Category Archives: Church

The Church Still Matters

I’ve never seen the idea of the church so marginalized in all my lifetime. The secular world mocks the church and the Christian world devalues the church. The local church is seen, even by believers, as unnecessary and antiquated and optional.

You can kind of understand the issues perhaps. After all, churches are filled with imperfect people. Churches often have a well earned reputation for being argumentative. They frequently get side tracked by secondary issues. They sometimes lose sight of their purpose. Critics can accurately point out all the problems, failures and imperfections of the church.

But, with all of that said, the church still matters. There is great inherent value in the work of the local church. There is value and purpose and potential in this institution. Here are three reasons why the church still matters.

1. God made the church. If the church was man’s idea, we might rightfully ignore it. But it isn’t. God formed the church and he did it for his own reasons. He knew that the church would be made up of imperfect people. He knew every pastor and every small group leader would be “frail as dust and feeble as frail”. But he formed it anyway. We ought not easily turn our backs on something God created.

And, I note that God’s word admonishes us that we ought not be in the habit of “neglecting to gather together”. (See Hebrews 10:24-25) This isn’t the word of your pastor or your grandmother. God is the one who calls us to gather. God’s command is reason enough to connect with an imperfect church filled with imperfect people.

We might not understand why God formed the church, but we can’t escape the fact that he did. We may not see the value of the local church, but God apparently can. We need to remember this important truth: the church is a God idea.

2. We need each other. I don’t think every Christian believes that. I think many believe they can be just fine on their own- no need for fellowship or accountability or encouragement from other believers. But the longer I live, the more I see the importance of other believers in my life.

Don’t underestimate the enemy. He loves to divide and conquer. He wants you to be spiritually isolated. He knows the Bible says, “Iron sharpens iron, and one person sharpens another”. (Prov. 27:17) He tells you that you don’t need anyone else because he wants you to be vulnerable and ineffective.

But, the Spirit of the Living God reminds you of the value of other believers. We disciple others and are discipled by others. We benefit from the wisdom and zeal and encouragement that comes from worshiping and learning with others. Never have believers needed each other as we do now!

3. We are stronger together. I had a friend who lost his little finger in an accident. He told me how amazed he was at how much grip strength he lost just from that tiny digit.

The church is described as the body of Christ. We all have different gifts and backgrounds and personalities and perspectives. But, we function best when we work together. We are stronger in missions, evangelism, discipleship and worship when we are connected.

The church separated is weak and ineffective. The church connected is powerful beyond the sum of her parts. The church can prevail against the very gates of hell. You will benefit from others and others will benefit from you. You need the church and the church needs you.

Don’t underestimate the importance of a healthy connection to a local church. God will use this institution made up of imperfect sinners who have found the perfect Savior to impact you and your world. Find a church, plug in fully and participate actively.

The church still matters.

The Benefits of the Long Term Pastorate

This month marks 25 years since I came to FBC O’Fallon, IL as pastor. I do note that I don’t get called “the young pastor” as much as I did then. I wonder why that is? Hmmm….

While 25 years isn’t nearly as long as some (I have two pastor friends who have been at their churches for more than 50 years), it does cause me to consider some benefits to staying at the same place. I’m not suggesting that all pastors should stay at their churches forever. But I am suggesting that pastors go to a church with the willingness to stay there for the rest of their pastoral ministry should the Lord will.

Here are 5 benefits to a long term pastorate.

1. You can influence your community. Staying a longer times means you have an opportunity to make an impact that couldn’t happen otherwise. You get to know people in your area even outside of your church family. By staying a long time, I’ve had the opportunity to know and have some influence among regional officials, business leaders, fellow pastors and others. I know them and they know me just by virtue of me being around for a while.

2. You can experience real love. It is one thing to be loved for your role; it is another to be loved for being you. I appreciate those who honor the office of the pastor. That is a good thing and I am thankful for those who love and appreciate me for being in that position. But, I am very thankful for people who love me just as me. They love and appreciate me as a person and not just because I fill this position. That is special.

3. You can build trust. The best way to build trust is to be trustworthy. And being trustworthy for a long time builds a lot of trust capital. Building trust means people assume the best in you and not the worst. It means they will listen to your thoughts even when they might not agree. It means they value your opinion because they know you are trying to do the right thing for the sake of the kingdom. They know you aren’t infallible, but they trust that you are trying to point them in the right direction.

4. You can see the long term results of your work. It is a lot of fun to baptize the children of people you baptized years before. It is rewarding to see people you knew as young people in your church now serving as teachers of small groups and deacons and pastors and missionaries. Long term ministry means you get a long term perspective. Staying allows you to see some of the fruit of the trees you planted years before.

5. You can bring stability to your life, family and church. While there are dangers that come with stability, there are benefits as well. I know the patterns that work best for a sustainable ministry in my context. My family got to have some stability in their personal relationships because we stayed. And, our church got the continuity that comes with having the same pastor. In our context (suburbia, a transient military community), that matters a great deal.

Staying at a church a long time doesn’t mean there are never any problems or that ministry is easy. But it does have some advantages that come no other way.

Ministry friends, maybe the Lord will have you move every 2 or 3 years for the rest of your life. But, consider the possibility that he will have you put down some deeper roots and stay in one place for a long time.

Excuse me now as I begin to make some contingency plans for what I will say at my 50th anniversary!

