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WOMEN IN MINISTRY 2

Should Women Be Involved in Ministry?

This blog is posted for students in my courses. However, you are still welcome to read it even if your are not a student of mine. That being said, try not to be distracted if you get a sense that I am addressing a specific audience.

I recently posted a blog on the question of whether women should serve as lead pastors and elders of local churches. If you have not yet read that blog, then I recommend that you do so before reading this blog. In that blog I promised to answer to some objections that my first blog may have raised; consequently, the blog you have before you is an attempt to keep that promise.

Should women be active involved in ministry? Simply and emphatically stated, yes! While women should not be pastors or lead elders over men in local churches, all believers should aspire to some form of ministry regardless of gender and spiritual maturity. So, before elaborating more precisely on what this means, it is first necessary to establish a few universal biblical principles. One caveat before I begin, this blog deals with ministry in and outside the church. It does not address secular professions. Simply put, there are no biblical mandates prohibiting women from participating in secular careers such as: teachers, governors, presidents, queens, senators, garbage collectors, stock car racers, plumbers, CEOs, etc., etc. With respect to women participating in such employment, there is no biblical prohibition against women participating in financially productive careers or offices of public service. That being said, however, every parent’s first responsibility, whether they be mothers or fathers, is to actively and properly care for and raise their own children in the ways of godliness so that they become functional Christians, and in general this specifically requires that mothers leave the work force for a season for the sake of their children (Prov. 31.10-31; 1 Tim 2.15; Tit 2.3-5).  However, if fathers and mothers functionally abandon their children to the care of others in order to pursue careers that they think will be more “self-fulfilling” instead of raising their own children, the consequence will be that many of them will grow up to reject the gospel, and the end result will be that they have done immeasurable damage to both their children and the cause of Christ. Lastly, Israel enjoyed the leadership of women as judges and royalty, and we do not find the prophets denouncing them for being leaders simply because of their gender. If they were rebuked it was for the injustices that occurred under their authority or the apostasy and heresies that they fostered and protected, but not simply for their gender. With that said, let’s begin.

  • All believers regardless of gender receive spiritual gifts. Paul explained in 1 Corinthians 12.4-6 that the Holy Spirit gives each believer a spiritual gift or gifts, while the Lord Jesus Christ determines the ministries in which they are to be used, and God the Father empowers them to be effective. Consequently, spiritual gifts are a blessing conferred by God upon all believers regardless of gender.
  • All believers are equally valued by God. Paul explained that we are all one in Christ (Gal. 3.26-28). This passage is by far the biblical text that is most abused by Feminist and Christian Egalitarians. Clearly God loves all believers equally, and both men and women are equal inheritors of the kingdom of God. Nevertheless, God created us differently; consequently, we function differently both in life and in the body of Christ with respect to ministry (i.e., the local church; although the term “body of Christ” can also refer to the universal church). Remember that in 1 Corinthians 12.5 Paul explained that it is the Lord who determines our ministries, both in and outside the church. He further elaborated more precisely on these issues by providing the qualifications of elders for local churches in the Pastoral Epistles. It is poor theology and exegesis to pit what Paul stated in one letter against what he clearly taught in other letters. Paul knew what he wrote in Galatians 3.28 (Galatians probably being his first epistle), and it didn’t prohibit him from providing further clarification concerning ministry qualifications and responsibilities in the Pastoral Epistles. Paul was not schizophrenic as the Holy Spirit inspired him to write; consequently, he did not contradict what wrote in Galatians by what he wrote in the 1 Corinthians and the Pastoral Epistles.  Lastly, there are a few who assert that because Paul described specific women as “servants” of the Lord at the end of some of his epistles (e.g., Romans 16) it necessarily means that these women must have been fellow pastors or elders. This is a poorly defended assumption. Paul certainly did refer to a few women as partners with him in the ministry, but that does not demand that they were pastors of local churches, or that they were prophets or theologians that taught entire congregations. There is little doubt that there were women who assisted and partnered with Paul by making preparations for his ministry before his arrival in cities where he intended to preach. And just as with Jesus, it is highly probably that Paul relied upon spiritual mature women to disciple and mentor new female converts into the Christian faith. Nevertheless, it is irrational to conjecture that Paul partnered with women in his ministry by allowing them to teach and instruct men and local congregations while at the same time prohibiting other women from serving as pastors and elders of these same churches. Let’s give Paul more credit than to assert that he promoted such an obvious and transparently ludicrous contradiction. Consequently, there is no objective biblical example in which the women who partnered with Paul in ministry functioned as pastors or elders of local churches.
  • All believers regardless of gender receive the Holy Spirit when they place their personal trust in the Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord. While preaching during Pentecost Peter explained to the crowd that had gathered that what they were witnessing was the arrival of the Holy Spirit as promised by God and proclaimed through the prophet Joel. As he did so he quoted the specific prophecy of Joel indicating that the Holy Spirit would be given equally to all believers regardless of age or gender (Acts 2.16-18 and Joel 2.28-29 are the relevant verses for this discussion). Therefore, women should not be perceived as possessing a lesser measure of Holy Spirit. Moreover, we have clear biblical examples of women referred to as “prophetess” and/or speaking under the influence and power of the Holy Spirit (Luke 1.39-56; 2.36-38; Acts 21.8-9; 1 Cor. 11.5). Consequently, all believers received the full measure of the Holy Spirit at the moment of salvation. This of course does not mean that all are equally guided by or in submission to the Spirit’s influence and direction. Submission to the Holy Spirit, however, is not an issue of spiritual capacity but an issue of spiritual maturity; consequently, all believers are called to grow in maturity in Christ. Moreover, the New Testament knows nothing of the doctrine of a “second blessing.” It does, however, encourage all believers unto greater submission to the Holy Spirit’s power, influence, and guidance. And as believers begin to mature in their faith and relationship to the Lord then they will also learn more about how to use their specific spiritual gift(s) as they walk with Christ and live by the guidance of the Holy Spirit—irrespective of their gender.
  • Gender does not demand that women are inferior teachers. At this point I must take a brief side bar. There is a difference between the natural ability to teach, and the spiritual gift of teaching. Simply because one is a professional teacher (e.g., math, English, history, social studies, cooking, etc., etc.) does not mean that the Holy Spirit has given them the ability to insightfully teach on spiritual, theological, or biblical matters. The spiritual gift of teaching refers to a Spirit given and God empowered capacity to serve in the kingdom of God by imparting spiritual insight and knowledge from the Scriptures for the purpose of enlarging the church and building up of the body of Christ. For example, I may be a giving person with my finances; however, that does not mean that the Holy Spirit has given me the gift of “giving.” When the Spirit gives a person the gift of giving it means that God uses that believer in a supernatural way by multiplying his or her generosity to accomplish God’s desires no matter what or how much that believer gives for the cause of Christ. Moreover, one does not even have to be rich in order to possess the spiritual gift of giving. Consequently, while all believers are called to give of their means to support the ministry of the gospel, not all believers have the gift of giving. All believers are called to share the gospel, not all believers are gifted as evangelists. Now concerning the spiritual ability to teach, in Titus 2.3-5 Paul directed older spiritually mature women to teach and disciple younger women. Paul was not simply asking older women to teach home economics, but rather that older godly women disciple and teach younger women in the ways of godliness as they minister within their families and to other women. Additionally, Paul also reminded Timothy of the godly influence that he received from his mother and grandmother.  These were godly women and they faithfully guided and taught young Timothy in the ways of godliness while he was a child. No doubt their influence was instrumental in preparing Timothy for God’s calling upon his life as an adult. And at this point I need to take another brief side bar. The New Testament knows nothing of cross-gender one-on-one discipleship or counseling. Those who engage in such are setting themselves up for disaster. Discipleship and spiritual counseling are incredibly intimate endeavors that naturally draw people closer. Those who engage in these ministries while crossing gender lines should not be surprised if sexual temptation occurs, or if rumors begin to spread. Consequently, discipling and counseling in one-on-one contexts should be carried out by those of the same gender, and to be honest this is just a matter of common sense. For example, no husband or wife really wants their spouse being alone and talking to someone of the opposite sex about their sexual problems—enough said. Furthermore, Jesus had female disciples (Luke 8.1-3), and we can be assured that as women came to Jesus for healing (e.g., the woman with an issue of blood, Lk 8.40-48) or in repentance and for forgiveness (e.g., the prostitute in Lk 7.36-38), that Jesus would eventually, and for obvious reasons, direct them to spiritual mature female disciples for further discipleship and mentoring. So, while women had access to Jesus’ public preaching and personal teaching (Luke 10.38-42), the biblical model for one-on-one discipleship is gender specific, as Jesus himself modeled for us through his discipleship of the 12 apostles. If cross gender discipleship had even a possibility of being a productive idea, then Jesus would have selected a few women to be among the 12, but he did not. Moreover, there are some ministries that only women should fill, such as chaplains in women prisons; sexual abuse recovery ministries for women; indigent care for women. The principle here is that there are many ministries in which women are more gifted and better qualified to carry out, and in such contexts men generally make very poor substitutes.

