September 4, 2014
18 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.
19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
Even a novice Christian knows these verses as The Great Commission. I am afraid it could be better know as The Great Omission. The grand global missions movement of the 1800s has slowed considerably as we approach 2015. Yes, there is a flurry of activity, but for the amount of seed sown there is not much harvesting going on. In fact, we are losing ground.
That is tied to many factors. It is easy to see that we entered into the age of apostasy in the late 1800s. Many mainline churches have apostatized or are heading into that direction. Cults have flourished and because iniquity abounds the love of many wax cold in the sound churches. All of this equates to fewer volunteers for the field as well as funds to send them. The churches that are not entertainment based or not kowtowing to the culture are dying off. Many countries are closing their doors to missionaries as we enter the end times. You must have a needed secular skill or you have to do underground work to minister in many countries of the world.
With all that against missions, I am confident to say that the day of the American or European missionary is nearly over. At least, in the format that we consider normal. This is good, actually. We now have to regroup and get ready for a new and I believe better way. Yet, it is not really new. We sent missionaries to train nationals to be pastors to their people. Yet, many do not train and go on. They stay for an entire lifetime. It is like a mother who does not want to let go of her child on the first day of school.
I understand that you fall in love with a people and they you, but the Apostle Paul kept moving on. Thessaloniki had him for three weeks and he left them though not entirely by his choice. They did OK. I know that many missionaries use one place as a home base and start churches in other areas. Still, in this age it is best if we start bringing our people home and support the base we have in whatever country.
Unless it is a brand new country, we have a core of people already trained and even schools established. Turn the nationals loose and pull our people home. Find them churches to pastor and there are plenty or find them an area where there are people congregated of the nationality they were working with in their native country. Should not be too hard. Get them self-sufficient and then pour the money back into the nationals.
Even with the best of intentions and willingness to sacrifice it takes far more money to send an American missionary to another country than it costs to support a national. They are used to the conditions and do not need to adapt. There is no need for language school. No cultural training required. Their families are there so no home sickness or emergency international flights. They are already immune to the local diseases. All they need is support and tools. For a family of four Americans, they may need $2500 a month support. The national with six kids may only need $500. You can support five national workers for the price of one American family.
With many churches lacking funds and having bi-vocational pastors and staff, and that number will grow, it is going to be increasingly harder for a missionary to get his support. Those in Independent Churches can take up to five years to get their support and some have come home in the middle of their first term because churches dropped them. Even in groups where boards garner the funds for their missionaries things are going to get tight, if they are not tight already. Many missionaries go to the field for one term or less because they cannot adapt to the culture, family issues or the inability to handle the loneliness and pressures causes them to quit. Years of fundraising and training are poof. That won’t happen with a national.
I think it is time to be better stewards and no longer strongly encourage Americans to be missionaries unless they are going to an area where they can get in with a secular skill and be self-supporting.
I can think of two national missionaries that you can consider for support.
The Saripallis in India. He has been involved in establishing 12 churches and currently has two new mission works. He has a college and has been involved with the translation of Scripture into Telegu. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Another one is Moises Rocacorba in the Philippines. He has also built a church that has grown so large that he needs to buy land to build. He takes some of his support and supports other pastors. He has many ministries active in reaching his people. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If your church is wanting to expand its missions program consider these two and other nationals. In American terms, get more bang for your buck or really more souls for the sowing. America is now a mission field. Let the natives be missionaries to their people and let ours do the same. Maranatha!
August 30, 2014
The Sexton and the Wagon Driver
The children of Rabbi Shmuel of Lubavitch, the fourth Chabad-Lubavitch Rebbe, once debated Judaism’s contribution to “living life.” Their father, weighing in on their discussion, summoned his simpleminded sexton, Bentzion. The Rebbe inquired: “Bentzion, did you get a chance to eat yet today?” “Yes.” “And did you eat well?” “I’m not sure about the meaning of ‘eating well,’ but I am satisfied, thank G‑d.”
“I’m not sure about the meaning of ‘eating well,’ but I am satisfied, thank G‑d…””And, why, might I ask, did you eat?” “Why, in order to live!” “And for what purpose do you live?” “In order to be able to serve G‑d.” “Thank you Bentzion, you can go now,” said the Rebbe.
The Rebbe then sent for Ivan, their Russian Yiddish-speaking wagon driver. “Ivan, have you eaten today?” “Sure!” “Have you eaten well?” “And how!” “Tell me, Ivan, why do you eat?” “In order to live!”
“And why do you live?” “Well, I’d say it boils down to a good drink.” With that, Ivan was off.
The Rebbe then turned to his young children who had listened in fascination to the exchange, and said: “This is the Jewish contribution to life; we work to live, and we live for a higher purpose.” – Likuttei Diburim, vol. 3, pg. 421a.
Our sages teach that after studying Torah in the morning a person “should go to work, for all Torah which is not accompanied by work is destined to be nullified and in danger of causing transgression, because excessive poverty may cause him to deviate from the will of his Maker. But even so, a person should not make his work primary, but secondary, and his Torah the center; in this way both will succeed” (Code of Jewish Law, Orach Chaim 156).
Exo_23:12 Six days thou shalt do thy work, and on the seventh day thou shalt rest: that thine ox and thine ass may rest, and the son of thy handmaid, and the stranger, may be refreshed.
2Th_3:10 For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.
Col_3:17 and whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.
Col_3:23 And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;
It’s September and we celebrate Labor Day! For many years, kiddos went back to school the day after Labor Day and I think the parents celebrated the Day more for that than to honor the American worker.
Work defines us as one of the first questions we ask a new person is about where and what kind of work they do.
