superiority can often be subtle because it can be a covert sermonic message being sent and received as one exhorts others about Christlikeness. A lack of authenticity that fails to acknowledge a shared striving for greater Christlikeness, and/or worse yet, a belief that he has attained, conveys the message that he himself has achieved. The sermon is for those listening, spoken by one who knows spiritual accomplishment — It is pharisaical pietism!

^

#3 – Don’t Do What They Ask Others To Do — Matthew 23:3

Serving, going, helping, being present, calling, visiting, working, forgoing this-or-that, giving, taking the time to talk/know, et al. are all part of the pastoral exhortations of church life.

When these responsibilities are left undone, or passed off to others on the staff or among the lay-leaders, you are dealing with a Pharisee who tells others, but does not do!

Pharisees do what they enjoy doing and what brings them praise and attention.

Refuse and reject all the excuses of why someone else should be or is doing what a pastor has been called to do — which is to shepherd the flock of God!

Pharisees don’t personally visit, call, send a card, show up at the wedding, funeral, shower, all church events, graduation party, special services, school events, etc. — but some do “text” in order to be able to say that they have been “talking” with so-in-so, when questioned.  Because appearances are what matter!

^

#4 – Burden The Souls Of Others — Matthew 23:4

Instead of lifting the load, they create and/or add to the weight.  Rather than. . .

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
 
Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
 
For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

. . . . they burden down the souls of men with questions as to their salvation, God’s love of them, His great mercy and kindness, His everlasting love and commitment to His people.

While nothing can separate us from that love, the Pharisees make some feel like the prodigal’s brother — deserving because of his faithful service, not because of the Father’s grace.

^

#7 – Expect and Accept Privileges Others Don’t Get — Matthew 23:6

Going into the ministry does not entitle you to a lifestyle that God’s people don’t have. A Lifestyle that God’s people don’t have. Those in ministry are not the privileged class but are called to forgo those “seats” for others.

“Powering under” is a popular and hackneyed phrase of our day. While it is preached from the pulpit, it is often not reflected towards those in the pew or the local community.

Looking for favors from businesses in the community, accepting money and honorariums for doing what you are paid to do as a pastor, and pressing the envelope regarding the many freedoms accompanying ministry are all too prevalent.

^

#8 – Lack Compassion — John 8:3

The woman taken in adultery is a sufficient example of that lack of compassion for those suffering and even those sinfully suffering.

Let it be them or one of their loved ones, and you will hear about it over and over from the pulpit. Some will use the pulpit to elicit pastoral sympathy during difficult days of health, ministry, family rearing, and finances.

^

#9 – Love The Praises Of Men — John 12:43:

To see this one in operation, just offer some constructive, legitimate, or illegitimate criticism. The response reveals how much the praise of men is loved. Accusations of sowing discord, gossiping, being unloving, and causing disunity will be quickly launched — DARVO!!

Apparently, “dying to self” doesn’t apply in these situations. Instead of understanding how others think and/or why they disagree, some are more likely to be labeled the troubler of Israel — as Elijah.

No, this really is about loving “the praise of men.”
To be in the ingroup,
praise is the only coin of the realm.

The results of all this are being seen in church attendance and giving.

People were never attracted by or to the Pharisees — then or now.

As C.S. Lewis Stated . . . .

 



A Worthwhile Listen 

“Those who love us the most have the potential to undermine our integrity!”

July 2022: Integrity in the Life of a Leader

The Bottom Line When It Comes To Church!

The bottom line when it comes to church is — the sermon!

Church attendance reflects the pulpit!  We see that reality when a congregation knows that so-in-so is speaking tonight or next week.  You will see attendance go up or down based on the sermonic expectations. [1]

As I listen to Alistair Begg, I am reminded again how crucial effective preaching is in ministry.

There is a reason those like Pastor Begg are so oft listened to by so many, and it is because not all preachers/teachers are effective.

I use the word “effectiveness” and not “successful” for a reason.  We are called to be effective communicators because there are situations where one is effective but not successful.  The field of endeavor is a challenging and complicated place to be successful–  if “successful” means having a meaningful impact.  There were situations where Paul was not very successful, but he was effective.

