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God's Got ThisDr. Paul ChappellMon, 12/04/2023 - 08:29 Truths on God's Sovereignty from the Book of Esther God's got this Do you ever feel forgotten by God? Do you wonder if He still knows your address? If He has a plan for your life? If He is able to help with your� needs?� Do you ever feel discouraged while looking at the state of our nation? Do you wonder where the speedily declining moral degradation will end?In short, do you wonder if God is in control?� The doctrine of God's sovereignty is good news for weary, fearful, or discouraged Christians. It assures that our lives and the world itself is not slipping away from a loving but helpless God. It reminds us that He is in control, and He is committed to making all things work together for our good and His glory.� God's sovereignty—His position as Ruler of all—is stated emphatically throughout Scripture. But it is demonstrated vividly in the story of Esther. Remarkably, Esther doesn't even mention God's name, but His hand is so clearly seen in this intricate unfolding of events that it has encouraged untold Christians to trust in the Lord and His good and kind sovereignty.� Notice a few of the truths related to God's sovereignty we learn from Esther's life.� Human power is always limited.Esther lived in a world of heathen despotism. Worse still, the king who publicly humiliated his wife because she stood up to him became Esther's husband. And the king's closest advisor, Haman, was a sworn enemy of the Jews. Yet, despite the wickedness of evil men, God had His way. He let Ahasuerus and Haman go just so far and then used their own desires to accomplish His purposes in preserving and prospering His people.� Proverbs 21:1 tells us, “The king's heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will.”� Here in America, we don't live in a dictatorship, and I believe Christians have the responsibility to participate in electing leaders who most closely align with biblical values. But we also should not wring our hands in despair when ungodly leaders are elected or those in power are corrupt. For there is still a King in Heaven Who reigns supreme. And even the most powerful rulers on earth are limited by the decrees and purposes of God.� “Remember this, and shew yourselves men: bring it again to mind, O ye transgressors. Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure” (Isaiah� 46:8–10).God's timing is impeccable.The basic story of Esther is simple: a Jewish orphan girl grows up to be the queen of Persia and saves her people from destruction. But the story's plot is complex, involving multiple subplots that integrate at key moments. For instance, Mordacai was in the right place at the right time to hear the assassination plot of the king's chamberlains. Furthermore, the king could not sleep on the very night that Haman came for permission to kill Mordacai, and that just happened to be the night Ahasuerus had been reflecting on Mordecai's kindness. Had any one of these—or several other—events happened earlier or later, the story could have ended differently.� Like many other biblical events, Esther's story showcases the perfect timing of God. He is never late, and He is never surprised. The God who sent His Son into our world in “the fulness of the time” (Galatians 4:4) is not oblivious to the timing in your life either. You can confidently pray with David, “But I trusted in thee, O Lord: I said, Thou art my God. My times are in thy hand . . .” (Psalm 31:14–15).You get to be part of God's sovereign plan.When it comes to God's sovereignty, we have a tendency to lean to extremes as if all elements are either/or choices. We think that either God will perform His plans, or our choices are meaningful. In reality, both are true. God will perform His plans, and our choices are meaningful.� Perhaps the most-quoted phrase from the book of Esther is from Mordecai's encouragement to Esther to act: “For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father's house shall be destroyed: and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14).Mordecai's confidence in God's sovereignty didn't lead him to a lackadaisical attitude toward the tragically unfolding events around him. Rather, his faith compelled action. He reminded Esther that God would keep His promises, but she had a choice in being involved.� For Esther's part, she fasted and presumably prayed in recognition of her dependence on God's intervention. And then she acted. Valuing a cause greater than her own life, she went into the king's presence to make her request. Yet, even in her dependence on God, Esther was perceptive and measured in how she approached the king. Rather than just blurting out an accusation against Haman, she craftily drew out the king's intrigue and set the stage for a moment that called out his sense of valor.� So is it God's sovereignty or our actions that make a difference in the unfolding of God's purposes? Both! The incredible reality is that God uses people—you and me—to make a difference in this world.� God has a purpose for your life at “such a time as this.”� When your life seems to be careening out of control, when challenges mount around you, when the choices of others negatively affect you, remember God's sovereignty. Remember that human power is always limited, God's timing is impeccable, and you get to be part of God's sovereign plan.� Stabilize your soul in remembering God's sovereignty, and then, trusting in Him and depending on His strength, choose to engage in making a difference for Christ right where you are. Category Christian Living Ministry Resources God's Got This Leader Guide God's Got This Leader Guide Paul Chappell God's Got This Study Guide God's Got This Study Guide Paul Chappell Tags Faith
Reflections on 250 Years of “Amazing Grace”Tyler JohnsonMon, 11/20/2023 - 01:22 ship and sunset On New Year's Day 1773, John Newton preached from 1 Chronicles 17:16–17. It was during this message that Newton introduced to his congregation a special song—arguably the most well-known hymn of all time—“Amazing Grace.”In 2023, some two-hundred fifty years since “Amazing Grace” was first sung, the message of God's grace is still powerfully ministering through this hymn to people all over the world. But why? Why has “Amazing Grace“ resonated within the hearts of so many since its writing?Deliverance from Spiritual DarknessYou may know that the lyrics to “Amazing Grace” were birthed out of personal testimony. When Newton was just six years old, he lost his mother to tuberculosis, and at only eleven years of age, he joined his father at sea. In years to come, Newton's life took a sharp downward trajectory as he participated in the slave trade, transporting people from the African continent.It was during a particularly stormy journey from Africa to Europe in 1748 that Newton, fearing for his life, began reading the Scriptures and contemplating his faith in God in an attempt to find some comfort for his soul. Although his mother had died early in his life, she had instilled in his heart a scriptural foundation that John remembered then, even within the darkness of the slave trade. God did rescue Newton and the entire crew in that storm. But more significantly, it was through this experience that Newton placed his faith in Christ as his Savior.Newton eventually rejected the ills of the slave trade and became a respected voice in his day against the evils of slavery. Ultimately, he pursued a ministry life in the small English town of Olney.It was in Olney that Newton worked together with his friend William Cowper to produce the well-known collection Olney Hymns. It was in this book that “Amazing Grace” was first published.� The song “Amazing Grace” was birthed against the backdrop of the personal testimony of John Newton and God's great salvation from sin. Light is more readily appreciated in contrast with darkness. Goodness is seen more vibrantly in the face of evil. The beauty of God's grace is demonstrated more dramatically against the ugliness of sin. Shortly before Newton's death, he said, “My memory is nearly gone, but I remember two things: that I am a great sinner, and that Christ is a great Savior.”� On Newton's tombstone is the following inscription: “John Newton, clerk, once an infidel and libertine, a servant of slaves in Africa, was by the rich mercy of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, preserved, restored, pardoned, and appointed to preach the faith he had long labored to destroy.”Delivery of Scriptural DoctrineScriptural worship always begins with properly understood truth. Truth ought to be the driver of our affections and should generate a response within the heart and life of the believer. These responses—whether of praise, surrender, giving, or serving—are the sacrifices of worship we offer to God.� The essential nature of truth in our worship is seen in Jesus' words in John 4:24, “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.”It is the beautiful communication of truth in “Amazing Grace” that has made it resonate so deeply in the hearts of Christians over the centuries. We sing in this hymn the wonderful realities we as Christians hold dear: the depth of our sin; the richness of Christ's grace and love; the comfort of God's presence, goodness, and care in our lives; and the ultimate hope for the believer in Heaven with God for all of eternity.� The truths expressed in “Amazing Grace” are ultimately a reminder of the unlimited reach of God's grace in our salvation. This is reminiscent of the apostle Paul's encouragement in 1 Corinthians 6:11: “And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.”Intergenerational Timelessness of TruthGreat songs are not relegated to a specific time period. In fact, wonderful and doctrinally rich songs communicating truth from God's Word can and are being written today.� Even so, I am appreciative of the heritage that we as believers have in many great songs of the faith. One of the enduring values of a hymn like “Amazing Grace” is that it appropriately and excellently expresses truth about Who our God is, what He has done and desires to do, and what He has given us in Scripture. When we as believers understand these truths and the immeasurable value of our personal relationship with God, our hearts overflow with a desire to sing praise to God.There is great beauty in multiple generations participating in singing corporately to the Lord. “Amazing Grace” contains timeless truth through which both the old and the young, the time-tested Christian and the new believer, and those of any and all cultural and ethnic backgrounds can participate in worshiping the Lord.Isn't that the heart of God's grace? God loved the world (John 3:16, Ephesians 2:4–5, 1 John 4:10), He gave His Son for the world (Luke 19:10, John� 1:17, John 3:16), He extends His grace to the world (Luke� 19:10, 2 Corinthians 8:9, Ephesians 2:4–9), and He desires “that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:17, Romans 5:8–11, 2 Peter 3:9).May our hearts rest in and be refreshed by His amazing grace, and may we be encouraged to share the story of God's grace with the world!Editor's note: To hear a special 250-year anniversary arrangement of "Amazing Grace," performed by the West Coast Baptist College Choir and directed by Tyler Johnson, click here. Category Music Ministry Tags Music Music Ministry Grace
Four Challenges Missionaries Face and How Your Church Can HelpAdam FridenstineMon, 11/06/2023 - 01:11 missions group We read in Philippians 4:10–19 that the Philippian church greatly encouraged Paul. What was it that was so meaningful to him? It wasn't just their financial support, but it was also their continued care for him and their desire to be part of his work.As missionaries, Esther and I have often been incredibly blessed by churches who encourage us in our work here in El Salvador. The prayers, support, and communication from state-side churches has often come at just the right moment to lift our spirits and strengthen our hands in the work of the Lord.� Churches who support missionaries want to be a blessing. But sometimes well-meaning people in those churches don't know how specifically to do that. Life on a foreign field is full of challenges many Christians back home never face. Understanding these challenges can help supporting churches know how to help their missionaries.Cultural Adjustments� Learning a new language and culture is more challenging than anyone who has not experienced it can comprehend. At the same time a missionary family is struggling to learn a foreign language, they are usually working through complicated legalities and often spending 20–40 hours per week navigating paperwork, foreign bank transactions, immigration, paying bills, and more. It's frustrating for them to have so much time eaten up by these necessities that would be non-existent or far simpler in their home country. Especially at the beginning, the missionary will often feel as if they are not fulfilling the Great Commission due to all the time these needs require.� Pray diligently for your missionaries during this time, and communicate that to them. Be patient with them, as they would rather be doing other things as well. Recognize that it may take months or even years to see an established work, depending on the language and culture.Balancing many rolesAs missionaries strive to make a difference in the place that God has called them, they are often involved in many outreach ministries as well as building the church. Depending on the situation, they may have no trained help for several years, and there are no Bible colleges from which to hire help. There is a constant pressure to always be ready for the next church service, the next event, the next witnessing opportunity. Did they know this was part of what they signed up for? Absolutely! But it is still a lot on one's plate!You can help by initiating communication with the missionary, even when you are not asking something from them. Reach out with love and encouragement. Ask direct and love-loaded questions about the missionary and his family, marriage, health, etc. Give time and reminders when you are asking for a special update or personal communication.Discouragement and emotional needsThough not exclusive to foreign ministry, your missionaries will undoubtedly experience a multitude of discouragements and emotional needs on the field. The difference for missionaries is that there is likely a greater lack of a support team on the foreign field. Sometimes there are no other mature Christians nearby to help through their valleys. A missionary should never come off the field feeling lonely or unloved.Purpose to be a support team for your missionaries. Ask your church members to adopt a missionary family. (We have had many churches do this, rotating missionaries each year. Through the years, the missionary family has been loved by several families, and eventually the whole church feels as though they know the missionaries personally.)Financial BurdensMissionaries will spend many months on deputation raising funds to go to the field. They try to anticipate all financial needs for the foreseeable future in a place they have never previously lived. Although it is true that the income of a foreign missionary will often be higher than the nationals living in that same area, there are also many ministry expenses that a national would not have. Even with the best laid plans, good stewardship and constant support, things like inflation can make a huge difference in the monthly budget of a missionary. And even when churches always support on time and faithfully send the same amount for many years, those support dollars do not go as far as they used to depending on the economy in that particular country. The cost of living continually rises, while the missionary's support generally remains unchanged.� How can your church help with the financial burdens of missionaries?� Be sensitive to the economic challenges of living internationally on a fixed income. We have been blessed on a couple of occasions when a church reached out and purchased a new appliance to replace a broken one we were not able to replace at the time. Washing machines and refrigerators are luxuries, but they sure are blessings!� You can also plan for occasional unannounced offerings for special projects. Communicate with your missionaries about their needs, and evaluate adjusting your support levels according to those� needs.Without the financial support of churches, missionaries couldn't go. Without the prayer support, emotional support, and encouragement, missionaries will seldom go as far as they could.� Category Missions Tags Missions