Yet, work is the one thing most of us are unhappy about our jobs. One report I read said that at least 85% of us are not in the career field of our dreams and many are not even in the career for which they trained.
Man was made to work. We are created in the image of God and we read about His work in Genesis and His many other works all the way through to the last word of Revelation. God rested on the seventh day and we also are to have one day in seven where we rest and worship. Many people suffer burnout from going more than six days at a time or working some odd shifts requiring too many long days in a row with many too many days in a row off. Our clocks are divinely wired for six on and one off. In order to circumvent the curse we have come up with all sorts of ways to make work different, but not always better. Our technology has made us earn our bread by the furrow of our brow and not the sweat. Stress kills quicker and we have made work more stressful while making it less physical.
Adam and Eve were required to dress the Garden, so work is God ordained. They had the best and probably easiest job ever since there was no time clock or pressure even if it was physical. They worked together with no jealousy or competition. They topped off the day spending time with God. Work does not get any better than that.
Sin messed it all up. No more walking with God and the curse made earning their food harder. As more people came forth the sin nature created all kinds of greed, pride, laziness, etc. that made work rough on the individual and whatever team or organization involved. Yet, God says that a man who WILL not work, not CANNOT work, doesn’t get to eat and a man professing faith who doesn’t provided for his own is worse than an infidel/unbeliever.
Most of us will never get the ideal job, salary or Boss so how do we keep from getting depressed? By making God our Boss and working for Him, we get past much of the things that drag us down at work. When I worked for K-Mart right after college a manager commented that I worked too hard for the money I was getting. I told him that if I worked for K-Mart, I might agree, but since I worked for God my best is required regardless of my paycheck.
God is the best employer because He knows all your needs and He sees when you have been treated unjustly at work or are under appreciated. He is able to reward and promote better than any organization. Indeed, be thankful to Him that you have a job or He may give it someone else. Live with Him in the moment as retirement may not come to you so wishing your life away for the weekend or for retirement will create unnecessary anxiety, boredom and even anger or bitterness. Do well with a grateful heart and you may find you are in your dream job!
Happy Labor Day! Maranatha!
August 22, 2014
When I was around eight, we were visiting some cousins out on the farm and as all kids back then we played tag. I went zipping around the barn and stepped in a slick patty. I fell, slid and rolled through a copious amount of bovine excrement. When I was able to stand up I went to the porch and yelled for Mom as the other cousins laughed in consolation. Mom came to the door and was horrified to see her son’s new version of playing cowboy. She ordered to me to strip, in front of the cousins, and hosed me down. Fortunately, one of the cousins was male and my size so I was not forced to wear a dress home. I was embarrassed, but clean and Mom still took me home.
As I look back on that now, I am reminded of how many times as a Christian that I was either running from the devil or playing tag with the world that I have slipped and fallen into as much manure as that day. As I ran to God for help or confessed, His mercy stripped me and hosed me off as the devil and his minions laughed. Sometimes it was embarrassing as others saw me spiritually naked, but in the end I was clean and God still called me Son. Like Mom, He took care of the offending substance and smell because He loved the boy covered in it more than He abhorred the filth. It is good to have a loving mother, but far greater to have such a loving Father in God and a savior like Jesus Christ.
July 21, 2014
Lashon Hara is any derogatory or damaging statement against an individual. In Hilchot Deot 7:5, Maimonides supplies a litmus test for determining whether something is or isn’t Lashon Hara:
Anything which, if it would be publicized, would cause the subject physical or monetary damage, or would cause him anguish or fear, is Lashon Hara. Deuteronomy 24:9, “Zachor et asher asa H’ Elokeicha l’Miriam”
It’s Lashon Hara EVEN IF:
a listener pressures the speaker to tell
names are left out
it’s about the speaker’s family
the speaker includes himself in the derogatory description – http://torah.org/learning/halashon/review1.html
Col_4:6 Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.
August was named for Caesar Augustus and while in some ways he was not an august person in his actions he did have a dignity and majesty about him as our word august means. I suspect that if someone in his court or entourage would not have acted dignified or stately that person would have lost his head. After all, he/she represented Caesar and he/she better present a good image.
How much more so should we who represent the King of Kings and Lord of Lords carry ourselves in a dignified way and most importantly in our speech, especially when referring to others? We are to let our speech be gracious even when the person(s) do not seem to deserve it. That is fitting as grace is never deserved. It is given. Knowing we are in desperate need of daily grace ourselves we should be very prone to extend it to others.
It is to be seasoned with salt. Salt can add a savory flavor to a meal that without the salt might be bland or even undesirable. The right amount matters as too much will make a person gag and not enough does not produce the desired result. Yes, salt heals wounds, but it also burns and sufficient salt can melt ice. We need to practice so that when we give an answer to every man about our faith or even our heritage or other beliefs we might create a thirst in them without overpowering them or throwing it in their eyes. There may be wounds to be healed, but still the right amount does make a difference.
Graceful words should be used to redeem and restore a person who may be way out of line and even hateful. As our Jewish friends teach about LaShon Hara, even if it is true, some things need not be said in public. Matt 18 should be applied if the issue needs addressed. Go to them in private and seek restoration of the person.
Tit_2:8 Sound speech, that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you.
As we go about sharing our faith, history and even political viewpoints, we should strive to be august and use speech that gives no room for our enemy to use it against us. Let them debate the issues not skirt the issues by having our speech and demeanor to attack and focus on thus swaying other people’s emotions. Remember, gallant Lee spoke well of a man who slandered him. Lee should be our example, not his critic. Maranatha!
July 12, 2014
Dear friends and colleagues, today I met with members of the board of Computers for the Blind. We had a very good conversation about this organization and its goals. I am very excited about this organization as one would expect for an IT person and minister. I firmly believe they are doing a marvelous work and are worthy of any support you can give them.