Some like to say that they are preaching to an audience of one — and that is accurate regarding the content of what is being said.   We are called to preach what the Scriptures teach, not what God’s people would like to hear said.

Nevertheless, the truth is that none of us are preaching to only that audience.  Rather, we work hard at message preparation because we know that there is an audience beyond that One.

Some preachers, like Alistair Begg, are consistently excellent — highly effective!  They are clear, thought-provoking, insightful, easy to listen to, and concise.

AND . . . . there are preachers-teacher who are far from effective!

There is a continuum ranging from . . . .

“consistently great – repeatedly great – really good – good – adequate – mediocre – poor – bad -terrible.”

. . . and there is a test by which to evaluate where one is on that continuum!

— “Retellability” —

Are there those who “retell” what was said?

Are there those who remember, repeat, or “retell” what was said?

That is why Alistair Begg’s sermonic clip has gone viral!

What was so effective said by Alistair Begg challenged, moved, explained, clarified, and/or captured a truth worth retelling one’s self . . . .

. . . . and “retelling” others — “You have to listen to this!”

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1. Church attendance may also reflect what is happening in church life.  When serious issues are front and center, as is the case with many SBC churches, attendance is also affected. Dissatisfaction with decisions and leadership also impacts attendance.

Add to that, the presence of a good youth program, the variety of opportunities to serve, other spiritually beneficial programs (such as AWANA / Senior Saints / VBS), personal relationships, and pastoral care and concern.  These, and others, all impact attendance to varying degrees and age groups.

Response:

“I kinda understood churches were for mutual encouragement and exhortation, not simply recieving from a single teacher, professional as they may be. I suppose I am in need of finding the purpose of the church as I read the New Testament”

My Response:

I understand your viewpoint and appreciate it — I totally agree — and should have said what I have often said — there are two wings on the church airplane, preaching and fellowship.

No preaching/teaching, it is not a church, it is merely a social gathering.

No fellowship, it is not a church merely equal to streaming.

Both are as basic as you can get to be called a NT church.

Let me go on to say that no matter how great the fellowship is in any restaurant, if the meal is lousy I’m not going back and investing my time or money in a meal I find continually bland to terrible.

“The bottom line” — not the only line —  has to be the preaching and teaching of God’s Word which also preaches and teaches fellowship and improves the fellowship.

But great fellowship will not improve the preaching/teaching!

I can be part of making fellowship, fellowship — but I can’t do much about bad preaching.

Nevertheless, your point is well taken and I will add this to the bottom of my post!  It is a point worth making!

Social Justice Will Elude The Church Until . . . .

While today’s discussions are about social justice on the macro level, it will continue to allude to ministries and the local church as long as they cannot even get it right on the mico level.

It is like talking about life and death issues — abortion / the death penalty / euthanasia / gun violence — while at the same time having little-to-no interest in even giving blood to help after an attack on an Orlando nightclub or the Uvalde, Texas schoolhouse.

On the micro level, many ministries financially use and abuse their faculty and/or staff. Typically, the salary and benefits are reviewed and revised upward, principally when it involves the top administrators, leadership, and/or pastors. While some may cite the underpaid outliers as being typical, “poor and humble” is not the norm for those in Christian administration or pastoral ministry today.

However, “poor and humble” is the norm for many who are also in ministry as support staff or faculty. 

  • Deals are struck with new employees based on their marital status.
  • Disparate salary and benefits are finagled and negotiated without any standards of differentiation or equitable established pay scales.
  • Secrecy is demanded when it comes to an individual’s contract — else, you are sowing discord and/or engaging in gossip.
  • Some are working over 40 hours for the same employer, at different jobs, which is believed to be allowed and legal under state hour and wage regulations.
  • Men are being paid differently than women.
  • Dubious paid positions are created for administrators, pastoral wives, and children.
  • Reports are broad-brushed when it comes to knowing who is being paid what.
  • Benefits widely and wildly vary between those who are the elite and the underlings. 

. . . . And some believe that ministries and local churches are serious when it comes to issues of social justice!

As with rising costs in our economy, the ones feeling it the strongest are those on the bottom. Likewise, in ministry, those who need health insurance, co-pay consideration, dental, life, extended disability, Aflac, eyeglass, and sick pay the most are those at the bottom. However, they are the ones who are denied or ignored when it comes to such salaries and/or benefits!

