Dinner Is Prepared!

1dinner-tableImagine you have invited several couples over for dinner. You want to make this a very special dinner that they will find nourishing. You buy several recipe books to help you prepare great tasting foods. You spend several days preparing for this dinner, trying to make sure things are just right. You spend some extra money and time on plates and napkins so that the presentation of the food is enhanced as well. Finally, the day comes and you are so excited about these couples coming and feasting on the dishes you have prepared and worked so hard and long on.

However, they don’t show up. Instead of coming, one couple visited a sick relative. Another couple, decided to go on a trip. One couple had a hard day and simply was too exhausted to come. Another couple had a child playing volleyball and was absent. All the hard work and all the time spent to prepare a dinner just for these couples were wasted because they did not attend. All the food remains on the table because there is nobody to eat it. How disappointed would you be?

Don’t we do the same thing to our Sunday School teacher and preacher when they have studied and prepared all week long to feed us from God’s Word and then we don’t show up to eat? Can you imagine the disappointment of the teacher and preacher to see so many missing? We would not be happy if it happened to us but we have no difficulty in doing it to others.

We need to be mindful that if we do not show up to eat, the cooks may stop cooking.

By lakeviewbc Posted in Church

Nine Heartfelt Things Pastors Would Like to Say to Their Church Members!

preaching-cartoon1Thom Rainer surveyed pastors via social media, in person, by phone, and by email to find the nine most common things pastors wanted to tell their congregations if they could with some comments. I wanted to share them with you and add my own thoughts, which will be in bold under each thought.

1-“When you criticize a family member, you hurt me deeply.”
Please understand that neither my spouse nor my children are employed by the church. Do your best to treat them as regular church members, and do not place unreasonable expectations on them.
I don’t hear much of this at Lakeview, so this is not an issue with me. All my family is active in the church and I don’t think they are overly criticized, at least not that I have heard.

2- “I will have bad days, and it will show at times.”
A pastor is supposed to be “on” all the time. But it is difficult. I know there are times I speak out of turn. I know there are times when I’m too tired to listen well. I will try not to show my bad days, but I will slip at times.
Yep, I mess up and make mistakes. I am as human as everyone here, I often feel more human than anyone here. Please forgive me for my failures and pray that God would help me be a better pastor with fewer bad days.

3- “Not all of my sermons will be ‘home runs.’”
I wish they were. But with the number of different messages I have to prepare and preach in a year, I won’t always be the stellar preacher you want me to be. Indeed, I won’t always be the stellar preacher I want to be.
I rarely hit a home run with a sermon, but I want to constantly feed the church with the Word of God. Three sermons a week are challenging with the other pastoral duties but no one wishes the sermons were better than me. There may be few home runs but it’s not because I’m not swinging.

4- “I am sensitive about my salary.”
There are few people who work in a place where everyone in the organization is the boss. That is the nature of church work. But when you make disparaging comments about my pay and my related work, it cuts me to the core.
I have never heard disparaging comments about my salary but I’m sure things have been said. I never make money an issue, I have never asked for a certain amount, never asked for a raise, and work hard to make sure that I do work appropriate to the salary.

5-“I struggle when the church numbers are down.”
I know I shouldn’t. I know I shouldn’t derive my worth based on attendance and offerings. But when attendance declines or offerings drop, I question my own leadership at the church
This is a problem for me. I struggle with the lack of importance put on church attendance. When attendance is down, I certainly question myself. When people would rather do something else rather than come to church, I question myself. Can’t help it. I guess if you were pastoring, you would want people to be more faithful as well.

6-“I would love a true friend in the church.”
I’m talking about someone who would let me be myself, someone who wouldn’t mind if I let my hair down. It seems like everyone wants me to put on my pastor face all the time.
I have many friends here at Lakeview that I feel I can be myself with. We joke, laugh, and kid one another. This is not a problem for me at Lakeview. Not everyone will allow me to be myself, but many do. I look forward to church time because many are my friends.