The need is increasing and thus so also is the need for resources. If you live in the area, consider volunteering your time and if you are not in the area consider a donation. Computer technology is changing rapidly so businesses and individuals refresh their equipment regularly. What is legacy or out of date equipment for you might well be the ideal thing a blind or low vision may need to give them access to a world they would not know without it. Many of these people are low income and the cost of equipment as well as the various software would be more than most could afford.
CFTB expands their vision by providing what they need to not be isolated due to their disability. Please consider donating your older equipment to them. Send this message to the IT department or the CFO of your organization asking them to consider CFTB during their next refresh. I am providing the link to their site below. Will you be eyes to the blind?
As always, thank you for your time and consideration!
Dr. Ronald Shultz, ThD, PC+
Job 29:15 I was eyes to the blind, and feet was I to the lame. KJV
July 7, 2014
Faith Comes By Hearing—Is Anyone Listening? – Part Four
The last thing you need to know about the harvest is the Thresher. The harvest is all about the Lord and in this time He uses the Holy Spirit to bring about the fruit.
3 And he said unto me, Son of man, I send thee to the children of Israel, to a rebellious nation that hath rebelled against me: they and their fathers have transgressed against me, even unto this very day.
4 For they are impudent children and stiffhearted. I do send thee unto them; and thou shalt say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD.
5 And they, whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear, (for they are a rebellious house,) yet shall know that there hath been a prophet among them.
6 And thou, son of man, be not afraid of them, neither be afraid of their words, though briers and thorns be with thee, and thou dost dwell among scorpions: be not afraid of their words, nor be dismayed at their looks, though they be a rebellious house.
7 And thou shalt speak my words unto them, whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear: for they are most rebellious.
8 But thou, son of man, hear what I say unto thee; Be not thou rebellious like that rebellious house: open thy mouth, and eat that I give thee.
9 And when I looked, behold, an hand was sent unto me; and, lo, a roll of a book was therein;
10 And he spread it before me; and it was written within and without: and there was written therein lamentations, and mourning, and woe. KJV
I am not a five point Calvinist, by any means, but we know that in the foreknowledge of God He knows who will hear and who will not be it unsaved or saved people. Your job is to be the prophet. You are to do the speaking and not the winning. They need to know that a prophet was among them and you cannot do that unless you know your place and duty and His. If you turn them around or mix them you will be frustrated and lose more than you will gain. Just do what He asks in faith and faithfulness and leave the rest to Him.
Matt 13:30 Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn. KJV
He already knows that even in the Church there are going to be wheat and tares. Too many preachers want to tear up the tares and in the end often tear up the church and their ministry. Let them grow together. Preach the whole Word and the wheat will grow and the tares may leave your field and go to another willingly or they will expose themselves and will leave anyway though they are not as willing, but the shame will drive them out. If a few stay, consider them a means for your growth and no worse than Paul’s thorn that made him rely upon God and not his own skill sets or gifts.
Rom 10: 1-21
1 Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.
2 For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.
3 For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.
4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.
5 For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, That the man which doeth those things shall live by them.
6 But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above:)
7 Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.)
8 But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach;
9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
11 For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.
12 For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.
13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
14 How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?
15 And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!
16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report?
17 So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
18 But I say, Have they not heard? Yes verily, their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world.
19 But I say, Did not Israel know? First Moses saith, I will provoke you to jealousy by them that are no people, and by a foolish nation I will anger you.
20 But Esaias is very bold, and saith, I was found of them that sought me not; I was made manifest unto them that asked not after me.
21 But to Israel he saith, All day long I have stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people.
You may want a person or group of persons saved as much as Paul did his fellow Israelites, but you cannot force it. When you were first saved you went to all your friends and relatives joyfully sharing and confident they would be saved. Some may have and many others may have rejected. That is not your fault and you have to turn it over to God or you will despair. You trust that the God of all the earth shall do right. Pray and witness when you can, but don’t try and shove it down their throats. They will just spew it out and turn and rend you like the pearls being cast before swine. You go, you preach, you pray and then commit the rest to God. It may take years to see some saved and some may not be saved until you go to glory or they may never be saved. You trust that to the owner of the vineyard and the one who will thresh he field.
1 In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple.
2 Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly.
3 And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.
4 And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke.
5 Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.
6 Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar:
7 And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged.
8 Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.
9 And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not.
10 Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed.
11 Then said I, Lord, how long? And he answered, Until the cities be wasted without inhabitant, and the houses without man, and the land be utterly desolate,
12 And the LORD have removed men far away, and there be a great forsaking in the midst of the land.
13 But yet in it shall be a tenth, and it shall return, and shall be eaten: as a teil tree, and as an oak, whose substance is in them, when they cast their leaves: so the holy seed shall be the substance thereof.
Even in faithless, rebellious Israel, there would be a tenth that would be the Lord’s. If we look at the world’s population of seven billion and look at a tenth we only get seven hundred million of those living if we were Raptured this minute. Yet, I don’t don’t think we will get that many. Jesus asked if there would be any faith on the earth when He returned making it sound like a very small remnant and yet a remnant. Seven hundred million scattered around the world would make some very small remnants per country. We have a little over three hundred million in the US. I doubt we have half the remnant in our borders. Think of the size of your church and how many would go if only a tenth went. Mega-churches would be mini-churches when you look at the remnant.
I once interviewed with a church that had a split. They were looking for a man with experience in a three hundred and fifty member church though they were only at one hundred and seventy five after the split. The fellow said the great thing was that there was no change in the offering after the split. I told him there is no organization that loses half their membership and has no financial decrease. I said what you had was a church of one hundred and seventy five members and the same amount of visitors. He did not like that and that was the end of my trail in relation to pastoring that church, but I told him the truth. That is all you have to do whether you are preaching or witnessing. Just tell the truth of the Word. The Thresher will handle the rest.