The Patient SoulwinnerJerry FerrsoMon, 10/23/2023 - 13:06 tractor on a farm Patience! Does any Christian not need to grow in this area? We want our questions answered immediately, our trials resolved quickly, and every irritation removed yesterday. It doesn't matter if we are at Costco trying to figure out which checkout line will be the fastest or at a restaurant wanting our food at lightning speed. We have an agenda.� This impatience can creep into our soulwinning as well. We want to share the gospel and see instant fruit, and we grow weary when we don't see the results that we desire in the time frame that we desire them.� Yet, God doesn't seem to be in the hurry that we are in. I am often reminded of the truth that is uncovered in 2 Peter 3:9: “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” I'm thankful the Lord is patient in His dealings with me. I'm thankful He gave me time to hear the gospel—multiple times—and trust Him. May we exhibit that same spirit toward those whom we long to see to come to the saving knowledge of Jesus.One of the ways that we express trust in God and in the power of the gospel is by committing to the process of a harvest.� To be clear, I've never lived on a farm. (I haven't even been successful in planting a garden.) But I do know that farmers don't just plant seed and see a harvest tomorrow. They participate in a process that creates favorable conditions for the seed to flourish. The gospel is a seed, and God calls us to plant it. But rather than becoming discouraged when we don't see immediate results, we should commit to the process of cultivating, planting, watering, and harvesting.� CultivatingBefore a farmer plants a field, he takes time to prepare the soil by plowing and fertilizing. We do something similar in our witness when we establish a friendship relationship with the one with whom we want to share the gospel. I'm not suggesting a long, drawn-out process—just that we take a few minutes to build rapport, treating them as someone we care about rather than simply another set of ears to hear our� message.� The best way I have discovered to do this is by asking questions. These questions will vary with each person, but they should convey genuine interest. Through this “pre-conversation,” the person with whom you are talking begins to feel comfortable. They begin to “let you in,” as the invisible barrier between you begins to disappear. So, have the patience, and take the time to cultivate a relationship.� We see an example of this in Jesus' conversation with the woman at the well. Rather than immediately sharing the gospel with her, He first connected with her as a person and even created a curiosity for what He had to tell her: “Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink. . . . Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans. Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water” (John 4:7, 9–10).PlantingThe whole purpose of cultivating soil is to plant seeds. We catch a glimpse of this in the parable of the sower: “And other [seed] fell on good ground, and sprang up, and bare fruit an hundredfold” (Luke 8:8). Ultimately, it is the Spirit of God who prepares people's hearts to receive the seed of the gospel. The Spirit does, however, use people—like you and me—in this process.� And an essential part of this process is that we actually plant the seed—that we share the gospel. “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?” (Romans 10:13–14).� Watering� As diligent and earnest as we may be in cultivating and planting, many people do not trust Christ the first time they hear the gospel. Some people, like some seeds, require time. Some people need to work through questions and ideas that have filled their minds through the years.� This is where patience on our part comes in. If the person doesn't immediately trust Christ, are we going to leave the “field” of their life, unwilling to wait for the harvest? Or are we going to prayerfully and persistently water the seed?� This persistence is often called “follow up,” and I believe it is essential to a fruitful soulwinning ministry. Our church takes these efforts so seriously that we emphasize them in our outreach program and encourage our church family to practice it in all their gospel outreach endeavors—including when witnessing to friends, family, and coworkers.� If someone has listened to the gospel—including by attending a service at your church—but has not made a decision to trust Christ, don't give up on them. Rather, water the seed by continued prayer and ongoing outreach. Invite them again to church. Offer to answer questions. Stop by to visit with another printed gospel resource. Send texts and notes to let them know you're praying for them. Keep inviting them to special events at church, and continue with a readiness to share the gospel. Most of all, pray diligently for God to work in their lives.� HarvestingHave you ever shared the gospel with someone and the person received Christ as their Savior immediately? When this happens to me, I usually walk away thinking, “Wow! That person was ready to be saved!” But do you know why they were ready? Usually it is because someone else put in all the labor. I may have had the opportunity to see the person trust Christ, but their “instant” decision was the result of the previous witness of a coworker, prayers of a grandmother, or the gospel efforts for someone else in their life. Others did all the cultivating, planting, and watering. I came along, and God used me to do the harvesting.� Jesus described this scenario to His disciples just after the woman at the well left to bring everyone she knew to hear Christ: “One soweth, and another reapeth. I sent you to reap that whereon ye bestowed no labour: other men laboured, and ye are entered into their labours” (John 4:37–38).� If you aren't currently seeing the harvest you would like from your gospel witness, don't get discouraged. Just be sure that you are faithfully cultivating, planting, and watering. God will tend to the seed, and He may even use someone else to do the harvesting. However, you'll be rewarded in Heaven for your faithful work as one of the Lord's laborers.� Category Outreach & Discipleship Tags Soulwinning Outreach
The Woke Agenda and Its Influence on Churches and CollegesDr. Paul ChappellWed, 03/29/2023 - 13:30 Woke Agenda and Its Influence Over the past several years, the term� woke� has been used to describe people who have been awakened to the injustices of society, particularly in regards to racism. Many Christians, committed to displaying God's heart for the oppressed, have eagerly embraced the� term.The “woke movement,” however, has grown much larger than the early definition of the term. There is an agenda driving it that is anti-Christian and steeped in anti-God philosophies.A working definition of� wokism� is impossible since even its strongest proponents apply the word in fluid settings. As defined by Merriam-Webster, to be� woke� means to be “aware of and actively attentive to important facts and issues (especially issues of racial and social justice).”1� In a broader, more practical sense, however, author Owen Strachan pointed out,Wokeness is first and foremost a mindset and posture. The term itself means that one is “awake” to the true nature of the world when so many are asleep. In the most specific terms, this means one sees the comprehensive inequity of our social order and strives to highlight power structures in society that stem from racial privilege.2Conversations and ideas with people who subscribe to woke philosophies have reached far beyond racism to involve any topics related to inequality including social justice, sexism, economic philosophies, and LGBTQ acceptance.The way in which Christians address these issues relates directly to their view of Scripture. Second Timothy 3:16–17 asserts, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.”A Christian with a high view of the accuracy, sufficiency, and authority of Scripture sees every social topic in light of the relative theological positions and practical instructions of God's Word.� A mature Christian is discerning of the underlying philosophies that drive these discussions and holds each up to Scripture.Christians with a weak view of Scripture are more likely to allow the culture to both describe the problem and prescribe the solution.� These Christians are more likely to suggest that basic Bible truths don't apply in particular settings or that the biblical writers did not fully understand such modern issues. Often, Christians who don't use the plainly-stated truths of Scripture as their compass will instead build subjective arguments based on “God's heart for ” or how they believe Jesus would respond to various areas of need.This undiscerning attitude is furthered by prominent Christian leaders who have jumped on the woke bandwagon. They may have been drifting from previously-held positions, but their recent statements clearly identify with the woke movement. For example,Andy Stanley, pastor of a nondenominational, multi-campus megachurch in Atlanta, recently spoke positively of gay Christians who attend church as “having more faith than I do.”3Rick Warren, the founding pastor of Saddleback Church, a Southern Baptist, multi-campus megachurch in Anaheim, recently ordained women as pastors and, more recently, defended this position as something more churches should� do.4A recent article pointed to three Christian leaders who have become outspoken on woke-related issues and commented, “The direction [Russell] Moore, [David] French, and [Beth] Moore are walking is not simply traditional evangelicalism, but a form of cultural accommodation dressed as convictional religion. The result is a religious respectability that promotes national unity, liberalism, and wokeism under the rhetorical guise of love for neighbor.”5These unrelated examples point out the pervasiveness of woke philosophies in the church today.Biblical leaders must develop the spiritual discernment to cut through the woke rhetoric to understand the philosophies behind current issues and allow Scripture to shape their response. I hope this article is an aid to that� end.In the next few pages, we will look at six woke-related issues, briefly describing each and bringing scriptural truths to bear. Additionally, I have included questions to help form discussions on each topic.Most of these topics employ terms not directly used in Scripture (e.g. “social justice” or “intersectionality”). My desire here is not to split hairs over terms or to insinuate that everything touching a given term is ungodly. My goal is simply to hold up the underlying philosophies to Scripture and encourage you to stand on thoroughly-biblical convictions.With that background, let's get� started.Social JusticeEvery Bible-believing Christian desires justice for the oppressed (Deuteronomy 24:14–21, Micah 6:8). But the social justice movement of today has more to do with insisting that� categories� of people, as opposed to� individuals,� have not received justice over time and thus should be treated differently today—even when there are not immediate instances of injustice in an individual's life.Additionally, some of the categories commonly cited for need in social justice are drawn from the whole or subsegments of LGBT identities, effectively equating different convictions regarding same-sex marriage or transgender inclusion with racism or other forms of discrimination over immutable characteristics, such as ethnicity. There is a real push through the social justice movement of today to undermine the basic definitions of male and female as well as the institution of marriage. Many who are driving the social justice agenda have openly-stated goals for the destruction of the nuclear family and the promotion of an LBGT agenda.One example is from the leaders of the Black Lives Matter organization that came to prominence after the death of George Floyd.6� These leaders not only sought the demise of the nuclear family, but they openly shared their Marxist ideals.7� That woke-leaning Christians don't see through to the anti-Christian agendas at play is deeply concerning.An additional area of concern to the social justice movement is the way in which it conflates helping marginalized people with the sharing of the gospel. There is value to serving one's community, and there is definitely value to reaching out to people who are oppressed or marginalized in a community. But we must not equate these types of care with sharing the gospel. The Bible is clear that faith for salvation comes through hearing the Word of God (Romans 10:17). Yet, Timothy Keller, a pastor and author seems to equate the two. (Interestingly, Keller, a Christian apologist holds that God may have created the world through the evolutionary process.8) In Keller's church philosophy book� Center Church,� he writes, “Ministry in which Christians sacrificially serve the common good of the city is not only biblical but a necessary context for any convincing call to believe in Jesus.”9� In the same section he says that we cannot change culture simply “through lots of conversions.”10� This is simply not true. Scripture teaches that the truly converted become “a new creature” (2� Corinthians 5:17). As someone grows in their faith, everything about their life will change, including developing biblical viewpoints on moral and social issues. Those who insist that a focus on social justice must accompany the gospel actually do the gospel itself an injustice by seemingly suggesting that conversion is not the answer.“Social justicians” often speak of redeeming the culture. Yet the Son of man came “to seek and to save” lost people (Luke 19:10). The “woke gospel” is another gospel, not the gospel of the New Testament. Instead of leading unsaved people to Christ, it leads people to social causes, some of which are anti-biblical. I have seen church buildings from Charlotte to San Fransisco displaying Black Lives Matter signs and rainbow flags, but those same churches are not sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ and calling sinners to repentance. I am reminded of Paul's warning in Galatians� 1:6, “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel.”Biblically defined, the gospel is the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ for our sins (1� Corinthians 15:1–5). It is the satisfaction of the justice of God in the person of Christ paying for our sin, and it is the best news we can give to anyone who is not saved. We must not trivialize the actual gospel by hitching every social issue or injustice to it.Social justice, similar to the “social gospel” of the previous generation, is really a repackaging of liberal theology being presented as a substitute for the Great Commission (Matthew� 28:19–20).Questions:Why is it important to distinguish between the gospel and social� issues?Is salvation through Christ enough? Or does preaching the gospel require preaching social, racial, economic, etc. redemption as� well?In what ways would a Christian with a biblically-shaped worldview differ from a woke agenda on social justice?