So, should women be in ministry, absolutely! However, somewhere along the line in the “business” of Christianity the modern church has been deceived by the impression that “effective” ministry mostly occurs when large audiences gather, sit, and passively listen—let’s call it the Mass Media syndrome for lack of a better description. As a result Christian Egalitarians and Secular Feminists, because of a worldview that promotes the lie there are no such things as God-designed differences between the genders, demand that women have equal access to these “important” ministries. This is one of the greatest tragedies inflicting today’s Evangelical church. Lasting ministry, authentic fruitfulness, and significant impact for cause of Christ does not occur only on Sunday mornings merely by speaking over largely passive audiences. The most fruitful and enduring ministries occur through small groups and one-on-one discipleship. This Mass Media approach to ministry has caused untold passivity among millions of believers, both men and women, resulting in spiritual lethargy and biblical illiteracy.

What about Christian education? Should women be allowed or encouraged to participate in undergraduate and graduate biblical studies—unquestionably! All believers should do so, and if not at Evangelical universities and seminaries, then at their local churches. The church is not served by being filled with biblically illiterate believers and spiritual infants. We all start out as babes in Christ, but we are certainly not called to remain as such regardless of our gender. And the stark reality is that half of the world’s population is female; consequently, the Lord is not pleased and the church is not served by discouraging or prohibiting women from actively participating in ministry or Christian education. The bottom line is this, women are essential for effective well-balanced ministry, both in and outside the local church. Furthermore, there are no biblical prohibitions against women having influential and effective ministries. However, if anyone, whether male or female, pursues graduate degree in biblical studies with the purpose of finally setting right the church’s “archaic” view of women so that they can finally have equal assess to all the church’s ministries and find self-fulfillment by being lead elders and/or teaching pastors in local churches, then they are already standing at the precipice of a very slippery slope. No one can undermine clear biblical instruction and principles and think that they are not inflicting great damage to the cause of Christ. Remember, while the Holy Spirit gives us our spiritual gifts, it is the Lord who is the head of the church; consequently, He is the one that determines our specific ministries inside and outside the local church. So if you believe that there nothing wrong with women being lead pastors or elders in local churches, then your conflict is with the Lord Jesus Christ and the scriptures.

Doc.

Copyright, © by Monte Shanks, 2016

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women bishop 2

Blog: Should Women Be Appointed as Elders and Pastors in Local Churches?

 

This blog is posted for students in my courses. If you are not a student of mine you are welcome to read, but just be aware that if it sounds as if I am writing for a specific audience, it is because I am. 

 

There may be no more divisive issue facing Evangelical churches today than the question as to whether women should be appointed as elders/pastors in local churches (hereafter: simply “pastor”). I specified “Evangelical churches” simply because I assume them to be “biblically grounded.” There are far more serious issues facing many traditional mainline denomination that have abandoned the belief that the Lord through the Holy Spirit has provided that scriptures as the foundational guide of our faith and its proper practice—thus, this important qualification. There is no doubt that the Evangelical Church in America is heading in the wrong direction on this issue. I recently surfed the website of a mega-church in Rockford Illinois. They claimed to be a mainline church, but their elder board was comprised of 5 “elders,” two of which were women, and none of which were the “lead teaching pastor.” I’m not sure how you can claim to be a mainline church if you don’t even understand what it means to be a “pastor” or “elder.”  More importantly, however, KKQ is regrettably somewhat vague and/or evasive on this topic; consequently, I feel compelled to address it in a blog. Undoubtedly, doing so will make me a less popular prof for some; but so be it.

This blog will defend the traditional position concerning the office of pastor, which is that the scriptures mandate that the office of elder/pastor be reserved for qualified men that are of sufficient spiritual maturity and giftedness.  There are several common contrarian arguments to this position that are grounded upon faulty presuppositions and poor arguments, and I have had several students articulate them as the basis for their positions in their DBs. This blog, therefore, will attempt to address this topic by engaging several of these common arguments; thus, it is a little fractured and not as fluid as some of my other blogs.   Furthermore, and for obvious reasons, this blog cannot be exhaustive—no one likes book length blogs.  Consequently, approach this blog in the same manner as you would Paul’s first epistle to the church at Corinth (only not inspired—lol).  In other words, I will be addressing this issue from several different objections and angles, and although they are somewhat different, in the main they are all still related to the same basic subject.  If you find this blog frustrating, please be patient, a second related blog will follow tomorrow, and it is my sincere hope that it will satisfy some of your unanswered questions generated by this blog. Nonetheless, this is the best I can do for now, and with that, please read below.

