Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Amen and Amen

Today, we are assuming too much. We assume the gospel. We assume our churches are healthy. We assume we are preaching biblical, Christ-centered sermons. When we have recovered the inerrancy of Scripture, there are major pulpits today which are preaching Christless sermons. We must come back to understanding that all of Scripture is about Jesus Christ. We must get back to doctrinal preaching and gospel-driven churches. We need evangelism that does not leave out the evangel.

The kind of Southern Baptists we need today are those who understand that we do not need the SBC. There are some wonderful things about it, but the kingdom of God is not hinged on the SBC. With that attitude, the denominational leaders and power brokers do not have one thing we want, and we do not have one thing that they can take. We must continue to work for reformation within and without the SBC. Go and read Revelation 2-3. Recommit yourselves to the local church. We do not need to count ourselves as better evaluators of churches than Jesus Christ. We must labor for the recovery of the gospel and the reformation of the local church.
Dr Tom Ascol via Timmy Brister

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

95% of pastors are losers

One of the blogs I read frequently is written by Darryl Dash. It's hard for me to assign labels to Darryl. If I did, it would probably be something like "does all things well". He's a great preacher, writer, and missional theologian. But recently he had provided a quote from a conference he attended in which he reported that a speaker said "95% of all pastors are losers."

Yeah. I know. Right away I wanted to have a Robert DeNiro moment - "You talkin' to me? You talkin' to me? Are you seriously talkin' to me?"

Turns out the speaker Darryl quoted was talking about a test a group ran in California among declining churches. The idea was that the group recognized that only about 5% of pastors in that area were natural leaders, and they offered help making them more effective. Darryl corrected the post after a leader from the conference contacted him and offered the notes for correcting the context. See, Darryl's a good guy. Told you he did all things well.

But shoot.

What Am I going to do with all this righteous indignation?

I know, I'll look at what Eugene Peterson wrote about God's losers.

Basically, we simply have to get our identity from the Bible, from this Biblical story. And Americans are not very good at that. We assume we are living in a Christian country, and everybody’s on our side. So we let the culture shape what we’re doing because it seems so benign, and then we think, “We can Christianize it.” But we can’t. The church is a totally counter-cultural movement.

We are a marginal people. There is no way we can be a success in this culture on their terms.

American pastors don’t want to hear this, though. They want to know how they can grow
their church, as though if you have the right technique and enough water and fertilizer, it’s going to go. But here’s the thing: all the stories of spiritual leadership that we have in our scriptures are failures.

Every one.

I can’t think of one that in our terms we would call a “success.”

Look at Moses. He spent forty years taking his congregation through the wilderness, finally gets them to the Promised Land, summarizes all of God’s teaching, puts it all together in this incredible sermon called Deuteronomy, and then as he gives his last speech, God speaks to Moses and says, in effect, “Moses, these people can’t wait
until you die. They are itching to jump into this whole Canaanite, orgiastic, sex-and-religion stuff.

They can’t wait until you are out of here so they can just get to it. So here’s what I want you to do: teach them this song, and teach their children this song. Then when they have forgotten about you, their children will remember the song and they will have the story.” And he teaches them the “Song of Moses.” And as soon as he dies, that’s just what happens: everything is just a mess. How
would you like, at the end of your ministry, to have God say, “I just want you to know, pastor, they didn’t learn a thing from you.”

Isaiah, at the beginning of his ministry, gets this glorious call, with all the smoke and angels and holy, holy, holy stuff. But then God says, “You are going to preach to these people and they aren’t going to listen and they aren’t going to do a thing you say.” How would you like to hear that on your ordination day? Isaiah says, “How long, Lord?” and God says, in effect, “for the rest of your life. The country is going to get cut down, and just be a field of stumps—but there is a seed in the stump.” That’s not very hopeful.

So it goes in every story. As pastors, we have to be ready to be a failure in the eyes of the culture, and if we’re not, we’re seduced by the culture to “being religious” in the culture’s way. Of course, they reward us wonderfully when we do that!

I'm in way over my head in this job. I got mad skills, but still, the job is far too complex, the people far too resistant to change, and the culture (despite what Peterson says) too ambivalent about God for success to leap into my boat like a sturgeon on the Suwanee River.

My task then, above all, is to be God's man. To be faithful and true to what Jesus is. To live Him.

100% of pastors have sinned and fallen short. But God has blessed us with His presence and His mercy, and allowed us to work with Him in His vineyard and every now and then to see the fruit of His work.


Thursday, June 14, 2007

On Funerals

Time was, I enjoyed writing funeral messages. I could take what I knew of the person's life and weave a story from it that seemed to help the people in grief, and expose others to the light of the gospel.

But today I will be doing the funeral message for the family of a man I did not know, who committed suicide, and who almost certainly was not a believer.

As the pastor of a church in a small town, I knew this day was coming. And I thought I'd be prepared for it. But I've been surprised with just how hard it has been to get a grip on just what God would have me say.