� Gender Distinction, Sexual Orientation, and Same-Sex MarriageThe front line of the anti-God agenda in the West today is being waged on the battleground of LGBT issues. There is clearly a concentrated effort in secular society to overturn the cultural norms concerning gender, sexuality, and marriage. From the state recognition of same-sex marriage, to the drag queen “story hours” taking place in public libraries,11� to the inclusion of biological males who identify as females in women's sports,12� the LGBT movement is rolling full-steam ahead, even if it means crushing children, women, and society as a whole in its� agenda.In his book� The Gathering Storm,� Albert Mohler insightfully wrote,The church of Jesus Christ faces an unprecedented challenge: the collision between it and a new sexual ethic, a collision between revelation and revolution. The evolution is a sexual one, and it is indeed a revolution, demanding a complete reordering of society and civilization.13What is most surprising to me in all of this is that woke Christians are buying into it. In an effort to be accepting of people who struggle they have become affirming of sin. Some go so far as to deny that Scripture addresses these issues at all. They suggest that Jesus and Paul didn't really understand or address the modern understandings of sexual orientation or transgenderism.14� In recently-surfaced comments, Pastor Andy Stanley called the clear passages on this issue “clobber passages.”15But the Bible is clear here. In Genesis 1, God created human life in His image and designated male and female. In Genesis 2, He ordained marriage. In the New Testament, Jesus referred to both of these chapters as He said, “Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?” (Matthew 19:4–5). Romans 1:24–28 condemns homosexuality in the clearest terms. In 1 Corinthians 6:9, Paul includes such acts in a list of sins. Furthermore, the Bible teaches that true conversion leads to turning away from sin. “He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him” (1 John 2:4–5).Yet, Christians who profess to believe and preach the Bible struggle to take a clear position on these issues.For example, the senior associate pastor of First Baptist Orlando in Florida read in a public church service a list of the variety of people attending and serving in the church. In these comments he said, “We have transgender, LGBTQ, straight, single, married, divorced, and cohabitating people. These same people attend, listen, serve, grow, and give.”16� I can appreciate the desire to let unsaved people with sinful lives know that the gospel is for them, but to indicate that people openly practicing—and even identifying themselves according to—unrepentant sin should become or continue as faithful congregants is, according to 1� Corinthians 5, a position that is foreign to the New Testament.Not only does First Baptist Orlando allow people living in open sexual sin to be members in good standing, however, it also allows these members to baptize new converts. Recent social media posts show Joe Mills, an openly gay man,� currently “married” to another man, performing baptisms at First Baptist Church Orlando.17The problem is not ambiguity in Scripture. The problem is that Bible-believing Christians are either too cowardly or too confused to clearly state what the Bible actually says. In an effort to not offend, woke-leaning Christians take a position that these topics call for a more “nuanced” view.18Christians must study and come to firm convictions on what the Bible says about these issues. It is not unloving to say the truth to a world in need of a Savior.Questions:Do you believe Scripture is clear on its commands concerning sexual sins? Do you believe it addresses homosexuality and gender distinction clearly?Should a church welcome members who are engaged in any sexual activity outside of marriage?What is the most loving approach for a Christian in regards to someone who deals with same-sex attraction or gender dysphoria?� Egalitarianism and Women Being Ordained for MinistryIn the 1970s Gloria Steinem used the phrase “A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle” to encapsulate and popularize the philosophy behind feminism. In an attempt to counter the unbiblical ideas embedded in feminism, biblical Christians coined the term� complementarianism� in the 1980s.19� The idea was to encapsulate the equality of men and women while differentiating their God-given roles in particular settings. The term was new, but the truths behind it are as old as Scripture.The New Testament is clear on the intrinsic value and spiritual worth of women. Both men and women are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), and both are equal in Christ through salvation: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).But the New Testament is also clear that God gave men and women different roles in marriage (1 Peter 3:7) and in the church. Regarding the church, the Bible gives straightforward directions in both 1 Timothy 2:12 and 1 Corinthians 14:35: “But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.” “And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.” My wife Terrie is an avid student of God's Word and a capable Bible teacher. She has spoken to ladies over the years and has occasionally given a testimony of thanksgiving in our church assembly. But scripturally, neither she nor I believe it is a woman's place to teach or preach the Word of God in a mixed congregation.These views are not new and have been held by biblical Christians since the first century. In more recent years, however, woke or woke-leaning Christians are using the term� egalitarian� to describe a position that insists that men and women not only have equal value but also hold equal or interchangeable roles in all settings, including the home and church.This egalitarian position has set the stage for woke pastors whose previous theological convictions were complimentarian to ordain women to pastoral roles in ministry.20� Rick Warren, who was one of the leaders of the “seeker-sensitive movement” of the '90s, has been one of the most vocal to recently ordain women,21� even though this was not his position for his previous decades of ministry. After being disfellowshipped from the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) over his new position, Warren was interviewed by Russell Moore, editor in chief of� Christianity Today� and previous president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. In the interview, Warren used poor exegesis to defend his culturally-popular views22� and stated he intends to seek to have the SBC decision overturned.23� But it's not just Warren. Other woke-leaning pastors have been quite willing to virtue signal their egalitarian views by inviting their wives to preach on occasion and making little or no distinction between themselves and their wives as pastors.Throughout the New Testament, we see women engaged in meaningful roles of ministry within the church. (See, for example, Acts 16:40, Acts� 18:2, and Romans� 16:1–2,� 7.) When Christians cave to the accommodating stance of egalitarianism, they minimize the significant aspects of ministry God has given to women in the church.Questions:Do you believe Scripture differentiates between the roles of men and women in marriage and ministry?� Do you believe women can biblically hold the title of “pastor”?� Racism and Critical Race Theory� Closely tied to woke philosophies is an adherence to Critical Race Theory (CRT). To once again quote� Merriam-Webster,� CRT refers to “the idea that race is a sociological rather than biological designation, and that racism pervades society and is fostered and perpetuated by the legal system.”24Racism is an ugly sin. Genesis� 1:27 tells us that God made every person in His image, and Acts� 17:25–26 affirms that we all have equal value in His sight. We are all of the same race—a fallen human race in need of a Savior (Romans 3:23–26). All of us come to God the same way—through Christ. Thus, the ground is level at the foot of the cross, and within the body of Christ, there is to be no favoritism (Colossians 3:11). The New Testament strongly condemns prejudice (James� 2:8–9).The premise of CRT, however, is that “the very concept of race was constructed in order to benefit whites at the expense of people of color.”25� A result of this approach is that “Even if a white person has never had a genuinely racist thought or he has repented of past racism, he is still a racist, white supremacist, because he is white and belongs to the majority.”26This philosophy distorts the meaning of racism, redefining it from a sin of the heart to a result of one's skin color. Furthermore, this philosophy makes reconciliation with other believers and unity within a church impossible because it suggests that white church members will always be guilty of racism, not to mention the fact that non-white members cannot be guilty of racism. This is not only ridiculous, but it is actually sinister. It is ripping a real sin apart from its moral definition and making it responsible for all the ills of society.For a real-life example of how this plays out, here is a transcript from Matthew Hall, the former dean of Boyce College at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary from 2016-2019, as well as the former provost and senior vice president of academic administration at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary from 2019-2022, and also a former research fellow for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission from 2014-2022. In comments made as the guest of the� Coffee and Cream� podcast in 2018, Hall spoke to racial issues:I am a racist, okay, so if that freaks you out, if you think the worst thing somebody can call you is a racist, then you're not thinking biblically, because guess what, like, I'm gonna struggle with racism and white supremacy until the day I die and get my glorified body and in a completely renewed and sanctified mind. Because I am immersed in a culture where I benefit from racism all the time.27A few years ago, a pastor prayed at Baylor University's commencement exercises and denounced “a planet with too many straight, white men like me behind the steering wheel.”28� This type of virtue signaling is becoming more common even in evangelical circles.No one—especially no Christian—should think less of or despairingly toward someone because of their ethnicity, skin color, or background. And no one—especially no Christian—should assume they know the condition of another's heart based on his or her skin color.Questions:Does racism necessarily coincide with ethnicity or skin color?� How did the churches of the New Testament experience and address racism and prejudice? (See Acts 10, Acts 15, and James� 2.) Is their approach sufficient today?Intersectionality� The idea behind intersectionality is something like a CRT-based point system in which you receive more points for the greater number of minority groups to which you belong. Or you could think of it as a Venn diagram with circles representing various oppressed or minority groups overlapping, creating an “intersectional” center that represents the most highly-oppressed. For instance, according to intersectionality, a straight white male would be considered to belong to three groups with no oppression (straight, white, and male) whereas a lesbian African-American female would be a highly-oppressed person belonging to three groups that experience oppression.Intersectionality divides the world into oppressors and victims. These divisions are built around group identities rather than personal experiences. And because there is no real way to right the wrongs of each group, intersectionality tends toward noisy virtue signaling without encouraging leaders to roll up their sleeves to discern and resolve underlying issues at play, preferring instead to perpetuate a sense of ongoing victimhood.Additionally, intersectionality gives victim groups the moral high ground based simply on the oppression they have suffered. This obliterates right and wrong in the biblical or moral sense, replacing it with victimization or oppression.One author described it this way:In the worldview of ideological social justice, authority is conferred, not by wisdom, age, position, or experience—but by victim status. Claims of oppression and victimization based on a subjective “lived experience” must be believed without question. The more intersectional victim-boxes one can check, the greater the moral authority. The greater the authority, the greater the power.29Concerning victimization, the Bible tells us that God personally cares for the oppressed (Psalm� 9:9, 146:7). Jesus Himself “was oppressed, and he was afflicted” (Isaiah 53:7). In the Old Testament, God gave laws to Israel to prohibit taking advantage of vulnerable people such as foreigners, widows, fatherless, and the poor (Exodus 22:21–27). The Old Testament instructs, “Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow” (Isaiah 1:17). Likewise, the New Testament commands Christians to care for those in need and specifically to “visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction” (James 1:27).The contrast between intersectionality and a biblical approach to oppression is threefold: First, the categories for concern are specific to personal experience rather than to a broad group (e.g. being a widow versus being a woman or being fatherless versus having a particular skin color). Second, the biblical instructions are given to protect against actual crimes and to relieve actual suffering rather than to perpetuate labels of victimhood. And finally, Scripture—not categories of victimization—provides the moral authority for what is right or wrong.� There are real victims in our fallen world. There are countless hearts shattered by sin (their own or others) and suffering who are in need of God's love. Biblical Christians care to relieve their suffering. That relief does not come through faulty philosophies of victimhood but through the forgiveness offered through the glorious gospel of Christ and the grace given through the precious promises of His Word. For those who are in bondage to sin, Christ promises, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you� free”� (John 8:32). To those who know Christ, He promises overcoming power in a trouble-filled world: “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).Questions:From a biblical standpoint, what concerns arise by including the LGBT community in groups of oppression? In what ways might people who struggle in these areas actually be oppressed, and what is a biblical approach to healing?In what ways does intersectionality create victimhood out of sinful practices?Do you believe the gospel and God's Word are sufficient to address the needs of the oppressed?Anti-Capitalism and Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance� (ESG)� For reasons that seem more philosophical than practical, those who are woke are against free-market capitalism. This hatred for capitalism and the free market is part of what has given rise to Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance (ESG) in financial sectors. ESG investing firms, banks, and government policies require those with whom they do business to support environmental causes, affirm anti-christian social stances, and maintain hiring quotas that are LGBT affirming.Not only are these philosophies unbiblical, but they are economically dangerous, as was seen in the recent collapse of the Silicon Valley Bank (SVB). It wasn't until the aftermath of this bank's collapse that customers learned how ESG partially led to its demise. Due to woke hiring practices, only one member of the board of directors held previous experience in investment banking.30� And while the bank was tanking, its head of risk assessment was launching and leading LGBTQ programs instead of righting the ship.31� Additionally, before its shutdown, the bank “dropped an ESG report that outlined the company's focus on climate change.”32The dangers of ESG, however, are larger than the failure of a single bank or company. There is an underlying agenda to use ESG policies to strong-arm ordinary citizens into woke causes. For instance, during Covid lockdowns, those who protested against government policies in Canada had their bank accounts frozen.33� Already some Christian institutions are finding a need to switch banks because their accounts have been canceled for unexplained reasons.34� I believe that in the future, companies and churches that don't cooperate with ESG values will have their accounts canceled in greater number. It's possible that the ESG agreements will become a “mark or brand” businesses will be forced to take if they will get contracts and rates amenable to their success.Proponents of ESG dislike capitalism, claiming that it is systemically racist. If these claims were true, there would be good reason to look for another system. But these claims are not true, as author Owen Strachan points out: “Though woke leaders seek to replace the free market with state-controlled systems that will yield ‘equity' as they see it, the free market is actually a tremendous engine for good for all peoples. While not impervious to manipulation…the free market has fundamentally changed the world, lifting people across the world out of serfdom into freedom.”35� He continues with helpful statistics and details explaining how racism, such as slavery in the United States, actually hurts rather than helps capitalism wherever it is or has been practiced.36Scripture makes a direct connection between labor and provision: “For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat” (2 Thessalonians 3:10). The Bible instructs us to labor so that we might have and be able to give to others: “Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth” (Ephesians 4:28). The New Testament strongly condemns men who do not provide for their household: “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel” (1 Timothy 5:8). Economic systems that reward diligent labor with personal ownership of the fruits of that labor are to be commended.