Tag Archives: Religion and Spirituality

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.

Revival Still Matters

Perhaps the greatest need of our day is revival. I’m not talking about a series of revival meetings, though that might be needed as well. I’m talking about a genuine revival in the lives of Christians that brings spiritual renewal, vibrancy and power. What a difference it would make in our day if revival was stirring in individuals and churches and beyond!

I’ve experienced touches of revival in my own life and church and it whets my appetite for more. Christian, wouldn’t you like a fresh touch from God in your own life, your own church and your own ministry? Wouldn’t you like to see a move of God that changes the hearts of believers and impacts beyond to our culture?

Here are three reasons why revival still matters.

1. We tend to drift from God. I’m not much of a sailor, but I do know that drifting doesn’t take any special effort at all. It is easy to drift from the shore. And, it is easy to drift from God. We get busy, distracted or preoccupied and drift away. We get rebellious, sinful or selfish and move away from God. It is easy to do and can happen with us hardly noticing.

Note that we drift from God, not towards God. Getting closer to the Lord involves intentionality. Drifting away from God can happen without any recognition or premeditation at all.

In revival, believers come back into right relationship with the Lord. In revival, there is a recognition of our sloth or sin or self-centeredness. We need revival because we tend to forget about what matters most. We tend to lose sight of God’s perspective. We tend to grow stale in our religious activities. Revival draws us back to a close, intimate relationship with the Lord.

2. Revival brings new life, joy and effectiveness. Getting right with God is not to our detriment. Though there is sorrow in recognizing our sin, repentance doesn’t result in our loss. Revival involves the recognition of judgment but it leads us to restoration. Revival is in our best interest and leads us to the fruit of the Spirit and the joy and peace that comes with walking with the Lord. Though revival can start with pain, it leads to healing and purpose.

Many Christians have come to see the Christian life as drudgery. They see faith as good, but boring. They think of obedience as right, but tedious. Revival corrects that wrong thinking. It reminds us of the joy of our salvation. It gives us new meaning and purpose as we see God’s glory and goodness. Revival leads us to new effectiveness and enthusiasm. Revival is what our soul is longing for!

3. Revival impacts our churches, communities and culture. One of the reasons we need revival so much is because of the impact revived Christians have on those around them. When churches are revived, they are more effective and focused. The revived church is more committed to evangelism and discipleship and fellowship. But, revival has an impact beyond that.

We often decry the state of our culture, and rightly so. Our culture is increasingly coarse and crude and rebellious to the truth of God. But revival has an impact on the surrounding culture. Revived Christians and churches can be used by God to bring a spiritual awakening to the culture at large. It can open the eyes of the lost to the realities of sin and the priorities of faith. It can cause the lost world to see their need for the Lord. Often, revival has even resulted in large scale recognition of the need for biblical morality in the culture at large.

Perhaps you have recognized your own need for revival. Will you join me and others in praying for revival in our lives and churches in this generation? Ask the Lord to send revival to your own life and to change you where you need changing. Be willing to repent of any wrong activity, attitude or motive. Join with others in praying for a sweeping revival in our generation.

Revival still matters!

Learning from the Past

Our church just recognized our sesquicentennial. That is a dandy of a word that means we were formed 150 years ago. By the standards of Europe it isn’t so much, but Illinois isn’t Europe. So, a sesquicentennial (that really is a dandy of a word!) is not as common here.

150 years ago, First Baptist Church of O’Fallon, IL was formed at what was then just a small railroad stop. Over the years we have had some ups and downs. The church nearly closed in 1973. But for the last 40 plus years the church has grown steadily and has become a rather large congregation.

We aren’t perfect as we are made up of people. We have had imperfect leaders as they, too, have been people. But God has had his hand on this congregation and has blessed the church in ways that are difficult to explain apart from God.

Since I’ve been more immersed in our history than usual, I want to reflect on some lessons we have learned Continue reading

Why I Have a Patriotic Worship Service

I posted this article last winter but wanted to re-post it for this season. Hope you have a great 4th of July holiday!

 

I love the patriotic worship service our church has each 4th of July Sunday. I would not have thought that to be a controversial statement a few years ago but some theologs suggest this to be a bad thing. I hear them out, but disagree. In fact, some seem to have a wrong idea about what goes on at these events. So, right in the dead of winter, when picnics seem distant, let me suggest some food for thought (that picnic thing got me food focused).

What we don’t do.

We don’t worship our country. We have only Continue reading

Transformational Preaching

Preaching is, for me, like swimming in the ocean. It is an awesome experience if you don’t die!

Nothing is more exciting and nothing is more intimidating. Preaching both charges me up and wears me down. It invigorates and it frustrates. It brings me the agony of labor and the joy of birth. It keeps me up at night and gets me up in the morning. Preaching is big and I know it.

If you are involved in preaching you know something of the dilemma we face. We are tasked with bringing God’s word to man. We are to speak sacred things to sinful listeners. This great responsibility can be a bit overwhelming. But here is what makes it even bigger. We need to preach for transformation.

Nothing is worse than boring people with the greatest news known to mankind. How terrible to think that I can make the gospel sound like average news rather than good news. How Continue reading

Bring Your Wounds to Jesus

We are all wounded to some extent. We are wounded by living in this sinful and fallen world. We are wounded by the sins of others. We even carry wounds as a result of our own sins. All of carry scars, all of us know pain and all of us need healing. All of us. Your pastor, your parents, your spouse, your neighbors? All of them are wounded too.
The question is not really Continue reading

Why Pastors Burn Out (and what to do about it).

I’ve noticed several cases of minister burnout recently. Maybe these cases are more common, or perhaps the nature of social media has caused me to see these cases more readily. But either way, it is cause for concern.

I’m concerned for a couple of reasons. One is because I am a pastor and I know something of that danger in my own life. I’d like to avoid this problem and be able to remain effective in God’s work. Another reason for concern is because I love the church and those who lead the church. They matter to God’s work in our world and they matter to God. I grieve to see my fellow ministry leaders sidelined no matter the reason.

Let me suggest some reasons for minister burnout and what can be done to help alleviate this problem.

1. Ministers are wearied by conflict and complaint.  Ministers love people and want to help them. But their very love for people makes them vulnerable Continue reading

Evangelism Lessons

I recently gave our church ministry staff an assignment. Share the gospel with at least one person during the next week and report back. Here are some lessons we learned together.
1. We can easily be around only other believers. We work with other believers (at least we think the rest of our ministry team is saved!), serve in ministry with other believers and Continue reading

The Value of State Conventions

The Southern Baptist Convention is organized through state conventions. (Though some of the “state” conventions combine multiple states.) I suggest to you that these state conventions play a helpful, but underappreciated role in the work of our faith and denomination.
I’ve heard people predict or even advocate the demise of state conventions for years now. Are they necessary? Do they add a level of redundancy? That sort of thing. While I always appreciate efforts to make our work more effective and efficient, there are some benefits to the work of our state conventions that ought to be considered. Here are just a few.
1. They keep us locally focused. I appreciate a big picture approach to SBC life. But that big picture is made up of many smaller portraits. State conventions have the pulse of churches in their region that national entities can’t. No one knows more about the needs of my state better than my own state convention staff. The very fact that they live and worship here allows them to understand our needs in church planting and revitalization and discipleship in a way that is difficult for others. Continue reading

What Humility Isn’t

Humility is a confusing concept in our self-esteem generation. Perhaps thinking about what it isn’t can help us to consider what it is.
1. It isn’t winning an honor. Probably the most common usage Continue reading