7- “Please don’t criticize me or ask me to do something right before I preach.”
I put many hours into sermon preparation. I have prayed with intensity about the message. Please don’t tell me the worship center is too cold right before I preach.
There is the dreaded, “I need to talk with you” that comes right before I preach. That sometimes, bothers me. It doesn’t happen often enough for it to be a problem but it has occasionally happened. 

8-“I cannot show up at every place all of you would like me to be.”
I jokingly told a pastor friend that I wish I could be omnipresent, and he laughed and agreed. I love you church members, but it is physically impossible to be all the places you expect me to be.
I wish I could be everywhere but I can’t. I try to be at as many places and events as I can. But with the ministry obligations and family, I have limitations. This is one area where I need people to help me.

9-“I hurt deeply when good people don’t defend me.”
Every leader will have his or her critics; and that is certainly the case with pastors. I don’t expect to be immune from criticisms. But what hurts me the most is the silence of “good” members when I am attacked unfairly. Please say a kind word about me in response to the negativity you hear. Don’t let the few critics dominate the conversation.
This is absolutely true. it does hurt when people you have poured your heart into, listen to the critics and say nothing in my defense. There have been times where I have wondered why people did not defend me when people were negative. The silence does hurt. Some tell me negativity was expressed but they don’t say that they defended me, they just listened.

The Church I Long For!

evangelism-stilesI am currently reading the book “Evangelism:How the Whole Church Speaks of Jesus” by J. Mack Stiles when I came across a portion that made my heart say a hearty amen. I thought I would share it with you in hopes you will feel the same affirmation in your own heart. May God help this be Lakeview Baptist Church for I too long for a church like this.

I long for a church that understands that it— the local church— is the chosen and best method of evangelism. I long for a church where the Christians are so in love with Jesus that when they go about the regular time of worship, they become an image of the gospel. I long for a church that disarms with love, not entertainment, and lives out countercultural confidence in the power of the gospel. I long for a church where the greatest celebrations happen over those who share their faith, and the heroes are those who risk their reputations to evangelize. I yearn for a culture of evangelism with brothers and sisters whose backs are up to mine in the battle; where I’m taught and I teach about what it means to share our faith; and where I see leaders in the church leading people to Jesus. I want a church where you can point to changed lives, where you can see people stand up and say, “When I came to this church two years ago, I didn’t know God, but now I do!” I long to be a part of a culture of evangelism like that. 

 

By lakeviewbc Posted in Church

The Danger of Spiritual Entertainment

stateofchurchAlso, thou son of man, the children of thy people still are talking against thee by the walls and in the doors of the houses, and speak one to another, every one to his brother, saying, Come, I pray you, and hear what is the word that cometh forth from the Lord. And they come unto thee as the people cometh, and they sit before thee as my people, and they hear thy words, but they will not do them: for with their mouth they shew much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness. And, lo, thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument: for they hear thy words, but they do them not.   Ezekiel 33:30-33

What we need in the church today is the development of a culture that understands the danger of entertainment. We need to clarify the truth that a crowd of people is not an indication of ministry success nor God’s movement. Certainly, what was happening in Ezekiel’s day is being repeated in our day.

It seems from the text that Ezekiel was a popular preacher. The people were buzzing about him. They were telling others about him. They were inviting others to come and hear him preach. They themselves were attending the services. They greatly enjoyed his preaching. He must have been a great orator. They might have liked his style of preaching. Ezekiel describes it like a concert. They come to hear the pleasant voice and the preforming instruments. What He is saying is that they were enthusiastic about the entertainment value of the service. They came, they invited others, and they were excited only because they received some entertainment benefit.

Many churches draw crowds by appealing to this desire in humanity. People desire entertainment. They desire to have a good time and to feel happy. Churches provide the entertainment for the crowd because it will attract. They offer magicians, activities, preachers that are more comedians than truth tellers, and sermons that are nothing more than story after story. Youth groups are all about lock-ins, snowboarding, bowling, and any kind of entertainment that will attract young people. The theme seems to be “throw candy at them and they will come.” So we give them plays, movies, dramas, dance, anything to get them to come.