The world and the Church are listening. They are hungry and will listen and will eat what is given them. If you know the Message, the Entreater, the Audience and the Thresher you will give them meat. The Holy Spirit will cook it, season it, serve it and nourish the ones who He knows wants it and He knows which ones will spit it out. Faith come by hearing and if you will speak it in power they will hear. Maranatha!
July 7, 2014
Faith Comes By Hearing—Is Anyone Listening? – Part Three
Once you know the message and the entreater you must know the audience. Those who are in evangelism and revival ministries understand this principle. When they stand up to speak to an audience they have never met before they have to make some basic choices based on the the pastor, if they know him, the doctrinal position of the church though that can still be tough as many church people today know little about doctrine and with six Baptists you can get thirteen opinions. Check the physical makeup of the church. Are they primarily young, old, well mixed, one culture, multi-cultured, etc. Are you in the North, South, East or West. All of these factors will determine what direction you need to take in your sermon, applicable stories or analogies if you are going to make any impact at all.
Many colloquialisms and historical references that would work well in Texas would be curiosities or confusions in Maine. Sometimes I will not realize that I am using terms or acronyms that are quite common at my job or my church but are only vaguely familiar or unknown to the people I am talking to at the time. When I see that glazed look or they say they have no clue as to what I just said that I know I have to back up and use a different approach. Having served in three military branches as well as working for the Veterans Administration I could use a great many acronyms that would confuse Socrates. or Einstein. People might think me quite intelligent, but there has been no real communication.
Keep It Simple, Saint is not enough because what is simple to you may not be to the group you are trying to convert or teach. I work in the computer field and I try very hard to keep the cookies on the bottom shelf so everyone can eat them when I try to explain things to my clients. Still even using simple language and down home humor and illustrations some folks still do not get it and just acquiesce to let me do what I need to do. Their minds are just not wired to understand that particular set of information.
2 Cor 4:3-4
3 But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost:
4 In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. KJV
7 What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded
8 (According as it is written, God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear;) unto this day.
9 And David saith, Let their table be made a snare, and a trap, and a stumblingblock, and a recompence unto them:
10 Let their eyes be darkened, that they may not see, and bow down their back alway.
You are going to run into people who are not going to get the Gospel because of satanic blindness or because of the hardness of their heart, self-inflicted or God caused, as we see in these passages. No one is saved by clever speeches or being defeated in a debate. You may have vast intellectual knowledge of archeology and various science disciplines, excelled in debate club in college and read your Bible in the Koine Greek on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, but in Aramaic on Tuesdays and Thursdays saving the Saturdays and Sundays for Hebrew, but there are people who will not be impressed. They are not ready to be saved or they are the ones that never will be saved. Accept that and pray that God will send someone to them when they are ready or weep for the fact that they are dead men walking.
When Peter gave his sermon on Pentecost and won three thousand souls he spoke to them from the background of Jews and tied them to current events of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. He did not speak to Greek poetry, politics or economic issues. He spoke to the reason for what the audience was seeing repudiating their accusation of drunkenness and taking them to the Scriptures speaking to it and then explaining how Christ caused it to happen then pointing to their guilt. As one man said, start with your text and make a beeline to the Cross. The result was conviction, repentance and salvation. He used the right material to the right crowd and yet we know that sheer man’s wisdom was not all involved in this.
There was a time in this country when you could preach to unbelievers and they understood what you were saying because they had been exposed to the Scripture as a child at home, school and even church. They may have been religious like the Jews in Acts or scoffers, but they understood because they heard the Bible in many places and scenarios so they were not ignorant. Many could have quoted Scripture for you. I have had many an interesting conversation with a person who grew up as a preacher’s kid or overheard some deep and even sound theology discussed by drunks. In a session of prison ministry I have heard men read poems or sing songs they wrote and even had one fellow break out in a sermon when we were somehow forgotten by the guard and were there three hours instead of one.
When we had a nation filled with people like this it was much easier to get the message out because all that was needed was clarification of issues or conviction of sin. We were like the Jews at Pentecost. We are no longer that nation and yet we are trying to give the message as if we were and we wonder why we are not as effective as Peter. We are a nation of Pilates who ask what is truth.
The Jews had the Law and the history of God working in their nation. They at least outwardly gave lip service to God though their lives did not always match up. You did not have to convince them that Yahweh was God though at times in their history you had to remind them that He was the only God. If you quoted Scripture they would listen and often repent. They believed in a literal six day Creation. They believed in Adam and Eve, the Flood and on and on. Of course, they had the Sadducees who really did not believe in much of anything and probably should have been kicked out of the Sanhedrin, but the average Jew would have been far more in alignment with the Pharisees sans their hypocrisy.
The Greeks on the other hand did not have this background. They and other Gentiles had all sorts of interpretations of God and the origin and purpose of life as well as many gods in their organizational chart. You can find many stories in antiquity from many groups with similar stories as what is in the Bible, but this is to be expected. After all, only eight people got off the Ark. Those eight had the facts straight but as the earth was repopulated and people were scattered about the facts got blurry and somewhat enhanced like Eve adding do not touch to God’s command. Some details would be forgotten so someone would come up with something to fill in the gaps. Thus you have a world wide flood story in many cultures with even one that says only two brothers survived the flood. Why people did not question how the world got repopulated with that one is a good question, but then again many people accept many other tenets of religion and so-called science with obvious errors without question today.