When those on the bottom get hit with these various costs, they feel it the most acutely. They are already struggling to make it on their salary and have little discretionary monies. They are already near the seabed and have little-to-no room for any more movement downward! 

Ask a pastor, making $50,000 – $100,000 to cover a co-pay of $5,000. That is 10%-2% of their yearly salary — if we only look at actual salary compensation (and not including housing / utilities / car reimbursement / spending accounts )! 

For many Christian school teachers and/or full-time staff, it is approaching 15-20% of their salary.

I have no “dog in the fight.” But I did fight this battle for 36 years in ministry — and “won” it while I was there!

The pastoral staff was not above the faculty and staff of the church and school. If there is no health insurance for the teachers, then none for the pastors — and all should be on the same program. As full-time employees, we received health, life, Aflac, dental, extended disability, co-pay reimbursement, eyeglass coverage, and sick days as did all other full-time employees on staff or faculty. No pay raises for us if there were no pay raises for others — and no game playing as to what a meaningful pay raise was for others!

I fought against having the pastoral co-pays covered. The insurance costs were outrageous — around $15,000 -$20,000 per family — and still rising (I believe it is approaching $30,000/family today)! 

“No — we are not going to cover the co-pays as well the cost of health insurance!” I fought hard for co-pays not to be covered! That was the only battle I lost — and regretfully lost. The deacons refused to implement such a policy! I said, “Let’s bring it to the church and see if they agree with this policy.” I had no doubt that the membership would agree with my position or at least provide that same benefit for the faculty and staff.

I say — “Regretfully lost” because I know how it works and how things take place in ministry! Believe me, I understand the dynamics that operate in a local church ministry! That coverage just gets lost and blurred when it comes to the benefits provided to those on the top, but it is a brutal reality for those on the bottom! 

While we did pretty well regarding fairness, equity, and justice in compensation and benefits, let me assure you that it is not so with many ministries and local churches.

“Social justice” is just a talking point preached from the pulpit, not from the bookkeepers. With far too many, a lack of fairness, equity, and justice are sorely missing! I understand the dynamics that are at play and how it is explained away! Far too many games are played when it comes to caring, compassion, helping, concern, or financial decency and fairness!

If the truth were known to the members, they would be outraged over how poorly those on the bottom are mishandled and abused! They just do not know, and/or the facts of the situation are covered and blurred!  

Sorry — I don’t hold out much hope for those who want to bring a child into the world, who want to walk away from an abortion, and think they will find much real tangible help and hope from the elite in the local church. Many have yet to show they can handle what they have been given — Luke 16:11.

 

 

 

Twisted – Pt.2

This is but one example of where we are today when it comes to the preaching and teaching of God’s Word in the local church. [1]

No shepherd would ever think that way about his flock during Bible days, just the modern shepherds of our day. Paul’s vision was that he was willing to do all he could — to just win some! Paul worked and labored hard (I Corinthians 15:10; Philippians 4:3) because he understood that his work was more than preaching; but was to spread and grow the church across the then-known world.

To dismiss or marginalize “means” is another one of the twisted positions that characterize today’s preaching.  It is said different ways . . . .

  • We are just trusting God alone to provide.
  • Nothing can give you joy, peace, or satisfaction outside of Jesus.
  • There is no joy or happiness in our circumstances.
  • You need to lean on God, not people, to get you through the rough times of life.
  • You don’t need medication; you need Jesus!
  • Rely totally on the Lord!  You need nothing else!
  • Husbands and wives, you trust God to meet your needs.

Oh yes, every one of those statements could be and should be clarified to make them biblically accurate.  But this kind of bumper-sticker theology posted, taught, and preached latently brushes aside “means.”

Trusting God alone to provide does not mean we don’t work, and work hard to provide for our family, to establish an effective ministry, to raise our children, to develop an effective local church ministry, et al.

I know, those who make such statements don’t mean to deny that!  Really!  These kinds of statements are typically followed by a hardly AMEN from fellow pastors and congregations — with little serious thinking as to what is being repeatedly propagated as Bible truth.