First, a common argument for women being allowed to serve as elders in local churches is that Paul’s instructions prohibiting women from functioning as pastors were only his “opinions.” They were not doctrines that were inspired by Holy Spirit.  This is a poor argument since Paul did not present his letters as providing a collection of his preferred “best practices” that were the product of his own personal opinions; and in the very few occasions he did provide his “opinion,” even then he claimed that he did so by the direction of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 7.40).  There is a catastrophic danger for the church and the gospel if we start identifying parts of Paul’s writings as only his “opinions.” It will basically become open season on everything Paul wrote.  Moreover, we would no longer have a functional doctrine of inspiration since anybody, armed with nothing more than their person opinions and preferences, could start rejecting specific parts of the Bible that they viewed as undesirable or unspiritual.

Secondly, some assert that since Paul was not a “prophet” then he did not speak with prophetic authority.  It may be true that Paul never identified himself as a prophet.  Nevertheless, he was an apostle commissioned by the risen Lord to spread the gospel and build churches, and as he did so the Holy Spirit inspired him to provide the foundation instructions for what it meant to live for Christ and how to build New Testament churches.  Additionally, especially with respect to women functioning as pastors in local churches, he instructed that any prophet present should recognize that what he wrote was by the Lord’s command for the building up of churches everywhere and in all ages; thus his instructions were to be universally received, obeyed, and enforced (1 Cor 14.37-38; 11.16). Furthermore, anyone, whether a prophet or a layperson, who did not accept Paul’s instructions as coming directly from the Lord was no longer to be recognized as qualified to speak in the church.

Thirdly, some assert that the prohibitions that Paul wrote concerning women not functioning as pastors were because of some crises in specific churches instead of universal principles and mandates for all churches everywhere.  This is simply not the case.  Moreover, it is an extremely poorly defended argument to assert, for example, that when Paul wrote to Timothy, Titus, or the church at Corinth with respect to prohibiting women from leading or teaching as pastors that he was attempting to avoid a particular crisis that we learn about in his epistle to Philippians.  While Paul was writing his letters to different pastors and churches there was no such thing as a New Testament, or even a Pauline corpus.  In other words, the church at Corinth or Ephesus could not open their Bibles and turn to Paul’s epistle to the Philippians in order to understand what he was trying to teach them, or about a potential crisis that he was attempting to avoid.  Consequently, we should not marginalize what God instructed by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit throughout the NT because we are of the opinion that the Lord was trying to protect other churches from a particular conflict at a specific church (e.g., Philippi), but now because that specific problem no longer exists we are free to ignore what Paul wrote.

Fourthly, some argue that because Paul used the same vocabulary to describe important women as he did himself (e.g., Romans 16), then women must have or can function as pastors and teaching elders in local churches. The problem with this argument is that the term “fellow worker” can mean any number of possibilities and/or responsibilities. Given Paul’s recognition that women are equal heirs in the Kingdom of God, it is not surprising in the least that he would refer to them in such a manner. That does not mandate that they had to be elders or pastors of local churches. Moreover, Paul never referred to any women mentioned in his epistles as an “elder” or “pastor” or “teacher” in a church, even though there were congregations that met in their homes. The closest Paul came to referring to women as acting in an official “leadership” role is Romans 16.1 &7.  In Romans 16.1, Phoebe is referred to as a “servant,” or “deacon” in the Greek.  Paul wrote in 1 Timothy that deacons did not possess any official teaching responsibility in local churches. That does not mandate that some did not, but only that teaching was not their primary function in local congregations. As to the reference to Andronicus and Junias and their reputation by the “apostles,” arguing that this means that Junias was an “apostle” is very suspect.  The grammar does not mandate that these two (presumably a husband and wife ministry team) were both individuals that were respected “as” apostles (i.e., a member within the group of apostles), but well respected by the apostles (i.e., not a member of the apostles, but respected by them nonetheless). But this is all rather academic since it shows a preference for non-explicit vocabulary (e.g., “servant,” “worker”) to countermand explicit vocabulary (e.g., “elder,” “bishop,” “pastor”) and objective didactive instructions concerning the qualifications that must be met before ministering in these specific offices at local churches. It is certainly possible that one can partner with Paul, or be respected by other leaders of the early church and not serve as an elder or as the lead teaching pastor at a local church.

Fifth, Paul’s instruction prohibiting women from functioning as pastors was exclusively for a specific congregation for a limited period of time, they were never intended to be universally applied to all churches. This is objectively not the case, Paul prohibited women from functioning as congregational leaders and preachers in the churches at Corinth, and he instructed both Timothy (at Ephesus) and Titus (at Crete) to preserve the office of teaching pastor to only qualified men, and lastly he specifically instructed Timothy to prohibit women from functioning in roles where they would be teaching or exercising authority over men.  In other words, we observed Paul’s instructions on this matter in 3 completely different ministry contexts, and he provided them for entire church networks throughout those regions, and he gave no indication that there would be cultures or times when they should be relaxed.  Consequently, the prohibition against women preaching and holding the office of lead pastor in local churches were not prohibitions that arose because of an unusual but temporal problem at specific church or because of cultural biases. They are part of the foundation of New Testament theology concerning the leadership of local churches. Paul presented them as universal qualifications and instructions; consequently, they should be received and respected as such.

Lastly, some assert that Paul’s prohibition against women functioning as pastors is a relic of a patriarchal culture. This is an argument that is inherently flawed while also undermining the doctrine of inspiration. It is extremely problematic to assert that because Paul’s wrote while ministering in a “patriarchal” society that we no longer need to obey his instructions prohibiting women from acting as lead pastors. Such an assertion is also a functional rejection of the doctrines of inspiration and inerrancy, regardless if one claims to affirm these doctrines. Paul also wrote to polytheistic, sexually immoral, socially segregated, politically corrupt, dishonest, and vengeful cultures. Are we going to assert that the Holy Spirit could inspire the writers of the NT to command believers and churches to reject all of those cultural sins, but was somehow constrained by the patriarchal oppression of that time?  Of course not.  Furthermore, the prohibitions against women holding the office of elders and teaching men in local churches was not based upon some misguided attempt to protect a cultural sin, but is ultimately based upon God’s design for creation as revealed in scripture (1 Tim. 2.13; Gen. 1 and 2).  Some assert that the woman’s submission to the husband in the family was a result of the fall; consequently, the church’s main purpose is to “reverse the curse,” which means reversing all of the consequences of the fall.  Such a focus for any church is misguided, but that is a topic for another time.  Paul wrote that male leadership in the home was the design of God at the beginning of creation rather than the consequence of the fall; thus, he based the doctrine of qualified male leadership in local churches upon God’s revealed design at the beginning of a good and pristine creation.  Moreover, regardless of the period of history or what may be the acceptable cultural norms of any specific society, the instructions that the office of pastor or elder be reserved for qualified men are to be universally affirmed by all churches everywhere and at all times. These biblical instructions are not relics of a cultural bias or the result of patriarchal opinions from which the Lord and the Holy Spirit were powerless to protect future churches located in enlighten and egalitarian cultures. They are directly from the Lord and were documented in writing by the power, inspiration, and guidance of the Holy Spirit; thus they are to be obeyed in spirit and practice in local churches everywhere.