To preach to them as Peter preached to the Jews that day would have been futile. They would have had no clue to much that was being said and thus Festus thinking Paul was mad or crazy from much study while King Agrippa was convicted and almost a Christian. We are in a day of Gentiles, not a day of Jews and we have start with a different premise when dealing with them. We do not change the message. We change the delivery. We start at square one as they have no clue what our church lingo means.
We are becoming more and more secular so we abound in atheists and agnostics. We are a pluralistic culture with people from all over the globe that come from a myriad of religions. Folks are into being spiritual though they often have no idea what that means but because they are open to a buffet of ideas where they pick and choose they think they are spiritual versus the dogmatic, narrow minded folks they perceive biblical Christians to be.
They don’t believe in Creation so to tell them Jesus died to save them from their sins means nothing since they don’t see a fall of evolved man. Sin is not being true to yourself and experiencing life to the fullest no matter what your desires might be as we are all part of the cosmic consciousness and indeed are all little gods. The Bible is not the Word of God for God is within them, not a divine Being to which they will answer, so they may accept Jesus as a god, but no more a god then you or they are. God is love and even a professing Christian author believes no one goes to Hell because love wins. I have a psychologist friend that was raised Catholic, but just can’t grasp the substitutionary atonement.
To walk up to these folks and give our standard presentation that we grew up with when there were still a substantial amount of Jews left would be useless. Hollywood, the media and Liberal theologians have so polluted the Gospel with their variations that you can use the same words with six people and have thirteen meanings. Catholics have been training their people to use our lingo, but the meanings are different. They are born again when they are sprinkled as infants and they receive Christ as their Savior when they receive the sacrament of the Eucharist for they are taking in the literal body and blood of Christ.
Many people in our own circles know the handshakes and lingo, but are not truly converted so even non-Catholics need to be thoroughly questioned even if they say everything right. Many pastors, deacons, teachers, musicians and members have been saved after being in a solid church for years. Since that is true, imagine how hard it is for someone with no background and has been taught secular humanism for many years or raised in an Eastern religion or some cult to grasp the message. You cannot win someone in thirty minutes at a doorstep as you might have done sixty years ago.
18 Then certain philosophers of the Epicureans, and of the Stoicks, encountered him. And some said, What will this babbler say? other some, He seemeth to be a setter forth of strange gods: because he preached unto them Jesus, and the resurrection.
19 And they took him, and brought him unto Areopagus, saying, May we know what this new doctrine, whereof thou speakest, is?
20 For thou bringest certain strange things to our ears: we would know therefore what these things mean.
21(For all the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing.)
22 Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars’ hill, and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious.
23 For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you.
24 God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands;
25 Neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things;
26 And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation;
27 That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us:
28 For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring.
29 Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device.
30 And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent:
31 Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.
32 And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked: and others said, We will hear thee again of this matter.
33 So Paul departed from among them.
34 Howbeit certain men clave unto him, and believed: among the which was Dionysius the Areopagite, and a woman named Damaris, and others with them. KJV
The Epicureans were the atheistic eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die and if it feels good, do it crowd where the Stoics were more of the prideful suck it up and do it because it is right and what will be will be type. As opposite as they were they were still curious and thought it might be a good show to take Paul to where the gang hung out that just wanted to hear new things. I would venture most were the idle rich, who in their boredom, would listen to most anything.
Talk about a tough crowd. Indeed, we are only told of these two major philosophical schools that were present, but they were probably others else the debates would get old too quickly. Paul used their curiosity and fear of leaving out some god to gain his hearing. The unknown god to them was the only true God. They knew a myriad of false gods. They needed to know the true One.
He did not water down the message or even try to make it more appealing to them. They were seekers, but he did not go overboard to make it a seeker church kind of a thing. He did what all good teachers do. He took them from something they knew and led them to what they did not know. In the end, many laughed and mocked, but he did win some more time to explain with a group of people including a big wig named Dionysius whose name meant divinely touched, but really got divinely touched by Paul’s message and even though Damaris meant little woman she must have some influence in the city since she is called out by name.
12 One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, The Cretians are alway liars, evil beasts, slow bellies.
13 This witness is true. Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith; KJV
Sometimes you have to appeal to a person they respect and use what that person has said to gain an ear. Truth is truth and when a unbeliever speaks truth he is speaking God’s truth without giving Him credit. While some might see this prophet’s statement as a stereotype, there is usually some grain of truth to it which made it a stereotype. When I say kilt, what group do you think of automatically? The Scots and yet not all Scotsmen wear a kilt. If I say Lederhosen, you will say German and I am here to tell you I am one German you will most likely never see in that attire. When one of your own that speaks with authority says that you are something it is safe to say that you are what they say. That is why the movie, God’s Not Dead, uses many quotes from scientists and philosophers that show the folly of evolution.
I am not saying that you have to be fluent in every religion and philosophy. You will not live that long. The principle is to find something you can agree with or break the ice with to gain a hearing. Once they are paying attention you will start to see where you need to go to get them to where they need to be. Ask questions. Never assume they understand you even if they are nodding in assent.
You may have to go back to second grade Sunday School. If you do, no problem. Better to go back there and spend time making sure the person is saved then to have him say a prayer he does not understand to a God he really is not sure about so you can report back to someone your victory and the guy dies and goes to Hell the next night.
Matt 23:15 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves. KJV
I used to think this was just the cults and apostate groups, but I fear that some of us bible thumping, independent Baptists and others like us are just as guilty. You have to get a man lost before you can get Him saved and if he does not believe in Creation, Adam and Eve and the Fall, you are not going to get him lost in his mind though he is lost biblically.