Maybe Ezekiel was a “James” preacher. Maybe he told them straight. Maybe he stepped on toes and he really “gave it to them.” Some folks like that kind of entertaining preaching as well. They come so that they can hear a man tell them what is wrong with everybody else.

Notice that the indictment on all of this is that while the crowd desires entertainment, they have no appetite for instruction. They hear but they do not do. They say how much they enjoy it but their hearts are not in it. They are filled with selfish desires and when the church ceases to provide the scratching for their itch, they are done and gone. They hear the words but they do not do them. Why? Because they came to be entertained not instructed. They came to get, not to give. They have no interest in doing what God commands of them.

They leave happy, entertained, and satisfied but what long-term effect will it have? What life-changing transformation takes place? The answer to both questions is none! Nothing changes. They leave the same spiritual way that they came. They go home, talking about how good it was, they invite others to come, they prepare for the next service, but they fail to obey the Word of God. They are so shallow. They come simply for the spectacle of it all.

As a pastor, I constantly am involved in self-evaluation. What I cannot use to evaluate my preaching is attendance or complements. Not even the absence of trouble in the church is a good evaluator. What determines our effectiveness of ministry is the degree in which hard hearts are transformed by the divine work of God. It is the degree in which the people come to know that Jesus is Lord. It is not in what they say, it is in what they do. Are they doing what He says and not just hearing what He says. How do they respond to God’s Word?

By lakeviewbc Posted in Church

The Duties of Church Members!

Church-membershipChurch membership is not just a formality. It is not just a checking of a box. It is more than just putting your name on a list. It’s much more than what many think. Church members have the duty to imitate and submit to the leadership of the church, to regularly assemble with the church, and to love and serve their fellow members. These duties are the means by which we grow in godliness and help others grow in godliness as well.

Hebrews 13:7, 17 says, “Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God:whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation. Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves:for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief:for that is unprofitable for you.”

God has provided leaders in the church who are given the responsibility to look after your spiritual well-being. They are called to lead, guide, and feed the membership of the church. They are commissioned to take care of and do what is best for the spiritual growth of those under them. When we join the church we are committing ourselves to submit to the leadership that God has called to take care of us.

Hebrews 10:24-25 adds, “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another:and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”

The writer of Hebrews reminds us of our duty to assemble together with our fellow members to provoke them to love and to good works. The primary way to encourage your brothers or sisters to love and do good is to encourage them in person as we assemble together. To join a church means you commit yourself to the duty of showing up when the church assembles. This verse reminds us that our assembling is for the good of others and should not be neglected.

Romans 12:3-18 reminds us that church members have the duty to serve one another. “For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching; Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness. Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another; Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality. Bless them which persecute you:bless, and curse not. Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits. Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.”

Paul says that God has assembled a diverse group of people in the church. Each has a role of service to play in the overall body. Each is important to the rest of the members and for the health of the body as a whole. Church members are not spectators or cheerleaders, they are servants to every other member.

I go through great pains to make sure that our members know these truths before they join. I want to make sure they fully understand what membership consists of. I emphasize their attendance, their submission, their supporting the work financially, and their serving the body of believers. Sadly, many agree and then fail to meet these duties. The result is the entire church suffers because of their negligence.

May we ask God to help us be what we are Biblically supposed to be as members of God’s church. The church needs every member being a real member.

Possible Reasons For Evening Service Decline!

evening-serviceTim Challies offers his thoughts on possible reasons why evening church services  are in decline.

A diminished view of preaching.
More than anything else, an evening service provides a second opportunity to sit under the preaching of the Word. When preaching goes into decline, and when people demand and expect more of a service than preaching, it stands to reason that the evening service will no longer prove a significant draw. Not only that, but a pastor is far less likely to dedicate himself to preparing a second sermon when preaching has fallen out of favor. Where the pastor’s job description used to have preaching at the very top of the list, today preaching tends to be just one of many important tasks that consume his time and energy.