In conclusion, there is such a thing as a “biblical church culture.”  Consequently, it is the calling of all churches in every culture to conform to that specific biblical model, rather than attempt to conform their congregational practices and leadership to the cultural norms of their fallen societies.

Doc.

Copyright, © by Monte Shanks, 2015

WOMAN PASTOR 3

911 EMERGENCY

Have you ever actually dialed 911? Many of us have, while many of us have not—and thankfully so.  The thing about dialing 911 is that it’s not something that you schedule.  For example, I don’t have written down on my monthly planner “dial 911” for Friday, August 4th.  The last time I dialed 911 it was when I was in the middle of something and suddenly I was “distracted” (that is putting it mildly) by repeated gunfire occurring about 75 yards from my house.  The sound was so close I could tell that it was a large caliber weapon. A single shot I could maybe understand since we live sort of out in the country (shooting a poisonous snake, or maybe a wild animal was attacking a pet), but there is no good reason for such a weapon being repeatedly used in a residential area.  Nevertheless, my point is that I was in the middle of routine life, and suddenly something was happening that caused me to immediately stop whatever I was doing and act.  In case you aren’t paying attention, our nation is currently in just that kind of situation.

Given the President’s recent executive order barring those who suffer from transgender confusion from serving in the armed services, every Evangelical pastor should take one Sunday in the next 3 weeks and preach from Romans 1.16-31 (or from some other relevant biblical passage; e.g., Gen 1.26-27).  The fact is that our congregations are going to be smothered in conversations for weeks and possibly months about acceptable human sexuality, both in private conversations and through social media. Consequently, pastors should be relevant to their congregations and society in general and provide biblical leadership on this issue.  To be apathetic or avoid addressing it within the next couple of weeks—while the rhetoric is white hot—is nothing more than an abdication of spiritual leadership.  Believe me, there are people in our churches who are scared, confused, and worried about what is true and how to respond, and if they could they would dial 911 if they thought they could get some straight answers.

Before continuing, let’s think about what Paul wrote Romans 1.16-31 and the pagan world that he was describing. A first observations is that he wrote this sexually explicit passage pretty much at the beginning of his epistle to the Christians at Rome—talk about not worrying about offending your audience!  Paul was addressing people at the heart of the Roman Empire; in other words, they were living in ground zero with respect to a sexually chaotic culture.  In a rather ironic twist of fate, when the Roman historian Tacitus detailed Nero’s persecution of Christians, he described Rome as a place “where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular.” In Rome and throughout the empire there were all types of sexually explicit public art, perverted behavior, as well as a diversity of sexual practices that were viewed as culturally acceptable.  For example, there were temples in which “temple prostitutes” (both male and female) could be found.  These were places where practitioners could go and offer sacrifices to a fertility god, and then engage in sex with a temple prostitute.  You can be assured that there were very few regulations concerning the age of these prostitutes, so our modern concept of “underage” exposure to sex was hardly ever considered. Regrettably, if one looked “mature,” then they were considered as such regardless of their age—and that was that.  Today we would consider such an attitude as a type “human trafficking.”  There was also pedophilia between men and boys (while not rampant, it was not unheard of), there were also cross-dressers (generally speaking, these were male prostitutes who acted like females).  Another common practice of prostitution was a sort of a “bed and breakfast” arrangement. These “businesses” were typically run by women that also provided sexual services.  This type of career was not uncommon for those that had few resources, no trade skills to speak of, and who were isolated or abandoned by their extended families.  In all probability, Rahab was just such a woman who was trapped in this type of degrading situation.

The point is that the reality of these culturally accepted sexual behaviors still did not hinder Paul from explicitly identifying them as sins.  And, having identifying them as offensive in the eyes of God, he called people to repent of them and receive external life and restoration through the Lord Jesus Christ. Consequently, pastors need to educate and reinforce for their congregations what the Holy Spirit inspired Paul (as well as other authors of the Bible) to write concerning biblical concepts of healthy sexuality.  Ignoring these issues is no longer excusable.

In case you are unaware, you should know that this conversation in the public square does have a potentially dangerous endgame.  The president’s actions are going to be litigated in the courts, and the reality is that regardless of what happens in the short term, Secularists will continue to litigate these matters ad nauseam.  And when they final win, then sexual confusion and rebellion will have legal protection in our society.  That will mean that public schools will be allowed to have clubs encouraging sexual exploration, while at the same time promoting it as normal human behavior, which if you didn’t know is already happening in some schools throughout the country.  For now, parents have some alternatives, one of which is participating and influencing their local school boards.  But once the courts finally grant legal sanctions to our culture’s predilection for sexual chaos, then all our objections will fall on deaf ears.  The attitude of the greater society will become, “It’s legal now, you can’t do anything about it so get over it.” The time to act is now.

You may notice that I also included Romans 1.16-17 as part of the passage to be addressed.  I included it because whatever we say about this subject, or whatever passage we preach from, the endgame concerning identifying sin and speaking out against it should be that the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ is God’s power for salvation for those who repent and receive Jesus as their Savior and Lord.  Encouraging proper God-ordained human sexual behavior without bringing people to Christ is like putting a band-aid on a hemorrhage, it may make you may feel better at that moment, but in the end the patient will still die.  As we approach these issues, we should follow Paul’s example.  Notice that he started with the gospel as God’s power to save, and then he began identifying specific sins for which it provides forgiveness.  Let’s be clear, sexual sin is not unforgiveable.  The gospel offers cleansing for all sexual sins.  Sexual fornication outside the bonds of heterosexual marriage is sinful regardless of the form it takes.  Adultery and fornication are sinful just like homosexual behavior and transgender confusion.  The message of the gospel is that the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses all who will repent and receive the One who died in their place so that they spend life eternal with Him in the Kingdom of God.