Let me say this up front. I hurt with those who grieve. One of them is a teenager who belongs to our church and is one of the sweetest young Christ-followers I have ever known. She came by our home the day it happened and for over an hour poured her heart out to us. It hurts to see her hurt and to see the shock and hurt in their faces.

But it is becoming increasingly clear to me that what many, many are sharing as Christianity, and what they are trying to rely on in times like these is not Christianity at all. It's cultural religion. Maybe something happened in VBS at age 6, or at a youth revival when they were 13 - in 1965. But nothing of God has crossed their mind in decades, unless His name popped in when a cuss word needed a modifier.

And they look to the pastor at times like this to "Bless this mess."

Uh, no.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

A Glimpse of New Hope!: Nothing Says Welcome Like...

Nothing Says Welcome Like...

In the last two weeks, I've taken two trips to my hometown of Macon, Georgia. One was to honor my Mother-In-Love, and the other to honor my Aunt Geneva, who passed away. The route we take is well traveled, and I can pretty much drive it without thinking, or without really noticing the scenery. With the passing of each season, certain things change, but except for the crops, not much to catch your eye.

Except for the church with the razor wire fence.

That's right. Nothing says, 'Welcome' like chain link topped with razor wire.

No, I don't know the story behind it. Could be as a result of crime, but I doubt it, since the church less than a mile away hasn't seen the necessity of looking like Stalag 13. But it did get me to thinking.

What exactly do we (in churches that I have known) protect that does something similar?

Well, speaking personally, there's our parking lot. At times the Little League folks almost take over. Sometimes we are tempted to remind them just whose parking lot it is.

Or our clothing style. Now we're pretty relaxed for the most part, but we do have a thing about hats. No matter that any Jew would cover his head in the synagogue. In a Baptist church, kids wearing baseball hats are verboten. I have known folks at other churches get fried over some guy who showed up with a Budweiser shirt on. And there's the occasional "short shorts" some teenage girl who doesn't come to church often (if ever before) might be wearing.

Our decorum? I can remember a group of folks coming to a little church I once pastored. They came in and sat on the front row where only the ushers and occasional fill-in preachers sat. When I said what the Bible verses were I would be teaching on, they reached behind and grabbed pew Bibles and spent a couple of minutes trying to find the right pages. They were whispering while they helped each other. The looks on the faces of all the "saints" behind them weren't really very "saintly."

And if we've been in church a while, we've experienced someone who was a wee too expressive for our tastes in worship. You know - sang too loud, closed their eyes while they did it, maybe even swayed or lifted hands.

Yeah, nothing says You're welcome like chain link and razor wire.

Have we forgotten?

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. 8But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:6-8 NIV

I'm saying a prayer right now for all of us who build fences to keep people who need good news away. Will you join me in a prayer of confession? We might not have thought about it, probably didn't realize what our preferences said - so let's move away from them and toward the people who need the hope that we have.


It's the first day of summer break for school kids here, and all of them are looking forward to a great time. Well for once, Bunny and I were ahead of the game, as we spent the last few days on vacation in St Augustine, FL. She needed a break, and I went along. :) There were enough experiences for several blog posts during the three days we were there, but as I thought about the time we spent together there, I wanted to share this with you today.

Here's what I learned on our spring vacation.

My wife and I are very different. And I love her madly.

There, I've said it.

And it's true.

The places we went this week- Two different shrines - one Greek Orthodox, one Catholic. A wax museum and a museum that was a "collection of collections". Several art galleries, and restaurants from cultures very diverse from my usual fare. Bunny even convinced me, possibly one of the least "ghost-aware" people on the planet, to go on a "Ghosts and Gravestones" tour.

And I loved every minute of it, even though some of it was outside my areas of interest. We even took a break from our normal eating habits. I went three days without McDonalds, Wendy's, or any fast food. But I experienced Greek, Italian, and Spanish foods that were incredibly good. David Wilson, Mr. Meat and Potatoes himself, ate spinach pie, Mousaka (eggplant), clams, mussels, squid... - well, you get the picture.

But being with the woman I love was simply awesome. I got to see her joy at examining an artist's brush strokes, watch her get excited over seeing the ocean, and hear her talk about the things she loves. It was a very special time for both of us. We've been married almost 34 years, and I've never loved her more. Yes, we've both changed over the years, but I'm loving her more today than the first day of our marriage.

My only regret is that we haven't spent enough time together as we did this week.

Let me ask you a question. It's a serious one.

If you love someone, shouldn't that mean you are open to experience changes in what you value, what you do - because you love them?

Wouldn't it mean you were willing - even eager -to go places and do things with them because of your love?

Wouldn't you learn to love the things that they love too?

Jesus put it this way:

Matt 11: 28-30 "Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly."

When is the last time you walked off your beaten path to follow Jesus?

When did you last do something you wouldn't do for anyone else - for Jesus - out of your love for Him?

Think back over how many years since you became a Christian, and ask yourself.

Do you love the things Jesus loves?

If you can't answer yes, maybe it's time for you to take a break and rediscover just how much you are loved

"Here's what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won't be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace. Matt 6:5-17

In His love,

It's an old story.