The growth of amateur and professional sports.
Sports dominate life in North America. Amateur sports have migrated to Sunday (a relatively new development) while professional sports are a Sunday afternoon and Sunday evening staple for many families. I sometimes wonder if Superbowl parties held at churches marked the beginning of the end, proving the ascendency of sport and the decline of church. Either way, unless you determine that you will not allow sports to interfere with church, sports will likely win at some point.

A diminished view of Sunday.
Blue laws have been rescinded, and this is important, I’m sure. But I think we can dig a little deeper. There was a time in both Canada and America where Christian influence pushed a form of Sabbatarianism into the wider culture. Even though few people were convicted by Scripture, there was enough Christian influence to carry the day. As a result, sports, leagues, activities, and other entertainments tended to be held six days per week rather than seven. As Christian influence has waned, many of these activities have pushed their way into Sunday. Just about every league, every activity, every hobby, now has a Sunday component.

A diminished Reformed influence.
While the number of Evangelicals may be increasing, the number of traditionally Reformed Evangelicals (by which I especially mean those forms that hold to a form of Sabbatarianism) has declined. The greater your commitment to a Christian Sabbath, the greater the likelihood that you will advocate an evening service as a means of redeeming the entire day. As Evangelicals have become less convinced about the Sabbath, many have become less convinced about making all of Sunday the Lord’s Day.

An amusement culture.
Our culture is increasingly driven by a desire for entertainment. Evening services are not fun and, therefore, cannot compete with the growing entertainment options. If we measure what we do by entertainment value, an evening service will rarely win.

 

By lakeviewbc Posted in Church

Sunday Evening Church In Decline!

9996877_origI was reading Thom Rainer’s blog post on the decline of the Sunday evening service in American churches. Many churches do not have Sunday evening services or have dropped the service from their schedule. Other churches have a Sunday evening service, of some type, but attendance is very low and in decline.

I believe that the inclusion of a Sunday evening service, or not, is entirely under the authority of the local church in their efforts to do what they feel is best for the spiritual health of the particular congregation. And I also think that the congregation should submit to whatever the church feels is spiritually best for them whether that is have a Sunday evening service or not.

I am amazed though, as I read the comments to the blog, of how comfortable people are with the absence of a Sunday evening service or less church altogether. The excuses range from business, tiredness, family time, small groups, ect. I am afraid the problem is “Whateverism.” I don’t think there is the commitment to the local church and to the body of believers that there should be. I think that many look at the church and think, “Whatever.” Church is not deemed to be important.

In the early church in Acts, the church meet daily. They must have felt a need to gather together, encourage one another, pray, fellowship, and feed on the Word of God on a daily basis. Yet today we think less of that is better. Do we really feel that we are better off or a brother and sister are better off, spiritually, with less?

I often hear the excuses of business and tiredness and other things to attend to. But the very same people are at volleyball, baseball, football, or soccer games several times during the week without one single complaint. In fact, they are not looking for less, they are hoping the team does so well they go to the playoffs for more games. And most of the children have perfect attendance to practice and games while parents sit in the hot sun for hours and complain about giving another hour to church. No mention of those things cutting in to family time or rest time.

I think the reason church services are in decline is that we just do not have a proper Biblical understanding of the New Testament church. We don’t consider our own spiritual needs nor do we consider the spiritual needs of others whom we are to encourage and exhort. We are to not forsake the assembling of ourselves together but we are to be gathering to encourage one another more as we see his return coming.

It really does not take much to get us to ditch a church service. Legal papers to sign, oh well, sorry church. Family comes in town, oh well, sorry church. someone needs help, oh well, sorry church. A little more work to do, oh well, sorry church. There is just no commitment to the church or those in the church. We even make idols out of mothers as we miss church because we are so tired from honoring our mothers. Some churches that normally have Sunday evening services canceled their evening service because of Mother’s Day.