Some may scoff at the idea that this may be an extremely valuable opportunity to share the gospel.  What we may be failing to understand is that even lost people are struggling for an answer as to why this proclivity for promoting and protecting sexual perversion.  They intuitively know that what is going on is not right, but they don’t understand why it’s not right.  They also have children, and they are concerned about the future. Even though they are spiritual dead, God is at work in them. He is awakening the consciences of many and telling them that something is grossly wrong.  If this is so, then we need to be willing, ready, and trained to give a defense to everyone who asks us to give a reason for the hope that is within us (1 Pet 3.15).  And, as apostle Peter said, the first step to being willing and able to proclaim the gospel is to make sure that Jesus Christ is the Lord of our hearts and lives.  Moments like these are opportunities to magnify our Savior and Lord to the lost.  This issue is not just argument over acceptable behavior, and if that is all we think it is, then we will fail—even if we win the argument.

I realize that a few of you may have recently thoroughly addressed this issue; consequently, your congregation should be trained to some degree.  Maybe a church wide seminar or conference at a time other than Sunday morning is again in order.  I also realize that some of you have sermon series that you prepare 3 to 6 months in advance.  Nevertheless, ask yourself this, is there ever a situation that would cause you to set aside a previously prepared sermon in order to be relevant to what your congregation is going through?  If you answer is yes, then now is one of those times.  However, if you answer is no, then maybe you shouldn’t be a pastor in the first place.  A pastor is supposed to be the leader of their flock, and if you are avoiding an important issue that everyone in your church is thinking or talking about, then you really aren’t being a spiritual leader, you’re just some guy giving religious speeches on Sunday mornings.  Many in our congregations are looking for the spiritual equivalent of 911, the question right now is this, are we going to answer the call?

sexual confusion

If you take a self-defense course one of the first things taught is how to overcome “normalcy bias.” Normalcy bias is a state of mind that prohibits a person from recognizing a lethal threat and then acting appropriately. Overcoming normalcy bias is often the difference between becoming a survivor or a victim. I have seen store videos where bystanders simply stood still watching an armed robbery until it erupted in gunfire. Tragically, their failure react decisively resulted in them being mortally wounded by a stray bullet. While the bullet was the physical cause of their deaths, the primary cause was that they failed to recognize that their situation was no longer normal but extremely dangerous. Fear was not what paralyzed them. Fear causes people to cower or turn their backs so they can’t see what is happening. Normalcy bias is not fear, it is when people just simply stand around and think to themselves, “What is happening; why is that guy holding a gun? This doesn’t make sense.” Overcoming normalcy bias it not easy, it takes training and refresher training since the longer one goes about their lives with everything being “normal,” the less prone they are to appropriately react when confronted with a lethal threat.

Regrettably, the church not only suffers from normalcy bias in our current cultural war, it is no longer interested in getting trained to overcome this weakness. Ironically, some church leaders castigate those that point out our apathy with respect to our inability to accurately evaluate what is happening all around us. One may ask, “What is this threat that the church is failing to recognize?” It is nothing more then the destruction of civilization, reality, and objective truth. For example, if a person has a functional uterus and vagina along with a combination of XX chromosomes, then that person is female no matter how she feels about herself. And if a person has functional testicles and a combination of XY chromosomes, then that person is male—regardless of what surgery he may have performed. The combination of one’s DNA and anatomy indentifies one’s gender—that is just the objective fact of the matter. It is not a moral or cultural issue of interpretation per-se, it is biological reality plain and simple. Consequently, if one’s DNA reveals that a person is female, then the appropriate pronouns for that person are “she” or “her,” and for males the correct pronouns are “he” and “him.” Yet, Secular Progressives want to mandate that if one self-identifies with the wrong gender then you and I “MUST” respect their wishes. In other words, we must go along with their charade—we must accept a false reality. It requires that we deny the biological reality that God ordained at creation (Gen 1.26-27; 2.15-25) and accept a deranged man-made lie. Consequently, today we are literally participating in the cultural chaos that Paul wrote about in Romans 1.18-32.

Generally speaking, 2 generations ago people hardly ever spoke of homosexuality and transgender issues in open public, but today it is literally being crammed into our collective minds while constantly being brow beaten into accepting it all as “normal.” The secularist media now celebrates it when parents ask hospitals to leave the gender line blank. At some universities, professors ask students for bio sheets in which they can inform their professor of the gender with which they self-identify. Universities are also inventing new gender-neutral pronouns for the purpose of forcing students to use them. High Schools across the country are being threatened by an extremely small but militant minority of parents that are allowing their children to experiment with transgenderism, and they are requesting that their local schools allow their kids to have access to the gender specific locker rooms of their desire regardless of their anatomy. In other words an aberrant minority is requesting that the rest of the community suppress their rights to modesty and privacy for they sake of their own perverted view of what is acceptable and normal. Regardless of who you are, such behaviors are not normal and should never go publically unopposed.

Christians need to recognize that we are no longer in a dialogue over previously recognized acceptable norms; instead we are engaged in culture war that seeks to redefine for everyone what normal is altogether. Consequently, the entire concept of “normal” is what is at stake. What was in the past obviously abnormal is now considered normal; thus the word “normal” no longer has any functional meaning. Secular Progressives have been training for our current cultural conflict for decades. They have systemically infused themselves throughout our education and legal system and have divided our country into smaller groups in order to classify them as oppressed minorities for the purposes of obtaining legal protection and financial advantage. And while succeeding in this scheme, they have also developed the legal concept of “hate-speech,” so that anybody recognizing their incremental march to undo truth and godly civility could either be shouted down as hate-mongers, or prosecuted as law-breakers. These Secular Leftists are no longer interested in dialogue and diversity, they are after political power and control, and they will weld it to suppress all political opposition, and especially that coming from Christians.

If you want to see an example of this rejection of diversity and free speech, then simply look at the media’s recent attacks on Attorney General Jeff Sessions for addressing the Alliance Defending Freedom group, a group that seeks to protect the concept of traditional marriage. The Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled the ADF as a “hate-group,” and dozens of major news outlets have chosen that very language to report Sessions speech to the ADF. The only purpose for labeling the ADF as a “hate-group” is to delegitimize their political viewpoints in the public square while also smearing the Attorney General. The Federal Government has not listed the ADF as a national threat or terrorist group (at least not yet). Nevertheless, the SPLC has, and because of this the vast majority of the major news outlets are accepting their rhetoric and taking their progressive secular perspective on the event. It’s a Progressive smear campaign plain and simple, and the goal is to intimidate any who disagree with their agenda—an agenda that wants to blur, if not eradicate, all God ordained normal distinctions with respect to sexual expression and civil modesty. We must recognize that Secular Progressives and Leftists are not after us as much as they are after the minds of our children. Many in our generation are lost to them, but if they can through force of law mandate that our children accept and participate in their man-made cultural deceits, then the world as God created it to be with respect to human sexuality will be forever changed back into the sexual morass it was when Christianity was born.