� Christians who care for those in need should be discerning to see the woke hatred of capitalism for the pro-socialism agenda that is driving it. Although socialism promises to help the poor, it proposes this help based on other people's money and by building a larger government that will ultimately crush the poor. In reality, socialism has devastated the people and the economy of every country where it has been thoroughly implemented.37Questions:How does Scripture inform our view of money and economies?� Every human system has weaknesses. What do you see as the greatest weaknesses in capitalism and socialism?� ConclusionThere is a real need in our day for biblical Christians to be alert to worldly philosophies that masquerade as truth. I am concerned for the future orthodoxy of Christians who seek influence and ideas from those who are swayed by woke ideas. The practice of churches that exemplify woke and social justice philosophies today reveal their consumption of the “philosophy and vain deceit” spoken of in Colossians 2:8: “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.”John Adams, second president of the United States, pointed out, “It is the duty of the clergy to accommodate their discourses to the times, to preach against such sins as are most prevalent, and recommend such virtues as are most� wanted.”38Christian leaders today must be willing to clearly and unapologetically state what the Bible says. They must be willing to call sin what it is and must be clear in proclaiming the gospel through Jesus Christ.Scripture commands us that we are to “earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3). As I have attempted to point out in these pages, the modern woke agenda is significant to “the faith” because it undermines the biblical understanding of such central truths as sin, forgiveness, and the gospel� itself.If we are to make a difference in our world today, we must, like the apostle Paul, be willing to stand for truth under the stigma of the cross even when it seems strange to the world.“For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18).Dr. Paul Chappell has served as the pastor of Lancaster Baptist Church in Lancaster, California, for thirty-seven years. He and his wife Terrie have been married for forty-two years and have four married children serving the Lord in ministry.lancasterbaptist.orgEndnotesMerriam-Webster, s.v. “woke,” accessed March 22, 2023, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/woke.Owen Strachan, Christianity and Wokeness (Washington DC: Salem Books, 2021), 8.Adam Page, “What on earth…,” Twitter, January 23, 2023, https://twitter.com/AdamPage85/status/1617522150499577856.Russell Moore, “Rick Warren Reflects on His Legacy,” Christianity Today, March 8, 2023, https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/podcasts/russell-moore-show/rick-warren-legacy-saddleback-sbc-purpose-driven-life.html.Kylee Griswold, “Russell Moore Won't Celebrate Dobbs Because He'd Have To Admit Pro-Trump Christians Are Good At Loving Their Neighbors,” The Federalist, June 29, 2022, “https://thefederalist.com/2022/06/29/russell-moore-wont-celebrate-dobbs-because-hed-have-to-admit-pro-trump-christians-are-good-at-loving-their-neighbors/.Early in the wake of Floyd's death, blacklivesmatter.com included stated objectives on their homepage to “disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure,” “foster a queer‐affirming network,” and “do the work required to dismantle cisgender privilege.” I detailed this in an article titled “Counter-Cultural Christians Needed,” published July 2, 2020 (https://paulchappell.com/2020/07/02/counter-culturalchristians-needed/). The statements were still on blacklivesmatter.com at that time.The group was founded by Patrisse Khan-Callours, Alisha Garza, and Opal Tometi, who are self-described Marxists. Answering an interviewer's question about BLM's ability to organize, Callours said, “We actually do have an ideological frame. Myself and Alicia in particular, were trained organizers. We are trained Marxists. We are super versed on ideological theories.” Patrisse's book When They Call You a Terrorist also references this as she described how she developed her current ideas: “I read, I study, adding Mao, Marx and Lenin to my knowledge of hooks . . . .” See Patrisse Khan-Cullors and Asha Bandele, When They Call You a Terrorist (New York: Saint Martin's Griffin, 2017), Kindle edition.Tim Keller, “Creation, Evolution, and Christian Laypeople,” BioLogos, February 23, 2012, https://biologos.org/articles/creation-evolution-and-christian-laypeople.Timothy Keller, Center Church: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2012), 291.Ibid.Charles Creitz, “Drag queen story hour slammed as ‘sexualizing children' after Maryland library hosts interactive event: Drag queen story time events for children are part of a growing trend across the country,” Fox News, October 28, 2022, https://www.foxnews.com/media/drag-queen-story-hour-slammed-sexualizing-children-maryland-library-hosts-interactive-event.David Gortler, “Allowing Biological Males in Women's Sports is Scientifically Unsound,” Newsweek, October 6, 2022, https://www.newsweek.com/allowing-biological-males-womens-sports-scientifically-unsound-opinion-1748900.R. Albert Mohler Jr., The Gathering Storm (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2020), 87.“Revisionist Gay Theology: Did God Really Say..?” Focus on the Family, July 29, 2019, https://www.focusonthefamily.com/get-help/revisionist-gay-theology-did-god-really-say/.Adam Page, “What on earth…,” Twitter, January 23, 2023, https://twitter.com/AdamPage85/status/1617522150499577856.“Prominent Southern Baptist Church Brags That Transgenders and Abortionists Serve in Their Church,” YouTube video, 00:37, posted by “The Dissenter,” February 7, 2022,Open, “Gay-Married” Homosexual Man Baptizes Other People at First Baptist Orlando, Disntr, March 13, 2023, https://disntr.com/2023/03/13/open-gay-married-homosexual-man-baptizes-other-people-at-first-baptist-orlando/.Jared Kennedy, “What do I do if my child doesn't seem to fit with typical gender norms?” Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, May 17, 2021, https://erlc.com/resource-library/articles/what-do-i-do-if-my-child-doesnt-seem-to-fit-with-typical-gender-norms/?fbclid=IwAR0sXHMpztssG8iua4M24uwxcYic7x_kO_yfUc-cDG1z5fjaHkHaWRfS6Vk.Denny Burk, What's in a name? The meaning and origin of ‘complementarianism,'” The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, August 1, 2019, https://cbmw.org/2019/08/01/whats-in-a-name/.Nate Schlomann, NAMB and SBC Egalitarrianism, Servants and Heralds, February 8, 2021, https://www.servantsandheralds.com/namb-and-sbc-egalitarianism/.Saddleback Church, “Yesterday was a historic night…” Facebook, May 7, 2021, https://www.facebook.com/saddlebackchurch/posts/-yesterday-was-a-historic-night-for-saddleback-church-in-many-wayswe-ordained-ou/10159190549013544/.Russell Moore, “Rick Warren Reflects on His Legacy,” Christianity Today, March 8, 2023, https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/podcasts/russell-moore-show/rick-warren-legacy-saddleback-sbc-purpose-driven-life.html.Denny Burk, “Rick Warren Has Done the SBC a Great Service,” Denny Burk, March 14, 2023, https://www.dennyburk.com/rick-warren-has-done-the-sbc-a-great-service/.Merriam-Webster, s.v. “Critical Race Theory,” accessed March 22, 2023, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/critical%20race%20theory.Shannon Craigo-Snell and Christopher Doucot, No Innocent Bystanders (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2017), 67.Ronnie W. Rogers, Understanding the Terms of Cultural Marxism (Social Justice): A Christian Response, Ronnie W. Rogers, June 29, 2020, https://ronniewrogers.com/2020/06/understanding-the-terms-of-cultural-marxism- social-justice-a-christian- response/.Jake Cannon and Matt Bryant, “Epidode 13: Seminaries And Radical Reconciliation With Matthew Hall,” YouTube video, 49:45, posted by “Coffee and Cream”, Jul 15, 2018, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dwI82hKUTgI. Reference clip starts at 49:45.Todd Starnes, “Baylor University Prayer Denounces ‘Straight White Men,'” ToddStarnes.com, May 2, 2019, https://www.toddstarnes.com/faith/baylor-university-denounces-straight-white-men-in-graduation-prayer/.Scott D. Allen, Why Social Justice Is Not Biblical Justice, (Grand Rapids, MI: Credo House Publishers, 2020), 67.“More ‘woke' companies are going to fail, former CEO warns: SVB collapse was ‘perfect storm,'” Fox News, March 15, 2023, https://www.foxnews.com/media/woke-companies-going-fail-former-ceo-warns-svb-collapse-perfect-stormAubrie Spady, “Head of risk assessment at Silicon Valley Bank invested in LGBTQ programs in months leading up to shutdown,” Fox News, March 13, 2023, https://www.foxnews.com/politics/head-risk-assessment-silicon-valley-bank-invested-lgbtq-programs-months-leading-shutdownIbid.Siladitya Ray, “Canada Begins To Release Frozen Bank Accounts Of ‘Freedom Convoy' Protestors,” Forbes, February 23, 2022, https://www.forbes.com/sites/siladityaray/2022/02/23/canada-begins-to-release-frozen-bank-accounts-of-freedom-convoy-protestors/.Dale Hurd, “Account Closed: Banks and Businesses Cancel Christians,” CBN News, January 3, 2023, https://www1.cbn.com/cbnnews/us/2022/november/account-closed-banks-and-businesses-cancel-christians.Owen Strachan, Christianity and Wokeness (Washington DC: Salem Books, 2021), 124.Ibid.Benjamin Powell, “Hey, Millennials: Socialism Creates Poverty and Limits Freedom. So Stop Romanticizing It!,” Independent Institute, November 27, 2017, https://www.independent.org/news/article.asp?id=9206.Charles Francis Adams, The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States, Volume IV (Boston, MA: Charles C. Little and James Brown, 1851), 56. Category Current Events
Disagreement without DisunityDr. Don SiskTue, 05/02/2023 - 10:14 I am nearing my ninetieth birthday. I made public my call to preach on Thanksgiving night of 1954. A few days after that I preached my first sermon in the prayer meeting service of the Black Oak Baptist Church in Gary, Indiana. Two years later, I began pastoring. I have been in full-time ministry since 1956—nearly seventy years.Because of the various ministries I have served in, I've preached in literally thousands of churches all over the world. Being in so many churches is a blessing because I get to meet men and women who are faithfully serving Christ all around the globe. But going to so many places does have a downfall: I sometimes see the sad disunity among God's people. Churches, Bible Colleges, mission organizations, preachers, and ordinary Christians find reasons to quarrel with one another.Of course, every church or organization has some differences with the next organization. But among the independent Baptist places where I am privileged to serve, most have so much more in common than different. Yet, for some reason, we emphasize our differences more than our common practices and beliefs. Would it not be wonderful if we would emphasize our commonality rather than our differences?Many years ago when I became the Far East Director of BIMI, my pastor, Dr. Lee Roberson, was generous in giving needful advice—principles by which to conduct my ministry. One night as we were driving together back to Chattanooga from a meeting, he said to me “Don, you go anywhere that you believe God is leading you to go and minister. Some of the places you go to some of the brethren will criticize you. Don't fight with them; just keep going where you know God wants you to go.” Of course, Dr. Roberson was speaking about doctrinally-solid Baptist churches. And that was good advice. He was right on both points—some brethren criticized me, and I learned not to spend valuable time defending myself.For the first eight years of my ministry. I was a Southern Baptist. When I began to see the liberalism and compromise taking place in the Southern Baptist Convention, I became an independent Baptist by conviction. I'm grateful for that decision, and I would do it all over again—even today. I soon learned, however, that independent Baptists sometimes aren't very independent in their relationships with one another. If I did things the way they wanted me to do and went where they wanted me to go and refused to go where they did not want me to go, I was accepted. But when I didn't meet those criteria, I was not always accepted.Over my nearly seventy years in the ministry, I have seen several leaders try to be a Baptist pope (although not, of course, with that title). None of them have succeeded. The reality is that we must each answer to God—not to each other. “Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. . . . But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ” (Romans� 14:4, 10).When biblical doctrine or sin is involved, of� course we must separate. And yes, we all have our� preferences. We have a right to have them. However,� pastors, in particular, have a responsibility to establish� leadership guidelines for their church workers. But,� pastors do not have the right to determine preferences� for other churches.I realize we must not call the violation of biblical principles a preference. We are commanded to “contend for the faith” (Jude 3). But we need not be contentious about matters not pertaining to the faith.Throughout the New Testament, we have examples of the conflict that comes through pride and the good that comes when people who have differences give deference to one another.John the Baptist“And they came unto John, and said unto him, Rabbi, he that was with thee beyond Jordan, to whom thou barest witness, behold, the same baptizeth, and all men come to him. John answered and said, A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven. Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before him. He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom's voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:26–30).Some of the disciples of John the Baptist realized that when Jesus began His ministry, people were going to Him instead of to John. They told John, “all men come to him.” (By the way, all of the people were not going to Jesus. We often unwisely exaggerate when we want to make a point.)The answer that John the Baptist gave to his disciples was classic: “He must increase, but I must decrease.” John did not become jealous or competitive. In fact, he was not trying to make disciples for himself in the first place; he was pointing people to Christ. So rather than feeling insecure, he rejoiced in what Jesus was doing and how the people were following Christ.I fear—and I can speak from experience—that we have a tendency to criticize others not because of something bad they are doing, but because they are doing more and are seeing more results than we are. In short, we become jealous.None of us are in competition with other good Bible believing organizations or individuals. We are on the same team. Their success is our success, and it's all for the glory of God. But when team members become jealous of one another, we all lose.John the Apostle“And John answered and said, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name; and we forbad him, because he followeth not with us. And Jesus said unto him, Forbid him not: for he that is not against us is for us” (Luke� 9:49–50).Basically, what John was saying was, “They didn't graduate from our college” or “They weren't with our mission organization” or “They are not in our camp” or “They aren't doing things like us.”And what did Jesus tell John? “Forbid him not: for he that is not against us is for us.”To allow others to do things differently than we do without criticizing them is Christlike. And to attempt to be an enforcer of others is Johnlike—the immature, pre-resurrection version of John.Paul and BarnabasPaul and Barnabas were a wonderful team who were greatly used of God. In Acts 13, they were sent out as missionaries from the first organized church missions program. Throughout Acts 13 and 14, we read of the amazing ways that God used them. Then, when they returned to Antioch, they continued to work together, including speaking to the Jerusalem council in Acts 15.But when it came time for their second missionary journey, they had a falling out.