Using the phrases we love so well, regeneration, sanctification, justification, born again and on and on will be as useful to most people today as my IT and military lingo would be to a civilian or a person who can barely turn a computer on. It will be Greek to them as it would be if I spoke some of the things I know in other languages would be to most of you in the class.
When you meet a stranger do not press him hard for a conversion unless you sense real conviction. He may just say the prayer to send you on your way or to be polite. In most cases, you are going to plant the seed and water it a bit, but it is unlikely you will go from seed, to water, to fertilize, to harvest in twenty minutes or less. Someone will have to water what you’ve sown and someone else may end up harvesting so don’t feel like it has to be you. You were put there for that time to accomplish nothing else, but to be faithful and present the Gospel. If you are truly sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit you will know if it is time to plant, water or harvest. If they walk away, you are not a failure.
July 7, 2014
Faith Comes By Hearing—Is Anyone Listening? Part Two
You must also know the entreater. While it is ultimately the work of the Holy Spirit to get people to listen and respond. We are the package for the message. This is why prosperity preachers must wear expensive suits, Rolexs and have jets and multi-million dollar homes. For them to hawk their message, they must look the part. Would you buy a stock tip or a book on “How I Achieved My Wealth” from a man dressed in rags standing in front of a cardboard box that is obviously his home?
If the world knows how to package junk in a box so pretty that you will buy it and then use media to even make you like the junk you bought we have to be careful how we package the message. Man does look on the outside while God looks on the heart. Yet, we do not have to do the slick packaging of Madison Avenue or the televangelists.
Our outward attire can be really quite simple. For many, many years a pastor wore a black suit and tie with a white shirt and black socks and shoes. I am not much of a clothes horse so that is a fine outfit for me. If I had my way, I would have twelve white Western shirts, twelve pair of black Western pants and no ties unless they were bolos. I would have two pairs of Cowboy boots and a pair of sneakers. Casual dress would be black jeans and a t-shirt or Western shirt of some color. I would live in a sweat suit around the house. I am a simple man.
Some of us require more of a variety, but simple should be the rule regardless of style. You want to have people’s attention focused on what you are saying, not your regalia. I have ministered to plenty of people who would have been turned off if I were in a suit. Old people would be turned off if I did not wear one. Come in all dressed to the nines and many will think you are flaunting your wealth or you are vain. Even rich corporate types have scaled down. Simple is always good.
Part of knowing yourself as the entreater is how you responded to that. If that raised your cockles a bit then you might be a bit vain or have a self-image that needs to be supported or bolstered by attire. You have to be less like the World and more like the Master if you are going to properly package the message.
Jesus would not have stood out in the crowd of His day. He would not have adopted the attire of a hippie, grunger, punker, or even the typical attire of a Rabbi though He was called one. He earned that title by His character and the content of the message. His appearance had little to do with it. Isaiah said there was nothing that would be very noticeable about Him so the pictures of the blue-eyed, light skinned, Nazarite who had not performed his vow are far off from the usual appearance of a Jewish man of the time. Paul became all things to all men that by all means he could win some, but he would not have put on black lipstick or wore a Mohawk. He spoke to the Jews from the Law and to the Gentiles without the Law. That is the point of his meaning. He spoke so they understood, not dress as they were dressed or immersed himself in their Gentile culture.
Below is a link to the lyrics of a modern song that asks which Jesus do you follow. He is a bit blunt, so be warned, but he has many good points. We have made many Jesus characters in the US and really the first world nations that no one in the rest of the world would know or recognize. We have made Him the Jesus of our side whether it is from a national or denominational perspective. We even have the God of the Cowboys because the sky is blue unless you are in North Carolina then He is a Tar Heels fan because the sky is Carolina blue. We have made Him the Jesus of the American dream with some maybe even thinking He wears the flag as His robe.
If you serve any of those types of Jesus or some other variation that I missed instead of the true Jesus then you will not be a good entreater because you will be packing the message wrongly. Leave your campaign buttons off of His message. As King, He did not come to run for office. You should use biblical truths as the primary reason to choose your candidates, but He is not affiliated with any party. Indeed, He slapped every group that existed at the time for none were sinless and so it is today. Thus you look for the person/party or whatever that supports the most biblical truth and vote that way, but when you are on the street or in the pulpit you are to be representing the King and building His kingdom not yours or any other kingdom.
You must know yourself if you are going to be able to deliver the correct message. If your motivation for service is about having more in your pews or for your glory and profit instead of for His glory then you are doing it all wrong. People do ministry for many reasons and many of those reasons are wrong.
A top psychiatry professor once said that many enter the career field seeking to cure to their own problems. That could be said of ministers as well. Some enter for penitence to make up for some sin or a sinful life. Some do it to appease God or in hopes God will forgive or love them more. Some find it to be a great ego pleaser or booster because it is a respectable career field. Some enter to attempt to make easy money and many succeed at that. Others want to control people and it is much easier when you can claim God told you what to tell people to do. Many women are led astray because their pastor convinced them to have an affair with them. Some are Momma called and Daddy sent. Some cannot find or maintain a good job so they get a call to ministry. Indeed, in the South if you wake lazy and hungry for chicken some see that as a call to ministry. It would be interesting to study how many more people get called to ministry during a recession compared to boom times. There are many wrong reasons to enter ministry.
We have turned the ministry into a career field instead of a calling and that is wrong. Back in the day when men seeking ministry trained under a godly pastor who could pray for and watch the growth of a man you had a better chance to get a better minister. Our colleges today have too large of classes and do not weed out folks that are obviously not called for with such large amounts of students it is easy to hide your weaknesses and get through a degree program. Jesus only had a class of twelve for three years, not six sessions of thirty per semester.