We can come up with a thousand reasons for the decline in Sunday evening worship services but the main reason is that most just see no reason for it and have no desire to go. They do not feel it necessary for their own good nor the good of their brother and sister in church. They look at church and say, “whatever.” Church is not important!

The problem, as I see it, is that we are so busy serving ourselves that we have little time and little strength to serve anyone else. However, serving others is exactly what we are to be doing with our lives. And where better to serve others than in the local church. Our culture is eventually going to squeeze church out all together. And those who do not understand church will comply with the wishes of culture. People will do exactly what they want to do but I just can’t see myself, honestly saying, that I need less of church—less preaching, less Bible, less fellowship, less singing, less serving. I am too leaky to need less. In fact, I feel I need more. But that’s just me.

 

By lakeviewbc Posted in Church

What Are We Doing To The Church?

fragmented_audienceI saw a billboard for a local church that is promoting the start of a “Country Worship Service.” The sign promises Country and Bluegrass music during this particular service. I can’t help but ask myself what are we doing to the church?

We have already separated our churches by age groups. Seniors fellowship only with Seniors, Young Adults fellowship with only Young Adults, Middle Agers fellowship only with Middle Agers, Teenagers Fellowship only with Teenagers, and Elementary Youth fellowship only with Elementary Youth. We accomplish this in Sunday School, class outings, Children’s Church, Wednesday Youth, and so on. I think that these divisions are very unhealthy and do not progress the Biblical mandate of the church.

But now we are further separating, dividing, fragmenting, and isolating the church. People who like certain kinds of music just come to the service that meets their desires. So one would never fellowship with those who have different preferences than their own. This is very sad, very unhealthy, and without any Biblical example whatsoever.

I understand it is done to attract a crowd, to try to please everyone, to meet the consumers felt needs, to make people happy. But those things are not the mission of the church. The church should major on the teaching and preaching of the gospel. So you have different music but the same weak preaching, if there is preaching at all.

Then we have whole churches for special people. Churches just for cowboys and just for those who ride motorcycles. These exist because those people just don’t feel comfortable in the traditional church setting, so instead of loving and serving those who are not like us, we just surround ourselves with people just like us.

The way to do church today is to have many services that appeal to as many people as you can. So you have a Country music service which is followed by a Contemporary Christian music service which is followed by a Hip-Hop service which is followed by a Heavy Metal service which is followed by a Southern Gospel Service which is followed by a Traditional Hymn service.

Most church goers will love this without once considering the danger of such actions. The Bible seems to point toward a group of very diverse group of people who have been brought together by one God, one Christ, one baptism, and one Spirit. And we are to love and serve those who are like us and those who are not like us. Church is where there is an integration of young and old and where there is mutual involvement among all ages and types of people. The church is where we are to put our personal preferences aside as we esteem others before ourselves. The Church is where we let God choose our friends. God forbid we have to endure types of music that we don’t care for just because our brother or sister in Christ enjoys it.

The church should be a united group of people who are ALL serving one another in love. Church should not be the fragmented mess we have made it to be. We might want to try the Biblical strategy, God promised it would work.

By lakeviewbc Posted in Church

The Challenges of Church Membership!

Church-membershipI guess I have worked into a routine of having a “Church Membership Friday” post. For the past two Friday’s I have presented truths concerning the importance of church membership. Last Friday, I defined church membership. Today I want to encourage you in the challenges of church membership.

No one said that belonging to church would be easy. Anytime you put a diverse group of people together, you are bound to have differences and challenges. The truth of church membership is that every member of the church is called to overcome and pursue unity in the church in order to reflect the church’s union with Christ.

That can’t be done by cutting bait and leaving every time some obstacle comes up. I agree there are times when leaving a church becomes necessary (heretical doctrine preached, geographical relocation, failure to teach biblically, and others) but not being able to get along with someone in the church is not one of them.

In the church, there must be a commitment to the people of the church and a commitment to God that all divisions will be overcome and there must be a pursuit for unity. There must be repentance and forgiveness among God’s people. There is far too much bitterness and unforgiveness in among professing believers.