The Lord has not only ordained the ends, but he has ordained means.  The created world and the laws that operate demonstrate that reality.  Oh yes, it is all held together by His power — but that does not mean that the laws which operate are being supernaturally commanded to operational status every millisecond.  Can the Lord controvert those laws?  Absolutely!  That is called a miracle.  Pregnancy and childbirth are not miracles. It can be and was with the birth of Jesus.

Wealth is not a miracle.  It can be, as Jacob finally admitted (Genesis 31).  But there are means to wealth (Proverbs 24:3ff). We are never to trust in the power of wealth, but it does have power, as many wicked men have come to know.  Yet the Lord can remove that power in a moment (Psalm 73:18)

Poverty is not the curse of God.  It can be, but there are means that accompany poverty (Proverbs 24:30).

Medication is not evil or sinful.  It can be.  But it is a means the Lord uses to stabilize us physically, mentally, and emotionally.  Our whole being was affected by the Fall.  We are lost spiritually, but the Fall has also impacted us physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Does it make a difference to experience a beautiful day, soft breezes, mild temperatures, and an awesome location?  To say that circumstances are not part of our joy or happiness [2] is to deny what we, as real people experience.  Are there hot-hot, rainy, miserable, or cold to the bone days that are unpleasant?  I do not enjoy those days!  I can still say . . . “This is the day that the Lord has made, and I will rejoice in it.” [3]  Let me assure you — the new heavens and earth will be a beautiful place and absent these miserable and terrible physical circumstances of earth — for a good reason!

Husbands and wives, you are the means God has ordained to meet your wife’s or husband’s needs. That does not mean that you are the only avenue, but you are a significant and meaningful part of His means! As children and parents, we are the means the Lord has provided for our parents and children. That does not mean that God does not provide directly and indirectly as well. But the clear and repeated pattern is the Lord, “along with you” — is the means.

Sanctification is not only progressive, but it is part of our personal responsibility.  Does the Lord work in our hearts?  Absolutely!  But we also work on our hearts.  God chose David out of the flocks for a reason (Psalm 78:72).  He rejected Saul for a reason.  Sanctification is not parallel to justification — all by God’s grace!  We work out our salvation (Philippians 2:12), never our justification.  Sanctification is not passive; it is active!  Go “passive” and see where that leads!

Can the Lord fight for us?  He has, and He does.  But men and women died fighting in real battles!  He can slay an army overnight, and has!  But He has also roused and raised up men and women to fight with sword and shield. In those fights, wives were widowed, and children lost their parents!

David hid from Saul for a reason!  The reason was not that God could not protect David had he shown up at the palace dinner table.  Upon Saul’s death, David called upon his men to learn the bow, not because only such a proficiency could or would save the lives of men.

Men come to know the Lord because of His established means — our prayers, our lives, our testimony, and the words of Scripture.  Yet, the Spirit blows where He will!

This tendency to play down “means” is part of the theological-ideology of the present-day Calvinistic and New Calvinist movement.  It runs parallel with the warping of God’s sovereignty!  

The false implication is that God works via some supernatural aura that descends from above to meet the needs of people — and His special people.  He can, and He does do that — and more so — and less so — throughout the Bible (Judges 6:13). Nevertheless, there is no mystical cloud that naturally descends from heaven that replaces God’s ordained means when we have been given the means and ought to have the will!

Work, and work hard to establish and strengthen the local church and its people!  There is a reason that some churches, ministries, youth groups, and/or activities do not show real growth!  Don’t put the aggregate responsibility on the Lord, as if that is His will.  Not to point out that our ministries are in America, not in an occultism-laden land.  God created a world where growth is a natural principle of life and of all things that are living.

Laziness comes at a price; the price is a lost world, the ministry, meaningful growth, and the needs of God’s people.

Unless the Lord makes it clear otherwise, we are called on to do all we can and should as a spouse, parents, workers, witnesses, pastors, members, citizens — and as lights in an unjust and twisted world.

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1. Put that together with this, if you can . . . .

It sounds like “leading” and “preparation” matter.

Why not let God alone make SB proud? Just preach the Word, feed the flock, and proclaim the Gospel!