The intentions may have been good, but we have created far more ministers liked Demas, Judas and Simon of Samaria than Peter, Paul and John because we cannot have the time with them to discern their character and pray for God’s guidance. It is true that the colleges only provide training and not ordinations. The churches do the ordaining, but after a person has graduated from bible college or seminary it is far easier to be ordained because the church feels like you are obviously called by God or you would not have gone or finished if you were not. After all, you now know the right words and handshakes and no one would fake those things to advance an ulterior motive or agenda, right? Wrong. Many of the charlatans have graduated from a school and some major schools have graduates they wish did not have a degree from them.
You may think that you know yourself and that your motives are pretty good, if not perfectly pure. Is your motivation for more in the pew or for God’s glory? Most of God’s men never truly knew who they were until after they failed miserably. Moses tried to deliver Israel in his own logic and spent forty years on the backside of the desert before he knew who he was and how dependent he needed to be upon God. Even after his failure to speak to the rock cost him entering into the Promised Land, he still ends up on the mount of transfiguration to speak with Jesus. He would have never have thought he would have such a blessing. God is merciful.
David was a man who panted after God like a thirsty animal, yet he did not truly know himself or he would have never slept with Bathsheba or killed Uriah. He thought he was a pretty righteous man. After that, he prayed for purging, cleansing, a clean heart and to renew the right spirit he had until he drifted from where he had been with God. Wealth and power can cause you to drift and even shipwreck.
Peter is my soul brother. I have too many of his bad characteristics. When I was first saved, I wanted to be like Peter and Paul, but I had no idea what that entailed. I was only looking their victories and not their failures. Peter had some strong suits, but they were often trumped by his braggadocio or self-confidence. He knew who he was when Jesus looked at him after the third cock crow.
“It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until He has hurt him deeply.” ― A. W. Tozer
Jesus had His Judas. Paul had his Alexander the Coppersmith and even a church full of his converts who questioned his apostleship as well as a Demas. John had his Diotrephes. You will have yours, if you stay in ministry any length of time. Sometimes bad is good for you. These betrayers will make you know yourself because you can see the next one coming by analyzing how you misjudged them. They will also make you more immune to flattery or apparent success because you will trust more in God than in yourself or the favor of men. It will hurt and it will hurt deeply, but it will prepare your for future service and blessing. It will make you more discerning.
23 Now when he was in Jerusalem at the passover, in the feast day, many believed in his name, when they saw the miracles which he did.
24 But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men,
25 And needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man. KJV
Sometimes God will hurt you in other ways. We are so good at self-deception and justification of our sins, especially the secret ones only we and God know. Because there is so much crazy stuff going on today in both the church and culture we can compare our sins with others and feel pretty good about ourselves. We minimize our sins by aggrandizing our accomplishments so that we convince ourselves that we are on a really high and tight road when we are sidetracked and even in a ditch. We accept a dry, mundane, religious routine as normal and not even desire a more dynamic walk with Christ.
Dr. Tozer gives us some good checkpoints to see how we are really doing in our walk and that give us a chance to make adjustments in areas we may not have ever even given consideration.
“Rules for Self Discovery:
1. What we want most;
2. What we think about most;
3. How we use our money;
4. What we do with our leisure time;
5. The company we enjoy;
6. Who and what we admire;
7. What we laugh at.”
– A. W. Tozer
Rom 7:18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.
July 7, 2014
Faith Comes By Hearing—Is Anyone Listening? Part One
13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
14 How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?
15 And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!
16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report?
17 So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. KJV
To say that our world has changed drastically since my birth in 1952 is a major understatement. The advances of technologies more than fulfill the prophecies of Joel concerning knowledge as well as the mobility of the masses. We have gone from nearly toy like satellites in earth’s orbit to sending immensely complex research vehicles past Mars. Jules Verne would be ecstatic.
Many changes have also taken place in the culture. Some have been good such as movements for racial equality, but many more have been disastrous for the culture and this country. The breakdown of the home, easy divorce, abortion, easy access to pornography, excessive and explicit violence in games and movies as well as dark demonic themes in video games and comic books have spiraled us into a pit from which we may not return unless the mercy of God grants a revival like that of the Great Awakening or the revivals of the early twentieth century.
The Church also has gone through many changes and I would have to say most are questionable as to their value as a boon to the cause of Christ. We have become Christian existentialists. We base our Christianity more on our feelings or experiences than doctrine or we have gone the other way to a dead and dry orthodoxy. What we need is a balance between orthodoxy and piety Because we have dumped doctrine many of our churches have become entertainment centers or concert halls with a dash of Bible. There are indoor mountain climbs and Wiis for the kids and Starbucks and Wi-Fi for the adults.
We have helped create generation gaps and even age and gender pride. We have Sunday School classes for adult age groups when Jesus and the Apostles had audiences for all ages in one spot. Peer groups often make the same mistake as Rehoboam because they don’t want anything to do with old people when the Bible teaches that the elder should teach the younger. Hard to do when they do not even want to sit in the same room as the elders. Birds of a feather flock together, but the flock should be about Christ not age, gender, career field, etc. I am looking for a class for right handed people who eat with their left hand and are bald, hazel-eyed and married. Am I exaggerating? Maybe, but I am not far off in some places.
Technology has been a boon to getting the message out, but it has also been a boon for false prophets, con men and entertainers/motivational speakers instead of pastors. We have turned the Church from a Body to a corporation making the pastor more of a CEO than a pastor. While it has provided a means to minister to the homebound and people where no church exists at the same time it has caused more people to become members of the invisible church disobeying the commandment to assemble locally, not digitally. I am an IT person and yet I attend a church physically, not metaphysically or digitally. I can shake my pastor’s hand and hug a person. They can see my smile and I theirs. That beats being a type of voyeur watching a man preach we will never know and will not be available for our funeral or to pray with us before we get to that point.
