Monday, March 28, 2016

Easter: Window dressing or the right way?

I am just going to preface this has been interesting discussion I have had with people. So bring it on.

Imagine going to a restaurant that friends have told you about and have told you how wonderful it was. They tell you the best day to go is a week from now. So you get a chance to go with your spouse and walk into a beautiful eating establishment. You are immediately seated with no wait and the service is spectacular. The food and just the overall experience are nothing like you never had. You leave the restaurant already planning the next visit. You have scheduled to go the same time the next week. You walk into this establishment and they greet you and seat with very nice service again, but instead of fine china you dixie paper plates. The food is Ok but the ambiance is not the same and you walk away disappointed, because it did not meet up to your first visit expectations.

Is this what the church of America does with Easter? We have extra services because people are coming. We give gifts. We have radio promos. We bombard social media. We have extra choir specials. Why? Because people are coming on Easter and Christmas. Here is my question: Have we adapted Easter/Christmas people to be that way because the rest of our services are just a paper plate restaurant. Scoffers will say, "but it is resurrection Sunday!" Isn't every Sunday resurrection Sunday? The Book of Acts said the Christians in Antioch celebrated on the first day of the week because of the resurrection.

My point is why aren't we doing an "Easter" service every Sunday. Pastors will tell their congregations to give the first fruits (tithes) to the church, but we take one Sunday to put our best foot forward. Churches pray more, prepare more, practice more and give more than any other Sunday. Critics will say, "But more people are coming that Sunday!" And I say you are offering them a red carpet service with all the bells and whistles only for them to come back and get nothing like they got the first time.
Begin the name calling. Vote me out. I am not saying not give gifts or don't do the other publicity stuff for Easter, however what I am saying is doing for 52 weeks and then maybe our Easter/Christmas people might be 52ers.  If Easter is your best, then do it for the rest...of the year.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Andy Stanley is not the only one.

Andy is receiving lots of attention over part of his sermon where he talks about megachurches and small churches. If you want to know the exact quote then google it. You will get the videos and critics from both sides. I write this blog as a pastor in a small church in a  town in Alabama where the population growth is negative because kids are moving out and people are moving out. With all humility, I discipline myself to be true to the Scriptures and rightly divide the word of God. I am not writing to get on Andy Stanley. I am writing to say Andy said what the Southern Baptist leaders think. No, it is not about the size of the youth group and splitting between the high school and middle school. It is far deeper than that. I used to go to my state convention every year and see the plaques awarded to the churches for highest Cooperative Program giving. How about the back page of your State paper with the churches with greatest number of baptisms? I would sink in my church feeling helpless, because I am trying to pay the light bill. See,  Andy said what others think.
    First, Andy said what other think when it comes to Cooperative Program. I am fairly young and I still believe in the Cooperative Program. However, it is the Cooperative Program and Coercion Program. What do I mean by those harsh words? You crush my spirit when I am doing every thing I can to keep the lights on, to spend some money for local evangelism, and (yes, Andy) maybe even hire a part time youth minister. See, most of your small church pastors would love to give  10% or more to cooperative program, but I can't. No, salaries aren't out of whack. We got new thermostat to keep power cost  down. I am trying  to be obedient to what God is telling me to do with my small church and being good stewards with funds. I would love to be part of denomination life, but I can't get on the board because my CP giving is not where some figure man thinks it should be.
  Secondly, Andy said what others think when it comes to highlighting the denomination's finest. Jeremiah never led anyone to repentance. He cried and whined, but he was a prophet of God. Jeremiah, if he pastored a SBC church would never be asked to preach at a conference or convention and would possibly  be shunned and talked about because he is not doing some thing right. The problem is Jeremiah is right. He is right with what God called him to do. Why am I shunned because I preach the word of God and nobody comes to make some emotional decision? Why am I shunned because I don't think using confetti and a fire truck baptism pool for kids is what God wanted us to do? Obedience to the place God called me and to preach what God told me to preach is number one priority. I am tired. I am tired of struggling for "success" that my leaders have set up. I struggle because at times I feel alone. I hurt because I preach faithfully, love my sheep I shepherd and some LIFEWAY nerd tells me that I don't know what I am doing because he has studied the data. I need an embrace for the small town pastor from our Southern Baptist denomination. Embrace the guy who is not going to lead in baptisms but faithfully pastors and disciples his sheep. Embrace the pastor who tries to give to cooperative program but is trying to keep the lights on. Embrace the pastor who sticks to the Bible and not gimmicks. Embrace and edify him
Thirdly, Andy said what others think when it comes to jacked up theology. My job as pastor and father is not to make church fun. It is to bring people to connection with God through Jesus Christ. Some times that is not fun. Ask our Chinese brethren. Yes, God brings me peace and joy, however that comes at times when our circumstances may not be fun. I love small groups. I love fellowship. I love God. I can do that at my small church and the kids don't hate church. The thrust of church was never to make my kids happy but to refueled with a body of believers. Some of the greatest moments of faith building in my Christian walk has not been with my peers, but in the small church covered dish meal talking to people older and younger than me. I remember in seminary when I got in trouble for telling the professor of my church evangelism class he was wrong. The professor said we will never reach people in heterogeneous groups. I have been reached by people different than me. I have been fueled by people different than me.  Why? Because the Holy Spirit is great and God is powerful.  Philip should have never talked to that Ethiopian eunuch about Scripture. He should have told him to go find a small group of eunuchs.