The church is united because it is the body of Christ and Christ is not divided. Christ died for the church. The redeemed belong to Christ and they are saved by Him. They are one body in Him and should live in a way that expresses that unity.

The only way we are in the body of Christ is that Christ took our offense, paid for it, and forgave us of it. And the only way the local body of Christ can reflect that reality is to forgive offenses of those who hurt us and Christ has forgiven us. Separating is not the answer. Addressing the problem, repenting of wrongs, forgiveness, and reconciliation is the answer. Christians are not to run from problems, they are to work them out in light of what Christ has done for them.

By lakeviewbc Posted in Church

Defining Church Membership!

Church-membershipMany people join a church with little thought of the Biblical implications of such a decision. The American church culture, with its consumer driven emphasis, has made church membership almost meaningless. There is no depth to our understanding of church membership much less any feeling of responsibility. Many move from church to church depending on which church has what they are looking for at the given time.

While I do not expect to change the bent of our church culture as a whole, I aim to make a difference at Lakeview. I do want to change the mindset of membership at our church. I want to not only make sure new members understand the seriousness of church membership but also that we are constantly educating the entire church on the Biblical meaning of church membership. It is so easy to be swept up in the flood of the American church culture.

Jonathan Leeman gives us a good definition of church membership in his excellent book, The Church and the Surprising Offense of God’s Love. He says:

Church membership is (1) a covenant of union between a particular church and a Christian, a covenant that consists of (2) the church’s affirmation of the Christian gospel profession, (3) the church’s promise to give oversight to the Christian, and (4) the Christian’s promise to gather with the church and submit to its oversight.

I think that is a good definition for us to work with. Let’s enlarge upon it just a bit.

1. Church Membership Is A Covenant- Yes, church membership is more than signing a card. It means more to join a church than it does to join the country club or Netflix. It means to enter into a covenant. A covenant is a solemn agreement between the members of a church to act together in harmony with the precepts of the gospel. It is like a marriage covenant. It means taking responsibility for the other members and it means submitting to others. It is a covenant that promises that you will be a dependable part of the church. It is not a no risk and cancel at anytime proposition. It is not join until you shop and find a better deal.

2. Church Membership Affirms the Christian’s Profession of Faith In Christ- By joining the church, the individual is proclaiming their salvation by the grace of God, through the work of Christ, and applied by the power of the Holy Spirit. And the church is affirming that they have seen the evidence and fruits of that in the person’s life by receiving them into membership. Honestly, that takes time. People are usually quick to want to join but the church must vet them over time , as best it can, to examine their fruits. The problem in many churches today is that there are more goats than sheep in the membership. I think in most cases, it takes a good year to come to that conclusion.

3. The Church Promises to Oversee the Christian’s Discipleship- The church is a spiritual organism and is interested and concerned about the spiritual needs of the member. This is not to say that the church does not meet physical needs. I think that the church has a Biblical responsibility to meet the physical needs of its members as well. But the primary need is spiritual. The church is to do what it is called to do: teach, preach, exhort, rebuke, encourage and call all its members to engage in the mutual building up of its members. The church exercises great oversight to ensure these things are being done. The church is not called to entertain its members but to edify its members by the word of God.

4. The Christian Promises To Regularly Assemble With and Submit to the Church- The member has responsibility to gather. How often? As often as the church deems to be necessary. The Authority to determine the frequency of assembling lies with the church. At Lakeview, we meet three times a week: Sunday morning and evening and Wednesday evening. There may be other times when services are added as well. It is the responsibility of the membership to meet at each appointed time unless sick or providentially hindered. The member also bears the responsibility to support the work of the church financially. While the church must spend God’s money wisely, it should be the desire of every member that the work of the church not be hindered by lack of financial ability. Each member also should serve. Service is not just teaching a class or watching a nursery but serving in every service in the effort to encourage each member.

Unless we understand these things, the church will not be able to pull together to maintain unity and to glorify God to the fullest extent.

HAVE A GREAT WEEKEND!

 

By lakeviewbc Posted in Church