Church


SEBTS’s Danny Akin on alcohol abstinence on Between the Times:

Today there are more than 40 million problem drinkers in America.  Alcohol is the number one drug problem among teenagers.  One in three American families suspects that one or more family members have a drinking problem.  Misuse of alcohol costs our nation $100 billion a year in quantifiable cost.  Because of these experiences and many more, I have often said that even if I were not a Christian I would have nothing to do with alcohol.  There is simply too much sorrow and heartache connected to it.  Avoiding this devastating drug is simply the wise thing to do.

This year at our Convention we again passed a resolution calling for abstinence from alcohol.  The resolution passed overwhelmingly, but it did generate significant debate both during and after the Convention.  Some have accused those supporting the resolution of being pharisaical and legalistic, traditionalist and anti-biblical.  It is said that we fail to understand Christian liberty and freedom, and that we even stand against Jesus.  These are strong accusations from fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.  However, are they correct?  Are those like myself who believe abstinence to be the best lifestyle choice really guilty of these charges?  Let me respond as graciously and kindly as I possibly can, explaining why I hold the position I do.  I share my heart with no malice or ill will toward anyone, but from a desire to honor the Lord Jesus, and to protect others from the evils alcohol has visited on so many.

Joel Engle, The Father I Never Had,  Brenham, Tex.: Lucid Books, 2010. $15.

Reading the first chapter of The Father I Never Had before it was published, I initially felt uneasy with the amount of detail that the author Joel Engle gave about himself and his marriage. After reading the rest of the book, however, I realize why Joel is so effective in his ministry. His ministry is about telling others about his God, who works powerfully in his life even through the rough times.

In this book, styled as a memoir, he vividly describes his heartfelt struggles of losing his mother and growing up fatherless, so as to place his readers at those key defining moments, which help him to understand, among many things: that God loves him, that God really does satisfy, and that we can overcome our fears and emptiness by finding ourselves in Christ. Sometimes those lessons come at a high price of emotional turmoil and turbulence, but at every turn, Joel sees Christ as the very equation of life. These are stories that touch and move the soul.

For these past several months, I’ve been a member at the Exchange where Joel is the lead pastor. From the onset, one thing that struck my wife and me was his genuine character, which simply exuded authenticity. He is the same person behind the pulpit as he is out of the pulpit (figuratively speaking, since there is only a table and chair). He is as real as one can get these days. I am delighted to call him my pastor, and believe we need more ministers like him–honest, authentic, driven, and reflective–who continually share the message of hope in Christ, precisely as this book is poised to do.

This is the way of the mystics and others. They say, ‘If you want to know God, then the best thing to do is to sink into yourself; within everyone there is an inner light which will ultimately lead to God. You do not need knowledge,’ they say. ‘You do not need anything but a resignation of yourself and your powers to this light and its leading.’ Now that intuitive method is something with which we are all familiar. It takes numerous forms, and is present in many of the cults in the modern world.

Lloyd-Jones, D. M. (1996). God the Father, God the Son (12). Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books.

The doctrines of the Bible are not a subject to be studied; rather we should desire to know them in order that, having known them, we may not be ‘puffed up’ with knowledge, and excited about our information, but may draw nearer to God in worship, praise, and adoration, because we have seen, in a fuller way that we have ever seen before, the glory of our wondrous God.

Lloyd-Jones, D. M. (1996). God the Father, God the Son (10). Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books.

I’ve often wondered where the church would be twenty years from now. It already seems like there is a shortage of men in churches, as well as in seminaries across the board. There is in general a lack of male leadership in the Christian home, which has a domino effect on the newer generations of young men. This article, When You’re Weary of Worshiping Alone, gives a glimpse of women dealing with the absence of their husbands in the church:

After several years of worshiping alone, Debe became discouraged – and sometimes even depressed – that her husband was not joining her in the most important quest in her life, and she was not growing because of it. She finally decided it was time to leave the marriage so she could find someone who would share her heart, worship alongside her, and encourage her in her walk with God. But Debe’s pastor talked her out of it. He encouraged her to start focusing on her growth with the Lord, not her husband’s. As Debe began to do that, she discovered that there was a whole new side of God she never really knew before.

The graver issue that this article doesn’t address is the ministry toward men: how can the church develop male leadership? Here are some thoughts:

1) Outreach to men. I don’t think fight clubs and UFC events are the panacea for the absence of masculinity. But if men can get together for some event or purpose, perhaps the church can think in terms of meeting certain needs of male bonding to develop relationships.

2) Outreach to young men. The church can be a place where young men can receive guidance, attention, and direction.

3) Outreach to families as a whole. The church can certainly address the myriad of issues that affect the home from roles and responsibilities to various needs that can only be met when the family comes together in unity.

Organic churches have been in headlines. Now the question is whether they will endure. Every ministry has risks involved. I think it’s a matter of how these ministries will endure.

The article speaks of possible burnouts. That’s just inevitable. And the author is banking on the inevitability. Seminary students who are out of the ministry are classic examples. None of the six youth pastors I’ve had growing up are in full-time ministry. It’s true. They got tired of ministry.

So is the organic church the answer? The author doesn’t seem to think so. But he’s willing to encourage his fellow churchmen that they ought to be focused on obedience rather than results, because setbacks will happen.

I fear however that this “encouragement” is not really encouraging. These “new” ways of doing church may not be new–so say the pioneers because of the early church. Rightly so. But the leaders of the church need to continually replenish the co-laborers around them, the ones who are carrying on the smaller units of church life. This is hard to do. It doesn’t get done, at least well enough with the pastor(s) being renewed themselves.

So I would say that yes, burnouts are inevitable, but it’s all the reason to get ready for those times of valleys to loo up to the heights of the hilltop experience.

From Long Live Organic Church!

Take away the extreme examples, and look at the ongoing, normal, everyday life of the local church, century after century. It is not a bright example of evil, but merely good intentions in a coma. Institutional. Programmatic. And full of people whose lives look anything but transformed. Churches time and again, in culture after culture, look like they are composed of nothing but sinners. We are kidding ourselves if we think, finally, our generation will turn things around.

This is precisely why many of my seminary classmates have abandoned ministry. They ran into a brick wall of legalism or lethargy or just plain Christian hardness of heart and said, “Enough is enough.” I have one California friend who would much rather put up with the headaches of the business world than those of the church. I dare say every reader of this column knows one or more ministry leaders who are burned out and angry.

These are some good questions from Timmy Brister:

1.  If our church would cease to exist in our city, would it be noticed and missed?
2.  If all the pastors were tragically killed in a car accident, would the church’s ministry cease or fall apart?
3.  If the only possible means of connecting with unbelievers were through the missionary living of our church members, how much would we grow? (I ask this because the early church did not have signs, websites, ads, marketing, etc.)
4.  What are the subcultures within the church?  Do they attract or detract from the centrality of the gospel and mission of the church?
5.  Is our church known more for what we are not/against than what we are/for?
6.  What are we allowing to be our measuring stick of church health? (attendance vs. discipleship; seating capacity vs. sending capacity; gospel growth, training on mission, etc.)
7.  Are the priorities of our church in line with the priorities of Christ’s kingdom?
8.  If our members had 60 seconds to explain to an unbeliever what our church is like, what would you want them to say?  How many do you think are saying that?
9.  If the invisible kingdom of God became visible in our city, what would that look like?
10.  In what ways have we acted or planned in unbelief instead of faith?
[more]

HT: Z

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