“And some days after Paul said unto Barnabas, Let us go again and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they do. And Barnabas determined to take with them John, whose surname was Mark. But Paul thought not good to take him with them, who departed from them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work. And the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other: and so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus; And Paul chose Silas, and departed, being recommended by the brethren unto the grace of God” (Acts 15:36–40).Because we know this story of Paul and Barnabas' disagreement, we aren't surprised when we read it. But if we had known Paul and Barnabas before this incident, we would never have suspected that they would have parted� ways.Perhaps the most amazing thing about this separation, however, is not that it happened, but what did not happen—specifically that they did not spend time criticizing one another. In fact, you do not find one word in Scripture of Paul speaking poorly of Barnabas or Barnabas of Paul. They parted ways, but they did not spend the rest of their ministries criticizing one another. And they did not draw John Mark into tests of loyalty over their disagreement. In fact, just before Paul was martyred, he makes the statement, “Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry” (2� Timothy� 4:11).There are things that happen that make it nearly impossible for particular people to work together. But even if two Christians can't work together, they can be kind to one another. If we have differences with a brother, we can determine, “Even though I cannot work with this person, I am not going to be critical of� him.”Paul in Prison“Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will: The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds: But the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel. What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice” (Philippians 1:15–18).Paul was in prison for no other reason than preaching the Word of God. He did not look at his prison time as a hindrance to the ministry, but as an opportunity to preach to the other prisoners, to the people in authority, and to all of the other leaders. No doubt, many of them were converted.Because of Paul's boldness, many other leaders became bold in preaching the gospel. Some of these were sincere. And evidently, some of these were just trying to irritate Paul. Yet, Paul's conclusion was that regardless of the preacher's motives, he would rejoice that Christ was being preached.Years ago, I determined that I, too, will rejoice when others are preaching the gospel. When God's Word is preached and people are getting saved, baptized, and added to the church, I am going to rejoice. Rather than being jealous or critical, I am going to rejoice.I think we independent Baptists need to take Jesus' words in John 13:35 more seriously than we do: “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”If you are preaching the gospel, winning people to the Lord, discipling believers, and training leaders, you are my brother in Christ, and I love you, appreciate you, and will gladly pray for you. We can be brothers without being identical twins. Category Pastoral Leadership Tags Pastoral Leadership Christian Living
Church Planting in a Metro AreaChris ChadwickFri, 05/19/2023 - 17:08 Metro “You want me to go where?” Who says that—a rebellious teenager? a timid employee? How about a young man from Amarillo, Texas, who God is calling to plant a church in San Diego, California?Yes, those were my words in December of 2001, as I was overwhelmed that God would allow my family and me the privilege of starting a church in San Diego. But it wasn't all about the joy of the opportunity—I also knew my weaknesses, and that knowledge frightened me.San Diego is the eighth largest city in the nation, with 1.4 million people. In 2001, there were two independent Baptist churches and few non-Baptist, gospel-preaching churches in the entire city. And, although more conservative than Los Angeles or San Francisco, San Diego isn't exactly a bastion of Christendom.By God's grace, we followed His call. Fast-forward more than twenty years: I'm overwhelmed to say God has built and sustained Canyon Ridge Baptist Church. He's done more than I ever thought He would and grown us in ways I never thought possible. We're blessed with a fantastic team of servants dedicated to sharing the gospel in our city. God has blessed us with a permanent location in the heart of San Diego.Through my office window, I can see� low-income, transient, and primarily immigrant housing. Our neighborhood is a thriving international community with over seventeen mother tongues spoken. It's a community where you can rent a 350-square-foot studio for $1,950.00 a month and find yourself serenaded every night by a chorus of homeless folks singing.� I wouldn't trade it for the world.I want to share five simple thoughts that have helped me over the past two decades of church planting in a metropolitan/urban area. If you are a church planter or praying about planting a church in one of the needy cities of our nation, I pray these will help you as well.� People Come FirstPersonal evangelism is a must when building a church in an urban environment. Guests won't run through your doors because you put up a sign and design a snazzy website. In the early days of Canyon Ridge, I spent a minimum of twenty-five hours a week knocking doors, meeting people, and participating in outreach and community events. Why? People only came to church after I engaged, encouraged, and shared the gospel. Over twenty years later, we still have an aggressive outreach plan. This year, we will hand-deliver through door-knocking and canvassing over 250,000 invitations to church—all to meet more people and introduce them to Jesus.Commit to Learning a New CultureAs I've mentioned, I came to San Diego from Texas. Texans drive differently, dress differently, eat differently, enjoy different hobbies, and think differently from San Diegans. Are there similarities? Sure! But my family and I still had to make a huge adjustment when we moved here. The more you're with the folks of your community, the more you will understand the culture. Learn and embrace the culture; it's a worthy pursuit that will help you build gospel influence.� Understand You Will Say “Goodbye” RegularlyOf the many things metropolitan areas are known for, longevity is not one of them. You'll say “goodbye” to folks who change jobs, college students who graduate and move away, people who leave for a more comfortable community, and interns who get full-time jobs elsewhere. If you live in a military city like ours, you'll have the added burden and blessing of service members joining and moving.Church planter, I pray that God will bring people who will live as “missionaries” in your area—folks who will serve in your church not because it is home or comfortable but because God has called them. They'll give up the American dream of a house and being close to family for an eternal reward. They, like you, will live in a smaller house or apartment and pay exorbitant prices for the privilege of ministering in your community. And they will encourage you more than words can say.In reality, you'll say goodbye a lot, but you'll also be constantly surprised by all the hellos and by how the Lord encourages and sustains you and His church.Accept That Your Church May Never Own a BuildingFor the first five years of Canyon Ridge, we met in a 1,200-square-foot community center. We spent the next two years in a school auditorium on Sundays and the next year and a half in the multi-purpose room at our current location. We've met in hotels, Navy chapels, literally under a tree, and in our house.In 2009, the Lord miraculously provided a building. It was in disrepair, a blight in our community, and looked like a cross between a bundt cake pan and a spaceship, but it was ours! Even after extensive remodeling, it doesn't look like a “normal church.” But to me, it's cooler! I'm thankful for God's provision.My point is this: People might visit your church because of a cool or permanent building; but it won't be enough to keep them there. People came to both a recreation center and a school cafeteria and planted their lives in this local church because they were loved, discipled, and encouraged to walk with Jesus.� A building is a means to an end, not the sign of success or failure. Your church may never own a building—that's okay! You may never have a permanent location—that's okay! You're not called into the commercial real estate business; you're called to reach people with the gospel. Don't make excuses. Simply do your best with what you have, and trust Christ to build His church.You Can Trust HimPastoring in a metropolitan/urban area is fantastic. It's electric when people from different parts of the country and world gather in the church they were saved in for one purpose: to glorify God and be edified for the work to which God has called them.� I think back to when I asked God, “You want me to go where?” I'm so glad God called me, and I'm glad I went.� Could it be that God wants you to go there? If God is calling, go. For Christ has promised, “. . . upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). You can trust in Him! Category Church Planting Tags Church Planting
Four Ways Christian Education Strengthens FamiliesEric LeeTue, 07/11/2023 - 13:24 Family grid The objective of all true educators is to provide learning to students. But the framework in which that takes place in a Christian school is clearly distinctive from its secular counterparts. Our colleagues in the arena of public education see the state as the party responsible for educating a child. As Christians, we view this responsibility differently because we see it through the lens of Scripture which plainly declares that this weight rests on the shoulders of parents: “And ye shall teach them your children, speaking of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up” (Deuteronomy 11:19). “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).� A Christian school can assist parents as parents delegate part of this responsibility to trustworthy educators. Christian education, rather than competing with parental responsibility, can greatly aid parents. Here are just a few of the ways that Christian education strengthens families.1. A Biblical Wordlview“Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me. For this cause have I sent unto you Timotheus, who is my beloved son, and faithful in the Lord, who shall bring you into remembrance of my ways which be in Christ, as I teach every where in every church” (1� Corinthians� 4:16–17).Godly teachers can reaffirm the biblical worldview already being taught in the home. The student's forming and acceptance of biblical beliefs is aided by the compounding effect of hearing the same truth from multiple angles and perspectives. When the message from Sunday is echoed by the math teacher on Monday, its ability to penetrate the heart is enhanced. When the verse discussed during family devotions Thursday night is the memory verse in Bible class, there is a cumulative effect.Conversely, a number of competing secular influences consistently attempt to chisel away at the biblical foundation laid in a Christian home. Sunday's message and Thursday's family devotions can be drowned out by the varied opposing voices of the secular world. The Bible warns that a young person is not to listen: “Cease, my son, to hear the instruction that causeth to err from the words of knowledge” (Proverbs 19:27). Parents are in a key position to protect their children from those voices.2. Daily Exposure to Godly Mentors and Role Models“He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed” (Proverbs� 13:20).The mentors and role models a young person is exposed to on a daily basis in a Christian school can be spiritually strengthening. The coach of the sports team, school administrator, cafeteria volunteer, music teacher, classroom instructor, and guest chapel speaker are just some of the individuals God can use in a young person's life. These servants of God can inspire transformation in the lives of students. God certainly worked in my life this way, and I am eternally grateful for the influence of men like my high school coach who God used to call me into that same ministry.� 3. Wholistic Development“And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man” (Luke 2:52).� Mankind is a multi-faceted creature with physical, emotional, and social needs. Sports, music, and extracurricular opportunities are key components in most schools. A wholistic development, though, must include spiritual development. Christian education not only provides Bible classes, but it also infuses and integrates Scripture and a biblical worldview into every aspect of education. Christian education strengthens families by providing an education of the total student in a wholistic way that education which deemphasizes the spiritual nature of man and often promotes anti-Christian views cannot provide.4. A Nurturing Environment� “Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners” (1 Corinthians 15:33).It would be foolish to claim that Christian education is immune from sinful behavior. Unfortunately, the sins of society penetrate the walls of a Christian school too. But Christian education actively seeks to create a habitat that exposes these destructive attitudes and actions for what they truly are. In a biblically-based way Christian education provides a nurturing environment that is the kind of spiritual soil necessary for young people to experience consistent growth. This Christian greenhouse is extremely beneficial for a young person as they establish their foundation for life.� While this brief list is far from exhaustive in outlining the benefits of Christian education to the Christian family, it does provide a taste of the type of joy-filled partnership that can result from this biblical model. The fruit of this partnership between parents and Christian educators is well worth the time, money, and energy involved in laboring to train the next generation of Christian leaders. Together the home and Christian school can experience the incredible blessing of seeing God continue to develop laborers for His harvest. Category Family Helps Tags Christian Education Parenting Family Helps Family
Holding Fast the FaithRick HoukTue, 07/25/2023 - 13:19 How Understanding “The Faith” Strengthens Daily Faith pillars in the sun Many Christians think of doctrine as irrelevant to their daily lives. They hope their pastor studies it, but they don't think of it as having practical importance to the average Christian on a Thursday afternoon.� In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. You see, it is understanding and believing “the faith” that allows us to exercise daily faith.� � When Jude wrote to “earnestly contend for the faith” (Jude 3), he addressed his epistle “to them that are sanctified� by� God� the Father,� and preserved� in Jesus� Christ,� and� called.” In other words, that's every Christian.� So, if strong doctrine leads to strong faith, what should we know about developing strong doctrine?� Our Faith Rests on the Word of GodFor a Christian, all doctrine comes from one final authority: the Word of God. “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine . . .” (2 Timothy 3:16).� God revealed His truth that he wanted us to have, recorded it in the inspired words of Scripture, and preserved it for all generations.� Jesus told His apostles that He would give them His truth and they were to pass it on to the early church. In Acts 2:42, we learn that after three thousand souls were saved on Pentecost, the believers “continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship . . . .” The moorings of the early church and the rapid spread of the gospel was dependent upon sound doctrine to unify the believers in the local churches.� The early church delivered the gospel and the faith to their generation, who in turn passed it on to the next generation, and now we have these precious truths today. All of this transfer happened through the written Word of God. What God delivered to us through “holy men of God” who “spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (2 Peter 1:21) is all we need. It is final, complete, infallible, inerrant. It is absolute truth.� Our understanding of truth may grow, but the Word of God itself is, like God, immutable, infallible, and eternal.� Our Faith Is Kept by Sound TheologyThe faith once delivered to the saints can only be maintained and grow when we live and practice sound doctrine. Paul told Titus in Titus 1:9, “Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.”Without sound doctrine, would we know the truth about salvation, eternal life, and eternal security? Would our faith have any stability or confidence? Would we be able to adequately give godly counsel? Would we be able to witness to the unsaved with confidence? Would we be able to defend our faith? Would we not be deceived by false teachings? Would we know how to walk in the Spirit and live a holy life? The answer to all of these is “no.” To live and propagate our faith it must be built upon the sound teachings of the Scriptures.Our Faith Should Lead to Daily ApplicationA.W. Tozer said, “There is scarcely anything so dull and meaningless as Bible doctrine taught for its own sake. Truth divorced from life is not truth in its biblical sense, but something else and something less.” Our doctrine should affect our behavior. James� 1:22 admonishes us, “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.” A wealth of theological knowledge is practically meaningless unless we are regularly applying truth to our daily lives. Then, and only then, will our theology bring growth to our lives. Category Christian Living Tags Apologetics Bible Study