So how does the church awaken from its lethargy and overcome our normalcy bias with respect to the moral war raging around us? We must begin to take seriously what Paul wrote in Ephesians 5.6-17, and lovingly expose sin and the wickedness that surrounds us. That means pastors cannot accept assertions such as homosexual couples can have “spiritually good lives.” Instead, Paul exhorted church leaders to encourage their flocks to live in the light of Christ’s righteousness and truth. This necessarily means that with respect to the sin that surrounds us we must have “nothing to do with fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them” (vs. 11). In order for followers of Jesus to live for Him they must not only understand what righteousness is and where it is from, but they must also learn what sin is—for if we don’t properly identify sin then how on earth can we avoid it? Learning the will of God necessarily involves understanding what offends Him. Paul put it this way: “Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.” It would be the epitome of biblical foolishness to act like sin doesn’t matter and, therefore, through passivity or apathy not warn Christians to avoid it, or to call the world to repent of it. It is the Lord’s will for us to live in His light, which naturally exposes sin precisely so that we may avoid it. Consequently, the only way to know what sin is requires indentifying it for what it is, which is wickedness that offends God, as well as that for which Christ died. Peter himself wrote that, “Christ died for sins once and for all” (1 Pet 3.18); consequently, how can any right-minded follower of Jesus continue to live in it or accept it as a viable lifestyle for anyone else? On the point of allowing sin to prosper and increase Paul was clear, “By no means NO!” (Rom 6.1-2).

Consequently, if you are currently in any type of church leadership then it is time to start doing triage upon your congregation. We must identify sin and proclaim the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ while calling all to repent and receive the Lord. And for us that already know Christ we must repent of our apathy and live out the reality of the righteousness and truth that we have already received in the Lord Jesus Christ. Part of the reason Jesus is the perfect model of righteousness in this life is because he correctly identified sin and spoke against it, and called all to repent of it. And he is humanity’s gracious God and Savior precisely because he died to pay for sin’s penalty so that we wouldn’t have to suffer its eternal consequences. Moreover, he rose from the grave so that we would not longer be enslaved to it, but instead that we might live in the light of his holiness and righteousness. But if we don’t take seriously the reality of this man-made cultural charade and the moral chaos being forced upon us, and awaken our congregations to its dangers, then the generations that follow us will be victims of our normalcy bias. Remember, overcoming normalcy bias is the difference between being a survivor or a victim. Let us act now so that future generations will not become victims of our lethargy and inaction.

EARTH 1

Recently our president withdrew from the Paris Climate Agreement, causing concern about our planet’s fate. Consequently, there is a worldwide clamor about the sustainability for our world. In particular it focuses on a heighten fear over “man-made” climate change. Governments and private industries are spending billions on research in hopes of discovering cleaner energies that are renewable, but neither has garnered much for this investment. Sure, our cell phone batteries are smaller and last longer, but that’s about it. Don’t get me wrong, if someone discovered how to turn seawater into clean affordable energy, then I would be one of the first to sign up. But our planet’s greatest threat has nothing to do with the energies we currently consume. Before explaining what this threat is, a quick theology about our planet is in order. God designed Earth to support human life. At the beginning of human history he commissioned the first two people to be fruitful, multiply, and fill the Earth, while also properly managing it (Gen 1.26-28). The only creatures that God commissioned to inhabit this entire planet are humans, and we are daily succeeding in making it smaller and less foreign. You don’t find penguins on the Serengeti nor gazelles at Antarctica; there aren’t any camels in the oceans and you don’t find whales in the Sahara; turtles are not found high in the Himalayas and mountain goats don’t do so well the bayous of Louisiana (probably because of the gators). While every other animal has its designed habitation, man can be found all over the face of the globe—even in the most inhospitable places. We even live for months at a time in mobile cities scattered across the world’s oceans, they are called aircraft carriers and nuclear submarines. And although apes have not mastered the skies, we have.  It is now possible to take a non-stop commercial fight of more than 9000 miles, all within about 16 or 17 hours—there’s no bird that can do that. And lest we forget, the only footprint on the moon belongs to a human. God created and designed this planet for human population. Psalm 104.5 states that God “established the earth upon its foundations so that it will not totter forever and ever,” and throughout the Psalm the author described how God engineered this world to be beautifully durable. God made us in his image and called us to inhabit this entire planet, and he created it to sustain us as we set about fulfilling his will for humanity.  The Earth is our “safe space,” but instead of coloring books, God gave us a water park and it’s called the Pacific Ocean.  And instead of dolls and teddy bears, he gave us a real rock-climbing wall, which we call Everest.

Nevertheless, there is one great threat to humanity and our planet, and it has nothing to do with fossil fuels or the misuse of natural resources. Instead it has everything to do with humanity’s attitude towards the one true God. God promises fruitful lives for those who devoutly obey him. Near his death, Moses explained that if Israel wholeheartedly obeyed God then he would cause them to prosper in the land (cf. Deut  28.1-14). Even the Lord directed us to look to God for our daily provisions as we obey his will (Matt 6.8-13, 6.25-34). Moreover, should anyone assume that the promises of prosperity in Malachi 3.10-12 are reserved only for Israel? Will not God also bless any nation that sincerely obeys him? The problem is not with the availability of the resources on this planet, it is with humanity’s attitude towards God. If something doesn’t begin to change and change quickly, then things will only get worse for planet Earth.

We will continue to experience increasing environmental catastrophes, but it won’t be because we don’t drive enough hybrid cars or ride bicycles. If by tomorrow we discover how to turn sand into clean energy so that we never have to use another ounce of fossil fuels again, it will still not prevent the ecological Armageddon that awaits the human race.  The apostle John prophesied of the plagues, earthquakes, famines, droughts, and pestilences that will someday befall humanity in the book of Revelation (Rev 6.7-8; 16.1-12). We don’t know when these disasters will happen, but if we don’t take seriously the church’s responsibility to spread the gospel to every tribe and nation on earth, then they will certainly occur a lot sooner than we think.