Thus we see Paul was correct when he said, “There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them is without signification.” (1Co 14:10) As our topic says, faith comes by hearing but with all the voices clamoring for attention you have to wonder if anyone is listening. I am convinced that they are but we need to make sure our voice is heard. I believe that there are four ways to make the truth be heard.
First, we have to know the message. You can ask most people in America if they are a Christian and they will say yes. We do have increasing numbers of other groups including atheists but many will affirm the name of Christ even if they are not sure who He is or what is His significance in the culture outside of a curse word or the founder of the club called the church where people hang out listening to boring old songs and dry messages from an ancient book called the Bible. Others may use His name like a fad having jewelry and tattoos with His name or Christian symbols, but have no clue what makes that bling and apparel different than the latest fashions from Gucci, Furstenberg or Versace other than a certain group of people like it more than other groups.
Christ means many things to many people. What He means to you will determine what your message will be to them. If you start out with a wrong picture of who He is in your mind/heart you cannot give the right message. If Christ is the great slot machine in the sky by which you get God, the Father, to grant you all the wealth you want you will misrepresent the message. If Christ is the hammer of an angry God that will save you if you never get out of line then the message is wrong. If Christ is the needy Savior that needs the help of your works, rituals and even prayers of good people to get you saved and keep you saved then you have the wrong message because you have the wrong Christ. If you have a whimsical Christ who changes His mind to fit the culture, personal desires or fads you have a very social Christ, but not the Christ that is the same today, yesterday and forever.
Sadly, there are many apostatized groups that once had at least the basic message though they may have had some other doctrines that were not correct. They could have led a person to Christ. If the founders of these groups were able to come back they would not recognize them and it is highly unlikely that they would be welcomed by the current leadership. I once asked a very old Baptist church if their founder would be welcome and I received a very cloudy reply that indicated he would be very out of place there. Thus, we cannot be sure that because a person says they are a Christian and belongs to some group that they are indeed a recipient of the right message. My wife and I were both raised in groups that once were used to win many souls to Christ, but have gone by the wayside though there are a few remnants here and there.
There are many cults who create all sorts of Christs and gospels making even their leaders equal to Christ or in blasphemy making them His successor because He did not complete the mission. These are often very authoritative groups who will capture the hearts of people and basically make them captive either physically in compounds or emotionally to where they cannot doubt their leader or leave because of extreme fear. The good news becomes a noose of terror rather than breaking the shackles of fear and freeing from sin. This is why it is IMPERATIVE that you know the message because someone will listen but there will be no saving faith in the message. I have shared some well-known verses that clearly lay out the message of Christ and His Gospel.
1 John 5:11-13
11 And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.
12 He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.
13 These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that
ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.
1 Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand;
2 By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.
3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;
4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:
5 And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve:
6 After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep.
7 After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles.
8 And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.
9 For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.
John 14:6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.
Act 4:12 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.
June 17, 2014
I was reading an article and the author was lamenting that he pastored two churches that ultimately closed. There are times when closing a church is a good thing. Growing up we had a phrase about being dead and too dumb to drop over. Many churches, especially in large cities have declined to the point where all funds and energies are tied to a building. It is best for them to close and merge with a larger church to be better stewards of their gifts and money. Many refuse because of building worship or living off of past glories. They are in essence docents of the mausoleum. Many rural churches could merge as well since we are far past the days of horses and buggies so a church 10 to 15 miles away that is growing is better than four that are three miles away and are just barely maintaining. In unity there is strength and if ever there was a time for unity in the Body now is the time. Quit calling pastors only to discourage them and drive them from ministry.
I am a Baptist and sadly we are more known for splits than merges and having numerous camps. If there are 13 Baptist churches in a town, but none of them are of our camp we will start one because there is just not a good church in town. Balderdash and poppycock that theory is but we practice it just the same.
Other groups are not immune to this either. I live in a town fo 30,000 and we have two AOG churches and another one trying to get started. We have two UMC churches. One has a woman pastor and that may be the issue that separated them at one point. Lets not talk about how many Baptists we have representing three stripes of the group.
However, if you have four churches in a ten mile area preaching the same doctrine three are redundant. I once found eight churches that could have merged into one, but knowing that would have been the impossible dream I did pairs. I wrote to each pair of churches, none of the eight had pastors, and suggested that they figure out which had the better building and then merge selling the other property using the money to secure a pastor so they could grow. All flatly rejected the prospect.
One pair had 30 members between them and though I never met them I would be very confident in saying that nearly all of them were over 70 thus in 5-10 years the churches would be closed due to death and dotage. I suggested one such church might merge with the one where I was Associate Pastor and another church in the area got mad at me and read my pastor the riot act. When I spoke with someone from that church and suggested that they merge with them that church did not want them. They did not want to see a building close that had 12 members and all but one lady over 70.
If all you are doing is keeping doors open, you are not wise. Many of these churches have gone through one pastor every year or every two because the church is dead and too dumb to drop over. That sounds harsh, but we need to get past building worship and living in the past so that we can be truly fulfilling our calling. Heal rifts and dump costly buildings that may be lost one day anyway due to death, eminent domain or the loss of tax-exempt status. 100 people in one church can do far more than 20 people in five. A split that is not over doctrinal issues has a 99% chance of being a split in the flesh and caused or at least used by the devil. He enjoys divide and conquer. It is all about God, so unite as He has come to create one Body not millions of loose cells. If all the major doctrines are the same then put the petty bickering and camp idolatry aside and grow up in Christ so that His kingdom grows not yours.
One day, I’ll be more open and tell you how I really feel about it.