Trust In HimDr. Paul ChappellTue, 08/08/2023 - 04:10 Three Characteristics of a True Trust in God bridge For as often as I have gone to the book of Psalms in times of fear or stress, I'm always amazed when I read a psalm which I've read many times but its truths meet my need as if I had never read it before. That was the case when I came to Psalm 62.Terrie and I had just completed a ministry trip to the Middle East in which God's blessing had exceeded our expectations. The night before our final flight home we were required to take a PCR Covid test before re-entry to the United States. We had already taken several required tests throughout the trip. We took what we expected to be our last test, retired to our room, and finished packing for our homeward flight.� A few hours later, we received a paper under our hotel door with results from our tests. Both of us were positive and were immediately mandated to isolation in our room for� ten days of quarantine.� It was the most disappointing news we could have gotten. Not to be dissuaded, however, I moved quickly into “fix it” mode. For the next two days, I researched guidelines, made phone calls, sent emails, and reached out to anyone and everyone I could think of who might be able to help us out of our confinement and back home where I just knew we needed to be.� I prayed, too. That's what pastors do. But I leaned pretty heavily on my frantic efforts as well.� Learning to trust is hard for planners.� Eventually, I turned my attention to reading through Psalms. As I read chapter after chapter, my soul began to calm. As my focus returned to the Lord, my efforts were redirected. Instead of incessantly calling the front desk to ask about the finer points of quarantine guidelines and retesting, I found myself with a burden to talk to our Muslim hosts at the hotel about Jesus. (As a result of these conversations, at least one man trusted Christ in the weeks following. He even sent me a picture of himself at church a few weeks later.)� As I reached Psalm 62, God did something remarkable in my heart. As I sat in that dark hotel room with the Muslim qibla arrow pointing toward Mecca on the ceiling above me, I read about God being the rock of my salvation. I read from a king who trusted God as his salvation even when beset by ruthlessly competitive enemies. And then I came to verse 8: “Trust in him at all times; ye people, pour out your heart before him: God is a refuge for us. Selah.”� It was as if every word of that verse seeped into my frustrated, restless soul.� I read it again. And again.� I pulled out a pad of paper and began writing.� Truth be told, most Christians assume they trust God because they believe they should. If you had asked me early in our foreign quarantine if I was trusting God, I would have said, “Yes, of course.” And then I would have turned my attention to the next phone call I could make to get out.� But the reality is that times of challenge or crisis often reveal undeveloped trust in our lives. It is at these moments that God desires to strengthen our faith. But it all begins with a choice to trust in God instead of trusting in self.� And Psalm 62:8 reveals three important characteristics of true trust in God that the Lord showed me that memorable day in a Middle Eastern hotel room.� A Constant TrustThere in the hotel room where I didn't want to be and had spent the past few days unsuccessfully trying to escape from, I was struck first by the word all. “Trust in him at all times.” There are some times when it seems easy to trust the Lord: when He answers your prayers, when you see fruit for your labors, when hope surges and you can envision how God will bless in the� future.� But there are other times when it is harder to trust the Lord: when you've prayed for a long time and there is no answer, when anxiety is wrapping its grip around your mind, when you've labored and served but see no fruit, when obstructions rise in your path and it seems impossible to move forward, when you are stuck in a foreign hotel room unable to get home to preach on Sunday.� God wants us to trust Him when the way is clear and when the night is dark. Faith in God is an abiding duty and a perpetual privilege. He is always worthy of our confidence.� I've sung the hymn “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms” since I was a child. But those everlasting arms aren't just a hymnwriter's well-worded phrasing. They are a spiritual reality, always available to God's people: “The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms” (Deuteronomy� 33:27). When your faith is weak, you can lean into God's everlasting arms. They do not, indeed they cannot, fail.� Sometimes we think of trusting God as more of a passive decision—something we just sort of do in the background while at the same time exhausting all other options until something works out. Oh yes, of course I'm trusting the Lord. But I just need to also . . . .That's not, however, how the Bible pictures trust. Throughout God's Word, especially in Psalms, we see trust as an active decision of faith. Notice the choice to trust that is voiced in these� verses:“O Lord my God, in thee do I put my trust: save me from all them that persecute me, and deliver me” (Psalm� 7:1).“And they that know thy name will put their trust in thee: for thou, Lord, hast not forsaken them that seek thee” (Psalm� 9:10).“In the Lord put I my trust: how say ye to my soul, Flee as a bird to your mountain?” (Psalm 11:1).“Preserve me, O God: for in thee do I put my trust” (Psalm 16:1).When you are besieged by trouble, when you can say with the apostle Paul, “without were fightings, within were fears” (2� Corinthians 7:5), when darkness surrounds you and anxiety grips you, that is when trust is an active choice of faith.� David's choice to trust God at the Psalm 62 moment in his life—likely during Absolam's rebellion and attempt to take the kingdom—shows us a man experiencing stillness under stress. He chose to wait silently on the Lord, not even trusting himself to answer his tormentors.� Those who trust in the Lord at all times develop a patience that is a testimony to the grace of God at work in their lives. They are willing to take decisive action, but only under the direction of the Lord and in dependence on Him through their action.� Earlier in this chapter, David expressed this patient expectancy: “My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from him” (Psalm 62:5).� An expectant trust in God is never disappointed. We can trust His faithfulness. We can trust His unfailing love. We can trust His promises. And we can trust His plans for us.� “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end” (Jeremiah� 29:11).A Complete TrustNot only does Psalm 62:8 instruct us to trust in God, but it invites, “pour out your heart before him.”� The language of pouring out your heart conveys holding back nothing. A true trust in God is complete. It is the emptying of one's soul to God.� Have you ever had a friend with whom you felt you could fully and freely share your heart without fear of being misunderstood or judged? These kinds of friendships are rare. For me, my wife Terrie is this confidant. I know I can tell her the most personal thoughts and struggles of my heart and be met with love and encouragement. The Lord has blessed me also with a few other friends with whom I can speak freely without needing to first contextualize or defend my perspective. I'm thankful for them.� God is the friend with whom you can fully unburden your soul. You don't weigh Him down with your confession of sin or burdens. He will never push you away because of something you share with Him. In fact, He knows it before you tell Him and still invites you to share it. He has the ability to lift your spirit and meet the deepest needs of your� heart.� So empty your soul before the Lord. Turn the vessel of your soul upside down, and give Him your thoughts, desires, fears, and anxieties. Hide nothing from Him.� Confess your sins, knowing that He stands ready to forgive (1 John� 1:9).� Share your needs, assured that He is a present God who helps (Psalm� 46:1).� Tell Him your worries, confident that He is able to give you peace (Philippians� 4:6–7).� In Psalm 139, David began by exalting the thorough intricacy of God's knowledge of him: “O Lord, thou hast searched me, and known me.” Over the next sixteen verses, David describes how God knows everything about him, including his whereabouts, activities, and even his thoughts before he thinks them. He describes God's care in creating him and the greatness of God's presence to envelop him.� Is it any wonder then, that after David establishes the kind sovereignty and interested attention of God to search and know him that he concludes with a prayer fully exposing the deepest parts of his heart and thoughts to God? “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm� 139:23–24).God is a safe confidant. You can empty your soul before Him and earnestly place your trust in Him.� In fact, the very process of pouring out your heart before God actually builds your trust. It is exactly what an anxious, frazzled soul needs. � A Confident TrustI love that Psalm 62:8 not only says that God is a refuge, but that it adds “He is a refuge for us.” It's personal.� It's amazing to see how many times in just eight verses David refers to God as his rock, salvation, and refuge—not just in a general sense, but in a personal sense:“Truly my soul waiteth upon God: from him cometh my salvation. He only is my rock and my salvation; he is my defence; I shall not be greatly moved. . . . He only is my rock and my salvation: he is my defence; I shall not be moved. In God is my salvation and my glory: the rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God. Trust in him at all times; ye people, pour out your heart before him:� God is a refuge for us. Selah”� (Psalm� 62:1–2,� 6–8).In every storm of life, God offers us the shelter and security of His presence. We can stew in our anxiety and unrest of spirit, or we can run to Christ, unburden our souls to Him, and find peace in His shelter. Missionary Amy Carmichael wrote of the settledness that comes as we fix our hearts on the Lord and seek Him as our refuge. “Blessed are the single-hearted,” she wrote, “for they shall enjoy much peace. If you refuse to be hurried and pressed, if you stay your soul on God, nothing can keep you from that clearness of spirit which is life and peace. In that stillness you know what His will is.”What did God as His rock, salvation, and refuge mean for David? It meant God was his place of stability and safety. When difficulties arose, enemies assaulted, or his footing slipped, David could run to the Lord for security, protection, and rescue.� To us who know Jesus, there is an added richness to these words. Jesus is our refuge and redeemer. He bore the full wrath of God for our sin. He saved us from the eternal penalty of sin and rescues us today from the power of sin's hold in our lives. We have free access to the presence of God, our refuge, through Christ. Psalm 91, which also speaks of God as our refuge, is especially meaningful when we remember that we dwell in the secret place of the most High by abiding in Christ: “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust” (Psalm� 91:1–2).� People who don't know Christ as their refuge feel the need to hide from God when their soul is troubled. But we who know Him can rejoice in pouring out our hearts to Him and finding in His presence the love, forgiveness, and assurance that we need.� God is our refuge, and His Word is our resource. It is in the written Word of God that we find His promises and sustaining grace to confidently trust Him.� David knew this, and he relied on God's Word: “God hath spoken once; twice have I heard this; that power belongeth unto God” (Psalm� 62:11). Indeed, God's written Word is the record of His spoken—inspired by His very breath—Word. “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (2� Timothy� 3:16–17).� Do you want a more confident trust in God? Turn to His Word.� “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17).SelahSo there I was, held against my plans in a hotel room in the Middle East. I had tried everything I could to reverse the situation. But instead of rescuing me from an unwanted quarantine, God was rescuing me from the frustration and anxiety that had insisted on my plans above His. And He had done it through one short verse in Psalm 62. In these words, He had brought me back to a place of trust.Trust Constantly:� Trust in him at all times;Trust Completely:� ye people, pour out your heart before him:Trust Confidently:� God is a refuge for us. Selah.But God's work in my heart wasn't done. As I finished the verse, I saw that single, final word: Selah.� If you don't know what selah means, that's because it isn't an English word. It's a Hebrew word that, rather than being translated into English was transliterated—spelled out with English letters so we can pronounce it. Bible scholars assume it's meaning is one of two possibilities: a musical notation (remember, the psalms were Israel's songbook) or a word that means, “pause and reflect.” It seems to me that either of these possible definitions are the same. Whether it calls the musicians to pause or the reader to pause, the end result is a� rest.� Rest—even the word sounds calming to a chaffed, anxious soul. “Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him,” Psalm 37:7 admonishes.� Rest takes time. Pouring your heart out to the Lord isn't done in thirty seconds. Usually when I'm anxious, I also feel rushed. There's this building sense of hurry in my spirit that doesn't allow me to really pause, to enjoy a selah.� But the process of pouring out my soul to God settles my spirit. It realigns my perspective so that I take more delight in God's presence and am less focused on my performance.� One of the best cures for anxiety is worship. After we empty our souls before the Lord, it is good to turn our attention on who He is and simply rejoice in His greatness. When we feel stressed and hurried and pressed up against the clock, it's good to lift our eyes to the One who transcends time and space and yet cares deeply for our needs. As we fill our minds with the realities of God and lift our hearts in praise to Him, anxiety's grip weakens its hold on us.� The rest that comes through seeking God as our refuge and laying down our anxieties in His presence brings a soul-rest. It's deeper than a vacation, deeper than sleep. It's an abiding rest in� God.� Lay down like a lamb in the green pasture, and bask in the care of the Shepherd. He is a good shepherd who “maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul . . .” (Psalm 23:2–3).This kind of rest is what every anxious heart needs. A rest to pause, reflect, renew, refresh, receive inner resilience.� Selah. Category Christian Living Tags Faith