Baptizing in Rusty Water

What an exciting day! I was a new pastor and I was going to baptize a young adult lady who had recently trusted Christ as Savior. This was to be my very first baptism. And, to make it even more exciting, this would be the first baptism for our small congregation in two years. I couldn’t wait for Sunday!

But, I had a big problem. Though the church had not baptized anyone in a couple of years, water had steadily dripped from the faucet which filled the baptistry. And, the baptistry was made out of sheet metal. Who makes a baptistry out of sheet metal? Sheet metal rusts! This had to be the work of a committee! The dripping faucet left the drain completely clogged and several inches of rusty water stagnating at the bottom.

I had to face this dilemma head on. On Saturday morning, Continue reading

Thoughts on Politics

Here are some of my general thoughts on politics and the Christian. Maybe they will help you think clearly about this important, but divisive, subject.

1. Politics is a privilege. What a privilege it is for us to be able to speak, participate and vote. Freedom is a great gift and ought not be taken for granted. Many parts of our world have little freedom and those living in the United States (and other countries who enjoy these freedoms) should be grateful for this treasure. Christians should be at the forefront of participating in our political process and doing all we can to help our nation go in the right direction. And, remember on occasion to Continue reading

7 Reasons Our Church Does VBS

I love Vacation Bible School! I love the opportunity and joy and energy that comes with it. We have a large VBS at FBC O’Fallon, IL. (This was our second year in a row to exceed 1,400 children and workers enrolled.) It takes a lot of work and effort and commitment on our part. It is taxing on our building and our volunteers and our staff. But we believe it is worth it. Here are just a few of the benefits of VBS.

1. Children hear the gospel. I love that we can tell boys and girls the message of the gospel. Many come who have never heard a clear presentation of the truth that Jesus is the Son of God who lived a sinless life, died the death we deserve and rose from the grave to conquer sin, death and hell. 34 children professed faith in Jesus Christ in VBS this year. My wife led a little girl to the Lord who was as sincere and serious as any adult we have ever seen.

2. Children learn the bible. What a joy to teach, sing and memorize the bible! Children who know little of the bible can learn so much in a week of VBS. I loved hearing my own grandchildren quoting and singing bible verses. This will benefit them for the rest of their lives. And a shout out to Lifeway for some super work in providing curriculum that emphasizes the teaching of God’s word. Learning more about the bible is an integral part of the VBS experience. I love that Bible is the middle name of VBS. Continue reading

Why Connect with an Imperfect Local Church?

Perhaps you have noticed that your local church isn’t perfect. If you haven’t, many people will be happy to point that out to you. The lost world, disgruntled former members and even much of contemporary Christian culture delights in pointing out the many flaws and warts of the church. And, let’s face it, the church has earned portions of her criticism.

Some local churches have accepted or condoned aberrant theology, ungodly behavior and unbiblical practices. I would never ask you to connect with churches that willingly disobey God and his word. But what about the church that is trying but failing? What about that local church that wants to follow God fully but never fully succeeds?

Why in the world should Christians join local churches that are messed up and lacking? Why give, serve and worship in places that are so obviously flawed? Here are some reasons for you to connect with imperfect local churches. Continue reading

We Need Each Other

Christianity is a team sport.

While those playing individual sports still need a support system (coaches, trainers, moms and dads), those involved in team sports can readily see how much they need other people. No pass can get completed without a receiver and none of it works at all without the anonymous big guys on the offensive line.

Some see Christianity as just something they do alone. No church, no small groups and no accountability. Better to see faith as something individuals practice in connection with lots of other believers.

Here are a few reasons why Christians need each other.

1. Other believers have different gifts and talents and roles. No Christian has it all. Well, we do have all of Jesus and all of his love and all of his forgiveness. But we don’t have Continue reading

Heroes Remembered: John Mason Peck

Harvard University does not single out many Baptist preachers for honorary degrees.  But in 1852, they did such for a Baptist preacher and missionary named John Mason Peck. Let me tell you a little of the story of this fascinating man in the hopes that his life will inspire you to leave a similar legacy and impact.

John Mason Peck (1789-1858) lived in Connecticut and New York state in his early years. He heard the message of the gospel and was saved while young. Personal study of the bible led him to leave the Congregationalist church over the issue of infant baptism and become a Baptist– despite the arguments of his pastor, Lyman Beecher.

Peck grew deeply in his faith and felt a call to preach. Time spent with Luther Rice led him to a deep interest in missionary work “out west”. So Peck loaded Continue reading

When Your Grandchild Gets Baptized

Few things move a man emotionally like grandchildren. We do things for those little rascals that we never thought of doing with our own children. “Oh, you want a cookie before supper? Sure, have two!” And few things can move a Christian man more than the salvation of those little tykes.

Our oldest grandson is 7 1/2 years old. (The day comes soon enough when we stop counting those half years.) I started praying for him (and the rest of the grands) before he was ever born. I prayed that he would come to know the Lord as his Savior and that he would follow him as Lord. I’ve been burdened to pray for this oldest one especially for the last few months.

To our great joy, he recently Continue reading

The Greatest Danger

Perhaps the greatest danger for many Christians, churches and ministries is something other than gross immorality or theological liberalism or direct rebellion against the plans of God. Dangerous as these things are, the greatest danger for many followers of Christ is something more insidious. This danger is subtle. It is not so easily recognized. But it just as deadly. This terrible danger is apathy.

Apathy (and her cohort, procrastination) is the Continue reading