If humanity could turn this world into a new Garden of Eden, with environmentally friendly policies and ecologically neutral cars, trains, planes, industry, and cities, it will not matter a single iota if humanity continues to reject the Lord Jesus Christ and blaspheme God. Jesus explained all this during his earthly ministry (Matt 24.4-42). The ironic thing about what he said was that no matter how hard humanity tries to live in peace or find ways to responsibly manage our planet, it will not stop the coming global strife and natural disasters that are merely “the beginning of birth pangs” (Matt 24.6-8). These catastrophes await our planet not because we don’t enforce ecologically friendly policies or provide universal healthcare, but because humanity is losing interest in the concept of a personal God while also displaying abject hatred for the name of Jesus Christ, who is Savior and Lord over all (Matt 24.9; 2 Thes 1.6-10).  And therein is the greatest tragedy. God sometimes uses geological catastrophes and ecological disasters to turn us back to him. But atheists and modern secularists are brainwashing us into believing that not only is this planet fragile, but that if we aren’t careful then we will inevitably make it uninhabitable. They want us to believe that the only important issue facing humanity is how we treat this planet instead of how we relate to our Creator.  For example, if 3 days from now we awaken to find that Mount Vesuvius has suddenly wiped out Naples, and then the next day a category 5 tornado takes out half of Kansas City, and then a day later a tsunami engulfs Sydney, what do you think the media will report? Would we be blasted with how we are harming the planet or of our need to repent before a holy God that we have ignored for far too long?  Ironically, our world will not experience environmental disasters because we have mistreated it, but because we have irreversibly rejected the very God that literally rained down manna from heaven. God is powerful enough to provide for our every need; the issue is do we believe that he exists, and if so are we humble enough to worship him through the Lord Jesus Christ.

If we are truly interesting in seeing our world flourish or if we are concerned about our families, friends, and neighbors, then the first thing we should do is commit ourselves to sharing the gospel. Jesus died not only to save us from this decaying sinful world, but ultimately from eternal separation from God and the inevitable judgment that awaits all who have rejected him. Can we save the planet? Inspired prophecy says no. Someday Earth will experience global catastrophe and judgment, and it will happen because humanity hates Jesus. But if we commit ourselves anew to proclaiming his gospel, then there is the possibility that more and more people will receive Jesus as their savior and Lord.  And as more people begin to live for Christ then our planet will become healthier and more prosperous place, making sudden universal judgment less likely. So if you are primarily worried about rescuing our planet from ecological disasters, then you’re focused on the wrong thing. I’m not saying you shouldn’t guard against oil spills, nuclear waste, and toxic dumpsites—that would be irresponsible. But if you call yourself a Christian, then your primary goal should be to participate in efforts that accomplish that for which Jesus is most passionate, which is the salvation of souls. Jesus wants us to be his witnesses (Acts 1.8), and to create true worshipers (John 4.23-26), and to make authentic disciples from all of the nations across this globe (Matt 28.18-20). Proclamation of the the gospel should be our primary concern; for only with that focus can we truly fulfill the Lord’s will for humanity.

Pack Animal Wolf Predator

Wolves are a beloved figure these days. For some they symbolize freedom, strength, and the beauty of America’s untamed past. That’s because few of us have ever been attacked by wolves. Rene Anderson killed a charging wolf while Elk hunting in Idaho in 2011, and in 2010 Candice Berner was killed by wolves while jogging in a remote area of Alaska. The truth is that wolves in the wild are dangerous and unsympathetic towards their prey. If they can track and catch you, then you’re on the menu. In the ancient world wolves could be found virtually everywhere. They were a constant threat to livestock as well as the isolated traveler. The deadliest of all wolves was one crazed by rabies. You may survive their attack, but if infected by them you were dead nonetheless.

The apostle Paul once warned about wolves, but he wasn’t concerned about the 4-legged kind, instead he warned us about the 2-legged variety. He put it this way:

“Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be on the alert, . . .”                                       (Acts 20:28-31a)

The wolves Paul was concerned about have several common characteristics with wolves found in the wild. First, they too are “savage,” and they attack with one goal, to ravage and destroy their prey. Secondly, whenever they attack they intend to spare nothing. Thirdly, they generally come in groups. And having formed a pack they begin to reproduce after their own kind. Like true believers, they also begin making disciples of themselves. However, there are also some unsettling differences. First, Paul said it is a certainty that wolves would come. Wolf attacks in our modern era are extremely rare, in fact since 1900 there have only been 10 recorded fatalities in North America due to wolf attacks. Nevertheless, Paul didn’t say that we may occasionally see a wolf, but that “I know that after my departure savage wolves will come.” He said it is a certainty that wolves will coma and attack the church. Whether we choose to believe it or not, wolves will come. However, what is most startling is where he said they would come from—stating in no uncertain terms that they would come from within the community of believers! And even more tragically, they would come from among the church’s own leadership. Somehow these people will join our fellowships and instead of becoming sheep they will remain wolves.

How can this be you may ask. Did you know that wolf pups and German Shepherds pups are almost indistinguishable? It is only as they mature that their true nature becomes obvious and their differences are noticeable. As puppies they look as cute as the domesticated dogs; nevertheless, they are still wolves. Somehow Paul knew that wolves would eventually join our churches. Maybe it is because we are so hopeful and want to believe the best about everyone, and in our optimism we tolerate “wolf pups,” but inevitably these wolves grow up and devastate our fellowships. But unlike natural wolves, these wolves don’t destroy their prey through their bite, they destroy entire flocks by attacking something more important—the truth. Paul stated that once in leadership these false teachers begin teaching “perversions” among the church body. The focus of their attack is not on individual sheep per se, but on the flock’s strength, which is its unity around the truth. Their strategy is to pervert the truth in such a way that people begin to doubt it, don’t understand it, and stop obeying it. Maybe they will promote distorted theology, maybe they will sanction perverted behavior—all “in the name of love,” or maybe they will degrade the scriptures while promoting the “wisdom” that is found in other religions and human philosophies. Regardless of what they promote, it will be perversions of the truth just the same. The ultimate goal is the defamation of the Lord Jesus Christ and his gospel, and the end result will be that the flock will cease to exist. Although the sheep will survive, tragically they will be scattered, isolated, and separated from a healthy flock. It is the in the nature of these wolves to destroy “flocks.” Flocks are their prey since they are incapable of destroying sheep that belong to the True Shepherd (Jn 10.27-30). Consequently, they seek to destroy the next best thing, which is the unity derived from the truth that binds the flock together.

Having told us of the danger that will certainly come, Paul gave steps for protecting the flock. The first is that the elders and pastors must be on guard for themselves. It is essential that pastors police themselves so that they are not deceived into promoting things that pervert the faith that has once and for all been delivered to the saints. Only as the elders and pastors ensure their own fidelity to the Lord and sound doctrine are they able to take the second step, which is to protect the “entire” flock. That’s right, no more unsupervised clicks within our congregations, and no leadership clicks that insulate us from the very sheep that the Lord has called us to protect. Pastors and elders are tasked with leading “all the flock” to reject the perversions promoted by wolves. By abdicating our responsibility to guard all of the small groups scattered throughout our congregations we are potentially exposing them to wolves. Unattended sheep are always at risk.