Athlete OutreachJustin EngelmanTue, 08/22/2023 - 13:21 Reaching out to athletes and coaches provides a tremendous opportunity to reach a large percentage of a public school with the message of the gospel. football team praying It doesn't take long to notice the great spiritual needs at the average public high school. But getting into a local school with a gospel ministry can be challenging. One avenue few churches consider is through the athletic programs. In most public schools, athletics is a hub for student life. Ministering to the athletes and their friends is a way to serve a large percentage of a� school.� In 1982, my father, Bruce Engelman, witnessed a fatal car accident that involved youth under the influence of alcohol. Through this tragedy, the Lord gave him a burden to reach teens with the gospel. He had a career in sports broadcasting, so athletics was an easy way for him to connect with teens. He began a ministry that he called “Athlete Outreach.”� Our Lancaster Baptist Church youth staff began a similar ministry here in Lancaster, California, in the fall of 2015. Over the past eight years, we have had tremendous opportunities to minister to high school students and have seen players and coaches accept Christ as their Savior. Additionally, we've been able to counsel players through tragedy, depression, and addiction. We've conducted Bible studies in players' homes. And we've seen many come to church as a result of these contacts.� Here are five suggestions—all of which we have used at different times—that you can use to begin a ministry to high school students and coaches in your city.� 1. Offer to provide a chaplain to your local high school sports team. Being a team chaplain usually involves attending team practices at least once a week throughout the season and giving motivational challenges and prayer. The advantage of being a chaplain is that you are with the team so much that you have more personal and quality time to build relationships with the players and coaches. We make sure to present the gospel to the entire team at least once a season. But the contacts you make with the players and coaches allow you to share the gospel personally as� well.� 2. Provide and serve a team meal to a local high school team. Most coaches and booster clubs welcome any support from a local organization that will donate a free game day team meal. This opportunity can get you an open to door to teens and coaches. And remember, many coaches are also teachers and leaders in the school.� Serving a team meal is a perfect opportunity for a youth pastor to introduce himself and his youth group as a friend in the community and also to invite the players to a scheduled youth activity.� 3. Provide Gatorades or protein bars at a team practice. This is a simpler method to have an initial contact, and we have seen a simple team snack before or after a practice go a long way in starting relationships.4. Provide a breakfast or snack to the coaches at your local high school. Contact the athletic director of your local school and offer to bring breakfast or snacks to the coaches or teachers' lounge one morning. Coaches and teachers are often overlooked and underappreciated. We have found this well received and very appreciated.5. Invest in athletic advertisement for your church at your local school. Many high school athletic programs have sponsorship fundraisers that are open to the community. This is a great opportunity to support your local school while also advertising your church. Additionally, it's a good way to begin relationships with school leaders.� These five ideas can be adapted to your needs. You might even use two or more simultaneously—either in the same school or in multiple schools in your area.� Category Student Ministry Tags Outreach Public School Student Ministry
Project and Process ManagementTim ChristosonTue, 09/05/2023 - 12:50 Calendar chart When most of us think of ministry work, we think of shepherding people, leading souls to Jesus, and teaching and preaching God's Word. Yet for these essential roles to be successfully fulfilled, there is an unglamorous, easily-neglected side of local church ministry—the administrative side of managing projects and processes. It's the daily grind, and, frankly, it doesn't come naturally for many ministry leaders. But local church ministry benefits from intentional strategies and processes.� Most of us were surprised to discover just how much administrative work there is in local church ministry. Some of us avoid it, others muddle through it, and some even resent it. We can learn to see this labor as part of what it means to be faithful servants of a worthy Savior.� Nehemiah from the Old Testament has much to teach us in this area. A faithful Jew living in Persia, he sensed God's call to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the city walls. We can learn much from Nehemiah's character, courage, and leadership. But we can also learn from the details of his administrative processes. Despite limited resources, spiritual opposition, and ongoing threats of violence, Nehemiah led the people to complete their task in a way that gave clear testimony to God's favor: “So the wall was finished . . . and all the heathen that were about us . . . perceived that this work was wrought of our God” (Nehemiah 6:15–16).What led to this great finish? Earlier in the story Nehemiah said, “The God of heaven, he will prosper us; therefore we his servants will arise and build” (Nehemiah 2:20). The work began with confidence in God's hand of favor, which led the people to “arise and build.” That was the biblical and logical progression: God does what only He can do, and we do what He has assigned us to do. God's enabling and our effort go together. We see this pattern also in 1 Corinthians 3:9: “For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building.”� From Nehemiah's example, we see six steps to carefully and successfully steward the administrative work of ministry:� 1. Identify� You can't take aim until you know what the target is. Nehemiah “arose in the night . . . and viewed the walls of Jerusalem, which were broken down, and the gates thereof were consumed with fire” (Nehemiah 2:12–13).One of the best ways to identify the work is to consider each area of ministry for which you are responsible and ask, “What am I trying to accomplish?” Paint yourself a picture of the finished product. What does success look like from different angles? Clearly identifying where you are going will give a starting point for the following steps.2. Divide� Nehemiah 3 reveals in surprising detail how the work was divided among the available helpers. There were countless tasks to be accomplished, and Nehemiah broke them down into specific pieces.Sometimes ministry leaders recoil from this level of detail. But across multiple large projects recorded in Scripture, from the pattern of the Tabernacle to the construction of the Temple to the rebuilding of Jerusalem's walls, we discover that attention to detail has a vital place in spiritual work.Learning to divide large goals into individual steps is a developed skill that contributes greatly to forward momentum in ministry. Similarly, outlining repeated processes for vital areas of ministry leads to consistency and allows involvement from a greater number of people.� 3. Organize� Nehemiah 3 also reveals that there was a chronological sequence. The expressions “next to” and “after” are used repeatedly, because certain steps preceded others.Learn to break things down into parts and arrange them in order. Vincent Van Gogh, the famous Dutch Post-Impressionist painter said it well: “Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together.”In what sequence will your tasks occur? Are there timelines and deadlines involved? What meetings need to happen? Are there approvals required? Outline the steps, and arrange them in the most efficient� order.4. AssignThere are so many names listed in Nehemiah 3 that it's easy to lose count. But each name was important, and each represented a specific person with a specific responsibility.� Every task needs an owner. And when it comes to the work of ministry, part of our role as local church leaders is to involve and equip others for this work. (See Ephesians 4:11–12.) This means involving our church family in the� process.� 5. CommunicateCommunication is where the details get in front of the eyes and minds of those around you. From the very beginning of the rebuilding of the walls, Nehemiah was careful to communicate with those he was involving in the work: “Then I told them of the hand of my God which was good upon me; as also the king's words that he had spoken unto me” (Nehemiah 2:18).� Most of us need to communicate more often than we do, earlier than we do, and more clearly than we do. Everyone is busy and people are distracted, so if your work is going to succeed, it will require thorough, consistent communication.6. OverseeNehemiah 4 describes how when trouble came and enemies threatened the work, he tackled the issues, adjusted his plan, and mobilized the people to ensure� success. Nehemiah was the overseer of the work. He was responsible and faithful to all the minutia of the tasks that lay before the builders.� Growing churches, as well, need growing overseers. They need servant leaders who are committed to supporting those they lead by providing the resources, information, training, and tools they need to accomplish the work of the ministry.Jesus spoke of being “faithful in that which is least” (Luke 16:10). This often looks like doing the small things consistently—things that don't get noticed, aren't appealing, and may not scream for our attention. Helen Keller said, “I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and� noble.”� May we today do the work of managing projects, stewarding processes, and leading people—as unto the Lord. And I trust one day we'll rejoice to hear, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things . . . enter thou into the joy of thy lord” (Matthew 25:21). Category Pastoral Leadership Tags Administration Leadership
Still a BaptistDr. Paul ChappellFri, 09/22/2023 - 17:30 Still a Baptist This month I will celebrate my fortieth year being ordained as a Baptist pastor. No one could have prepared me for the changes that were ahead in the church and ministerial landscape over this forty-year period.I was raised as a Baptist and trained to be a Baptist preacher. While I believe there has been a succession of truth passed down through the ages, I have not found a line of church succession named “Baptist” that is identifiable every week of world history. I do believe, however, that churches whose doctrine of salvation and mode of baptism is scriptural have always existed since the time of Christ. And I believe that today those doctrinal distinctives are found in biblical Baptist churches.� I don't believe in a “Baptist Bride” position that only the churches which can trace their succession to the time of Christ are legitimate or that only the people who are members of such churches are part of the bride of Christ referred to in Ephesians 5:25–27. I have friends who are not Baptist who are wonderful Christians. � One of the Baptist distinctives is individual soul liberty. I believe every Christian must make doctrinal decisions based on his or her understanding of the Word of God. Even this article is not written to force my convictions on you. It is written to challenge your thought processes, especially if you are a Baptist pastor.� I am not a denominational Baptist. Most large Baptist denominations have struggled and compromised in recent decades over a variety of important issues, including the inerrancy of Scripture, creation, alcohol, women pastors, and ordaining gay clergy. I am happy to not be a part of such groups and have identified throughout my whole ministry as autonomous, or independent, of Baptist denominations.� Yet, I'm still a Baptist—and I am one by conviction. As I see Baptist pastors distance themselves from the name Baptist or young men who were, like me, saved and trained in Baptist churches claim that the name Baptist is unimportant, I have concerns. I invite you to think through some of these with me.Why Some Baptists Discard the NameI do believe there is a thought process a man who is trained as a Baptist but chooses to minimize or entirely shed the name works through. I'm just not convinced it is the right process.� Sometimes it is a marketing decision.� I get the fact that we want to present our church in brochures and on our websites and social media as something appealing. We don't want to seem negative. Good marketers remove the “distasteful” aspects of their products. So, in following the marketing logic, many pastors remove the name Baptist.� But it's worth asking the question: who are you winning when you do this? It's probably not unsaved people, who often don't understand or care about the differences between Baptist or non-denominational anyway.� I have found maintaining our historic and biblical identity helpful to our church family. If we lose potential members from different denominational backgrounds in that process, we likely have gained a good spirit in the church, maintained doctrinal purity, and attracted people who appreciate or become discipled in our doctrinal convictions.I don't want people to visit our ministry websites or social media or to even drive by our church without knowing we are unashamedly a Baptist church.Sometimes it is a perceived stigma.Some who withdraw from the name Baptist do so because a mentor who strongly identified as a Baptist sullied the name to them—perhaps through moral failure or a mean spirit or just plain weirdness. So now this disillusioned pastor wants to remove everything from his past.� Although each pastor and church will certainly have stylistic variances from the previous generation or from where they were trained, someone who is hurt by the past or believes there is a stigma to his heritage may take more pronounced steps to cast off any similarities to his recent predecessors. This is usually not just one thing, but is often a combination of things, including a distaste for having leadership requirements in the church, turning to more trendy cultural alignments, and avoiding strong doctrinal positions in preaching. I was recently talking with a pastor who is working through some of these issues, and I happened to call him “brother.” He responded, “Don't call me brother; that's the way I used to talk.”� The problem with this kind of reactionary thinking is that focusing on doing things differently than your past means that your experiences, rather than God's Word, becomes the standard for how you operate.� And speaking of God's Word, Ephesians 6:21 says, “But that ye also may know my affairs, and how I do, Tychicus, a beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord, shall make known to you all things.” (Sorry, brother, I couldn't resist.)Of course, shedding the name Baptist because of its stigma is not always because of hurts of the past. Sometimes it is just the concern that the public at large looks down on Baptists as being narrow-minded, out of touch, or mean-spirited. There is definitely a negative stereotype media portrayal of born again Christians, and sometimes Baptists, along these lines. And the truth is that there is a stigma to the name Baptist. But there is also a stigma to words like church and Bible.� But is removing the name the right answer?What the Name Baptist MeansWhen considering words of identification, it's good to know what those words represent. In the case of the word Baptist, there is a rich heritage and biblical identification that I do not see in any other single word. Identifying as a Baptist encompasses a biblical position and historical identity. At our church, we teach this in our new members class and emphasize it to our church family.� Biblical distinctivesI like to use the acrostic with the word BAPTISTS to explain the Baptist distinctives to new Christians. I explain that although there are non-baptist churches that hold some of these beliefs, the eight of these as a whole is what sets Baptist churches apart from others; they are what makes us distinct.� Biblical authority in all matters of faith and practice: We believe the Bible is inspired and infallible and is the final authority. It is from God's Word that we understand and teach the fundamental doctrines of our faith as well as pattern our church polity. (See 2 Timothy 3:16; John 17:17; Acts 17:11; Hebrews 4:12; 2 Peter 1:20–21.)Autonomy or self governing power of the local church: We believe that every local church should be independent of a hierarchical framework or outside governmental structure. (See Colossians 1:18; Acts 13–14, 20:19–30; Ephesians 1:22–23.)Priesthood of believers: God's Word assures believers that we have direct access to God through our relationship with Christ. We believe and teach that the priesthood of the believer is the unspeakably precious privilege of every child of God. (See Hebrews 4:14–16; 1 Timothy 2:5–6; 1 Peter 2:5–10.)Two offices within the church: Scripture only mentions two church offices—pastor (also referred to as elder or bishop) and deacon. These two offices are to be filled by godly men of integrity in each local church. (See Philippians 1:1; Acts 6:1–7; 1 Timothy 3:1–13; Titus 1:6–9; 1 Peter 5:1–4.)Individual soul liberty: We believe that each person must make a personal decision of repentance and faith in Christ. (See Romans 10:9–17, 14:1–23.) Parents do not make this decision for their children, and the government cannot make it for its people. Additionally, each person is responsible before God in matters of holiness and� conscience.Separation of church and state: The state should have no power to intervene in the free expression of religious liberty. (See Matthew 22:21; Acts 5:29–31; Romans 13:1–4.)Two ordinances—baptism and the Lord's Table: These ordinances have no part in salvation and only serve as pictures of what Christ did for us. (See Matthew 28:19; 1 Corinthians 11:23–26; Acts 2:38–43, 8:36–38; Romans 6:1–6)Separation and personal holiness: We believe that Christ's ultimate sacrifice demands our complete consecration, and we desire that our daily living would reflect the holiness of our great God. (See 2 Corinthians 6:14; 1 Peter 1:16.)We could list more, such as believers' baptism by immersion and the church as a body of saved, baptized believers. But ultimately these and others are embedded in the distinctions listed above.Historical identityThe history of those who have held Baptist convictions is a history of choosing to suffer for Christ over enjoying the favor of men. Whether at the hands of oppressive emperors or under the Roman Catholic Church or even from the Reformers themselves, Baptists have stood courageously through persecution for their biblical convictions.I think of Felix Manz in Switzerland who preached salvation by grace alone followed by believers' baptism for church membership. (This was in contrast to the Reformers who were teaching salvation by grace but church membership by infant sprinkling.) For his convictions on baptism and church membership, Manz was imprisoned multiple times and—because he kept preaching it and planting churches across Switzerland—was ultimately executed by drowning. I've stood on the shore of the River Limmat where his mother and brother watched him taken out to the middle of the river for his execution.