A traveling preacher out one night and upon entering a town stops at the door of a little home. Coming to the door was a woman with apron on and paring knife in hand. She had been peeling apples for a pie, and greeted the pastor with a smile.

Hat in hand, the man asked her. "Does Jesus live here?"

Puzzled, she thought at first she didn't understand his question. Seeing her face revealed to the preacher her heart, so he asked again, "Does Jesus live here?" This time she heard well, and was considering the thought that the man was not quite well.

She said nothing, not knowing what to say. "Does Jesus live here?" was the question again, and it produced even more unease in the woman. Before she could stammer any answer, the man said, "I am so sorry. I had hoped Jesus lived here."

With that, he put his hat back on and walked on into the night.

The young woman went back to her work, but couldn't help wondering about the man and his question. Soon her husband came in, and she told him of her strange encounter.

The husband told her, "Well, why didn't you tell him that we are members of the church on the hill, that we give regularly to the work of it, and attend Sunday School once in a while?" But the young woman had caught a grasp of the old man's meaning.

"He didn't ask that, John. He asked whether Jesus lived here or not."

It made me think this morning of these verses.

6 And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands I am giving you today.
7 Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are away on a journey, when you are lying down and when you are getting up again.
8 Tie them to your hands as a reminder, and wear them on your forehead. 9 Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
Deut 6:6-9 (NLT)

The Hebrews were very successful in keeping their religion a part of every day life. How did they do it? They integrated what they believed into how they lived. They used their lives, their homes, and their vocations to honor God, and taught their children to do the same. It's one of the reasons why, despite the best efforts of evil people down through the years, the Jews still exist as a people, even in cultures that abhor everything they are.

I'm a student of culture, a history buff. And I would tell you that we live in an America that is very much post-Christian. If we are to bring our faith forward and deliver it to generations to follow, we have to be much more like the Jews in the way we approach our family responsibilities.

But far more important than that, we need to be far more passionate about wanting more of Jesus in our lives. We need to hunger and thirst for more of Jesus.

Jesus is not satisfied with only having your attention at church. He wants your devotion in every area of your life. He is present at every meal, every conversation, everywhere. Are you living in a way that reflects His presence?

Does Jesus live at your house?
Grace, mercy, and peace,

David Wilson

Thursday, June 07, 2007

One person's opinion on a pastor's job

Just had a visit from my favorite pastor, Arnold Hendrix. He's in a traditional Baptist church in Lower Alabama. He probably won't ever be invited to preach at Catalyst, or even the SBC Convention. But he's making a huge difference for God.

Thing is, Arnold's way of doing it is the antithesis of what the writer below is describing. He's creating programs and inviting people to help, to work, to do (Gasp!) church.

I'm thinking that just maybe everything isn't as black and white as what we often read on blogs trending to one side of the "Do church?" debate or the other.

I'm thinking that pastors who are passionate and love God and people can still find a way to do church AND nurture the passion and purpose in others. What say ye?

A Deconstructed Christian: Church - the ultimate mission killer

In my opinion, a pastor's job, their highest calling, is to nurture what God has put inside every christ-follower - a little seed of passion for what they are supposed to do in this life. That seed can grow and multiply, or it can be trodden into the earth. The passion likely has nothing to do with a church program, it is more likely a cry for something more, something bigger, something infinitely more precious. It could be a need to work with the homeless, to raise children, to care for the aged. It could be writing songs, creating art, playing sport, being a musician. It can be ministry in prisons, in schools, in shelters. Honestly, it could be anything. It could simply be inviting people over for meals or speaking to people in bars.

Whatever it is, it is precious because it is from God. It's a passion, a purpose, something that is designed to be fulfilled. The problem is, if that passion doesn't fit neatly into specific church-sanctioned activities, it gets pushed down by the busyness of church.

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What we believe

The North Carolina evangelist Vance Havner said, "What we live is what we really believe."


One of the steps I try to make in teaching and preaching is to connect the person in the pews to what's going on in the lives of the people inhabiting the texts we are looking at.

Last night we were in Numbers 10, toward the end of the chapter. The Israelites were finally leaving Sinai. And all God's people said... Amen! For those of us in our Wednesday night study group, it was about time.

So each tribe is led in turn to break camp and follow the cloud of God's presence. It must have been an amazing sight to see. After 13 months of being under the shadow of Mt Sinai as God prepared them, finally they were moving. Still, some people in the crowd might have been reluctant to move. But not Moses.

No, Moses was made for this. He was the man God would use to free His people and place them in the land He had promised Abraham. So imagine Moses' excitement and focus on what was going to happen in the future. His every thought must have been far ahead of where they were that day as they began.

Not Moses.

His thoughts were with his brother in law Hobab, who wasn't coming along.

That's right. This great man of God, with his mission finally becoming realized, wasn't going to leave without inviting someone he cared for to go on the journey with him.

So why is it that we as Christians are so willing to leave our friends, family, neighbors and coworkers behind when we "move out" to heaven?

We live what we believe.

Moses believed to live was to invite others to walk with God.

Do we? Really?

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