Next, we are to remain vigilant against the presence of wolves. Twice in these few verses Paul ordered pastors to be constantly on guard against wolf attacks. And this is where American Evangelicals have pretty much left the gate unguarded. We are good at identifying wolves outside our churches, which is not hard since they are obvious to almost everybody. We do a fine job at pointing out the Osteens and Copelands of the world, but we are bad at knowing precisely what people in our own fellowships actually believe. Instead, we assume that if they faithfully attend and give, then they must be “good folk,” and then we promote them into positions of leadership. And by doing so we are unwittingly inviting wolves into positions of influence within our churches. The thing about these wolves is they are intelligent and cunning, and they stealthily maneuver into positions from which they can attack. Regrettably, these wolves will simply lie to get what they want and think little of it. They join our churches to get attention, to gain opportunities, and to obtain the authority that makes them feel important. They are not caring shepherds; there are savage wolves that to us look like sheep, lambs, or innocent puppies.

Regrettably, many of today’s modern churches have become “wolf sanctuaries.” A church becomes a haven for wolves when they are willing to tolerate everything, accept all, and promote unity at all costs. In fact, American churches are quickly becoming places where wolves are more tolerated than faithful shepherds. One of the most ignored and politically incorrect verses in the Bible is 1 Corinthians 11.19, where Paul wrote: “For there must also be factions among you, so that those who are approved may become evident among you.” Paul actually stated that verbal disagreements and theological debates are necessary if for no other reason than to identify those that are authentic followers of Christ from those that are not. Moreover, these discussions also reveal those that can accurately interpret the scriptures from those that cannot. But that is not what happens in churches today. Today’s churches are turning into “safe spaces,” and the only ones that are becoming safer are the wolves. Certainly the true sheep purchased by the blood of Christ are not safer, and neither are the mixed livestock that are congregating with them. Our churches are quickly becoming the tending stalls of slaughterhouses, where all manner of goats, cows, and pigs are awaiting their inevitable fates.

Wolves in the wild instinctively avoid strong and well-armed shepherds because they have a God-given fear of humans. Wolves always avoid powerful adversaries. Their preference is for those that are weak, sick, and isolated. Additionally, it is rare to see wolves during the day. Wolves prefer the night. The same is true of false teachers; they prefer lurking in the shadows, awaiting opportunities to gain an advantage. They hate the light because it exposes them for what they truly are. They know that if they are found out then it is time to move on and find new territory. Let’s be clear, all lost people have the potential to become wolves, but most are not. An antichristian wolf is someone that has heard the truth of the gospel and the scriptures, and has chosen to reject the lordship of Jesus Christ. And having made such a decision they begin seeking opportunities within the church for their own benefit, as well as positions of leadership from which they can pervert the truth of God. Shepherds that the Lord has called to protect his flock should drive these people away. One thing is certain, pretending that wolves do not exist and are not in our churches is no defense against them; instead it’s a sign of naiveté and rejection of biblical truth. Consequently, while sinners are welcome to come to the church, wolves are not. Once a church receives wolves, then the destruction of the flock will inevitably follow, and in the end the Lord’s sheep will be scattered. Shame upon churches that have become wolf sanctuaries, and pity upon the false shepherds that allowed it to happen, when the True Shepherd comes there will be no place for them to hide.

church empty 3

Memorial Day is just around the corner—what a tragedy!  It’s a tragedy because for many in American churches Memorial Day signals the official day when summer vacation from church begins.  I know of several churches where once Memorial Day has passed all “regular” mid-week ministries and activities go on a “break” until late August or early September (presumably after Labor Day or when school starts back again).  And I am using the term “ministry” for these mid-week ministries rather loosely, since I can’t be certain that any real training for cultural engagement with the gospel is occurring, or that anyone is maturing in their theological development, or that worship happens, or that people are coming to faith in Christ at these events.  But this “break” from church doesn’t only affect the mid-week ministries, it also affects regulars summer church attendance.  I know of several families that routinely go camping or to their lake-house every weekend during the summer months.  And when summer ends and they come back to church I never hear them talk about the exciting things that happened at their adopted churches where they spent their weekends.  Nor do I ever hear them share about how they saw several family members make decisions for Christ, or how they grew in their faith, or the mission trips they went upon in adopted vacation area.  Instead, all I hear about are suntans and how much better they are at water-skiing.

I have to say I find it very strange that people would think it perfectly acceptable to return to their “home church” in early September and begin to  worshiping one who said “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matthew 16.25).  I’m not sure the apostle Paul would understand such behavior either.  Some of you may remember Paul, he’s the guy who wrote “Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier” (2 Timothy 2.3-4).  Nor do I remember the apostle Peter teaching anywhere about summer vacation from church.  But I do remember he writing “Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God” (1 Peter 4.1-1).  The apostle John wrote something very similar, which was “Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever” (1 John 2.15-17).  And what about the apostle James’s thoughts on summer vacation from church?  I can’t think of any, but he did write “You adulterous people don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us?” That is very interesting, God himself “jealously desires” our spirits that he put within us.  He vehemently wants us to participate in serving him as we separate ourselves from the world and join with other like-minded believers in corporate worship.  But hey, during the months of June, July, and August some people think they get a “hall pass” from that whole church thing.  Interestingly enough, I even know of others who use this same mentality of “I need a break from the church thing” during football season as well.  During the fall you can’t find them in church simply because they have made tailgating into an art form.  So, if the team’s in town their not at church, and for those that have RVs, well then wherever the team goes, so do they.

The author of Hebrews said it best when he wrote “let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near” (Hebrews 10.22-25).   It seems the overwhelming exhortation of the biblical writers is that authentic Christians look forward to worshiping together rather than finding reasons to avoid it.  The scriptures indicate that true Christians would think it unimaginable to take a couple months out of the year to get away from the very endeavor that Jesus is most passionate about—which is building his church (Matt 16.18).  How odd it is that people think it acceptable to take a break for weeks at a time and leave their Lord behind to work alone.  Jesus himself said to his own disciples “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me” (Matt 16.24).  If you really want to know how serious you are about what you believe about the Lordship of Jesus Christ, then you only need to ask “who is looking at whose back”?  If you are looking at the back of Jesus, then you are a true follower, but if Jesus is looking at your back, then you are the one walking in the wrong direction.  Nevertheless, regardless of where you are heading this summer here is one sobering thought: lost people will still die and slip into a Christ-less eternity during June, July, and August.  So how could any right-minded follower of the Jesus think it’s no big deal to take the summer off from serving the Lord and reaching the lost with the gospel of Jesus Christ?

dying church 5