� I think, too, of the whole congregation of the earliest Baptist church in Wales. Established in 1649, it was originally located in the town of Ilston but soon relocated to nearby Swansea. John Myles served as the first pastor, until he, along with several members from the church, fled persecution by immigrating to the American colonies. They ended up in Massachusetts where the same group established a Baptist church in 1663—the earliest Baptist church in the state. The town of Swansea, Massachusetts was named after this church's hometown in Wales. True to Baptist beliefs of individual soul liberty, the town was one of the first towns in New England founded on the premise of religious liberty for all.� We are all aware that, as rich as our history is, there have been those who claimed the name Baptist but we wished they wouldn't have! I have been clear with our church family over the years to state our disagreement with Baptists whose doctrine was false, such as Westboro Baptist, or whose spirit or ministry philosophy is toxic. But we have not allowed these exceptions to drive us away from our true heritage.Functional implicationsRemaining a Baptist is more than keeping the word on your church sign. I have always believed that having a Baptist church means having a church of Baptist people.� I remember back when we were averaging under fifty people in attendance and needed a pianist. A dear family visited our church, and the wife was an excellent piano player. They were saved but had previously been baptized in a church that taught a non-biblical view of “speaking in tongues” and that this was the evidence of salvation as well as that one could lose their salvation. Our belief about baptism is that the mode is immersion, the order is after salvation, and the authority to baptize rests in a church of biblical doctrine. (This is the historic Baptist position.) Thus, we encouraged this family that if they believed the doctrinal statement of our church, they should consider being baptized to identify with Christ and be added to our church. They chose not to be baptized in a Baptist church. We lost a pianist but kept our conviction. Had we filled our church with people of different doctrines and practices, we would today be more of an interdenominational church.Another practical aspect of remaining a Baptist church is following biblical teaching regarding the Lord's Table. First Corinthians 11 makes it clear that observing the Lord's Table was required, not optional, for the members of the Corinthian church. And the context of 1 Corinthians is clear that the Lord's Table is for a saved, baptized body of believers: “Unto the church of God which is at Corinth…” (1 Corinthians 1:2). It may seem easier, maybe even more polite, to let an unsaved person take the elements, but it is not scriptural.� Church polity is another practical distinction of a Baptist church. Baptists are not elder ruled in the sense of a small group choosing the next pastor. In fact, the most congregational decision of a Baptist church is the election of pastors and deacons. We see this in Acts 6 in the verbiage, “Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men…”� (Acts 6:3). In the pastoral epistles of Timothy and Titus, we see that pastors lead the daily ministries of the church, working with deacons. In Ephesians 4:11–12, we see pastors are to equip the entire congregation for “the work of the ministry.”Additional ConsiderationsSo where does this leave a Baptist pastor thinking through whether being a Baptist is a an asset or a liability? Here are a few thoughts to keep in mind.The pressure on young Pastors to “succeed” is real.Our human nature desires the acceptance of others and the affirmation of numeric growth.� It was probably easier to be a Baptist in America fifty years ago when many large and influential churches were Baptist.� While there are still thousands of strong Baptist churches, the pressure to attract a crowd is great. And sometimes the quickest path to do that is by not taking a clear doctrinal stand.� But there is a ripple effect to this. When one church planter or pastor changes his polity, doctrine, or stand, he quickly encourages others to consider the same path. Seminars are conducted and books are written on how to transition away from the perceived stigma mentioned above. Guys are on social media every day or at meetings encouraging one another in each other's transition from their Baptist heritage.� Pragmatism is prevalent.� I remember being asked by prominent people in our community if the name Baptist was necessary. No doubt we lost some donations because we kept the name. However, God has provided and has enabled our church to build a large campus as we have grown numerically and to be a leader in missions giving within the Baptist world for many years.� I decided forty years ago I wasn't going to market the church identity away to hopefully get some other denominational people to join. Some good Christian people did this in other eras. For instance, the Christian & Missionary Alliance was built on this philosophy. (It began as two parachurch organizations focused on outreach and missions and eventually morphed into a denomination.) But those were different days when some sound truth was to be found in various types of churches. I still would not have participated in such a movement then, but I especially would not today as the ecumenical trend of our day downplays vital doctrines and clear biblical practices.� Rarely does a pragmatic pastor change just one major tenant of faith or distinctive. Usually there is a domino effect that follows as more beliefs become “non-essentials.”Some of the men who downplay the name Baptist have enough theological grounding to reject liberal doctrine and woke ideology with its false teachings of social justice and anti-family dogma. But many of these pastors have adapted a type of virtue signaling by removing the name Baptist or even doctrinal terms like atonement, sin, judgment, hell, or anything that might seem offensive to unsaved people.� � This idea of being relevant by downplaying truth was introduced in my lifetime in the seeker-sensitive movement forty years ago. This movement has had an impact on every group—Baptist and others.I remember thinking that being relatable was going to be key for me in growing a church in Southern California. Thankfully, a pastor preached a message that offended me. But the message also reminded me that being culturally sensitive is not as important as being Christ sensitive. (I eventually wrote a little book The Saviour-Sensitive Church on this thought. Also, this experience in my life has emphasized the need to lovingly pray for and purposefully dialog with pastors who are tempted to make unnecessary changes.)Most unsaved people don't know the difference between the name Baptist and any other label. I've always focused on reaching unsaved people rather than attracting people from other churches. In fact, it is interesting to me that while many in the seeker philosophy advocate dropping one's distinctive identity in order to reach the lost, at a second look, it appears they are trying to reach a broader number of people from various church backgrounds.A pastor needs to be careful of trying to accommodate every person. Decision making based on “not wanting to offend everyone” is not leadership. This type of philosophy has led American churches into wokism and a low view of Scripture.I still believe in the importance of making our message understandable. To that end, I employ methods like using projection on screens while I preach to show maps or pictures. I also believe there is value to making our message relatable. We try to use tracts with attractive graphics and think through what our church posts on social media. There is no reason to be sloppy, outdated, or mean spirited in conveying our message. Even so, relatability is not the goal. It is only part of keeping the message understandable.� Two illustrations of this are Peter and Paul as they preached the gospel in two different settings. When Peter preached in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2), he knew that his audience already understood monotheistic religion and looked for a Messiah. Thus, most of his message was simply pointing them to Christ as their Messiah. On the other hand, when Paul preached to the Greeks in Athens (Acts 17), he spoke of the many false gods and used illustrations and quotes from their culture in his message. Yet, Peter and Paul both related to their audience, and neither of them adapted or compromised the message itself in order to have a stronger appeal.� An effective preacher longs for people to understand truth, but he does not water down truth so as to seem relevant. Making the message understandable is important; changing the message to make it palatable is wrong. � The incremental changes pastors make today will be made in excess by the next generation.There is always a tendency to push things further along in the direction in which they are already headed. So when a pastor leans into a direction away from his heritage, those coming up in his ministry tend to take further steps in the same direction.� The likelihood of young men who grow up in a church that has relegated the identification of Baptist to a non-essential becoming Baptist pastors themselves is not strong. Young people in these churches who have a heart for things of the Lord tend to have more excitement about graphics and the presentation aspects of ministry than the desire to personally declare the gospel. I believe we send a dangerous message when we change our emphasis from doctrine and preaching to relevancy and excitement.� Dropping distinctives is not necessary for growth.� Thirty-seven years ago, the Lord brought Terrie and me to a dwindling congregation of about twelve at Lancaster Baptist Church. In those early years, I made repeated decisions to take bold stands for truth and to teach the Baptist distinctives of our church while at the same time passionately and strategically saturating our community with the gospel. For eighteen months, I knocked on five hundred doors per week in my personal soulwinning in addition to training our church family Thursday nights and Saturday mornings on how to share the gospel. The Lord blessed those efforts, and for the past thirty-two years now, I have pastored what some call a “mega church.” And all of this happened in Los Angeles County, California.I have found that God honors His Word and that people appreciate a pastor who is not given to change.� I believe the strongest churches in history have had strong commitments to truth.Do not believe those who tell you that dropping your distinctives is necessary to reach people. Our church today has the same doctrinal stand and convictions that it did when it was running twenty in attendance.� Does the Name Baptist Really Matter?Yes, there is something to a name.� Most parents check the meaning of a name before they give it to their children. And all decent parents want their children to value and uphold their family name.� We live in a day when society is forcing the change of traditional terms. Usually, there is an anti-God and anti-family agenda behind that.� While it is true that there are a variety of terms or nomenclature that can be adjusted for sake of clarity (Sunday school or small groups mean the same thing), there are some names that matter. In the case of the name Baptist, I have chosen to identify with the truth it represents and the people who died to pass it down.And forty years later, I am thankful to still be a Baptist.� Category Pastoral Leadership
Five Spiritual Disciplines to Strengthen Your FaithPaul ChoiFri, 10/06/2023 - 05:00 shoes and weight on a wood floor When I was in junior high, I had a fervent desire to become a great basketball player and one day possibly be drafted into the NBA. Now that never became a reality (not even close), but my love for the game was sincere.� I had posters of NBA athletes on the walls of my room; I watched the Chicago Bulls religiously on television; and I wore t-shirts with my favorite players imprinted on the front. Although my desire was genuine, I didn't get very far in my basketball “career,” because I wasn't faithful to implement the disciplines needed to improve my skills. My ambitions never amounted to much because they didn't fuel real action.Most believers have a sincere desire to be strong in their faith. We desire to live a victorious life in our Savior and be confident in our doctrine. We want to be “ready always to give an answer” to gainsayers and earnest inquirers that ask us for a reason regarding our beliefs.� But heartfelt aspirations alone will not lead us to become who we desire to be without implementing spiritual habits and disciplines. Only as we develop and practice spiritual habits will we be strengthened in our faith by God's grace.� So what are some practical disciplines that we can implement today to strengthen our faith?� Read God's Word“But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper” (Psalm 1:2–3).According to Psalm 1, we cannot experience a blessed and prosperous life without daily saturating our minds in God's Word. In 2 Timothy 3:16–17, Paul told Timothy that the Scriptures are able to make one spiritually mature and fully equipped for life and ministry. Without daily reading the Word of God, we will become spiritually anemic and fruitless.� Study God's Word“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).Every Christian must heed the admonition of “rightly dividing the word of truth.” This requires us to study and diligently exegete the truths contained in the Bible. A good practice would be to periodically select a subject (e.g. the deity of Christ, salvation by faith, a current social issue, etc.) to systematically study and develop a biblical understanding of God's teachings on the matter.� Memorize God's Word“Keep my commandments, and live; and my law as the apple of thine eye. Bind them upon thy fingers, write them upon the table of thine heart” (Proverbs 7:2–3).Memorize verses that answer the questions you have had in doctrinal questions. As you commit God's Word to memory, you'll be better equipped to give a defense for your faith to others who ask you.� Hear God's Word“As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby” (1 Peter 2:2).We must never grow weary of listening to the teaching and preaching of God's Word. As we receive truth from biblical teachers who “rightly divide the Word of truth,” our theological understanding will be strengthened. Be faithful to every service and Bible study at your church, and make it a regular habit to read God's Word throughout the week.� Share God's Word“And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also” (2� Timothy 2:2).As we teach what we are learning to others, we become stronger in our faith. When we prepare to teach a class, preach a sermon, disciple a new believer, share the gospel, or teach our children, it compels us to do some critical thinking in order to intelligently explain our theology. It is often the questions that we receive in these settings that drive us to further study the Scriptures which in turn will strengthen our faith.� Category Christian Living Tags Apologetics Bible Study Discipline
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