Philip | Andrew | Meade

Vox Scriptura Vox Dei

Author: Philip Meade (page 1 of 47)

What I Told My Congregation Concerning The Reproductive Health Act

Below are comments I made to Graefenburg Baptist Church during worship on January 27, 2019. I am grateful for the help of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention and their mission to help inform churches of kingdom-related issues.

In case you aren’t aware, last Tuesday, which was the 46th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, the New York legislature passed a law called the Reproductive Health Act that expands abortion rights in New York. The law has elicited all kinds of reaction from both supporters and critics, with some celebrating and applauding while others lamenting the ongoing destruction of babies in the womb. Because we live in a day where information is quickly available but not necessarily well informed, I wanted to provide you with a quick briefing of what actually happened in New York.

The Reproductive Health Act made 3 primary changes to New York law:
First, the act removed abortion from the criminal code, meaning that abortions which take place during the third trimester – right up to the point of birth – are no longer a criminal offense.
Second, the act opened the door wider for who can actually perform an abortion. Under the new law, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and midwives are allowed to perform abortions.
Third, and the one that is getting the most attention, is that the act allows abortions in the third trimester – often called late term abortions – in the absence of fetal viability or if it is necessary to protect the life or health of the woman.

Before this new law, third trimester abortions were only allowed in New York if the mother’s life was in jeopardy. Now, however, late-term abortions are allowed to protect the health of the mother, which is not limited to physical health. It includes emotional, psychological, and the over-all well being of the patient. Obviously, the concern is that this dramatically widens the scope for late term abortions.

All of this is certainly difficult news to read, and from a Christian worldview, it is a direct attack against the goodness of God’s creative blessing of children. The Bible speaks clearly about how God understands life in the womb.

But here is the part I want to make sure we understand: None of this is new. Nothing that happened in New York this past week is new. Multiple states already have abortion removed from their criminal code. Multiple states already have loose requirements on who can perform an abortion. And yes, perhaps you didn’t realize, but multiple states already have little to no restrictions on third trimester, late-term abortions. Alaska, Colorado, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington DC – none of those have bans or restrictions in place to prevent late-term abortions.

January is the Sanctity of Life month. Christians are right to express regret and even anger over what has happened in New York. But where was the outrage week before last when this very thing was happening all over our country? Christians have a reputation for becoming irate over news headlines, but then show little stamina when it comes to actually getting our feet wet to make a difference. We have a tendency to wait until something new happens we don’t like, and then express our anger all over again. That isn’t good enough.

Nor is it good enough to demonize the other side. We will not save babies by calling people names and treating them as sub-human. Remember, the reason we are passionate about this in the first place is because we believe every human is created in the image of God – including those with whom we disagree.

So what are we to do? There are political responses that are necessary and important. But I’m your pastor, and my role is not to tell you what to do politically. I certainly hope your faith in Christ guides your political action, and we need faithful Christians involved in politics. But that is not my sphere this morning.

As your pastor, I do want to urge you to get involved, and the easiest way to do that is through an incredible ministry called A Loving Choice Pregnancy Center in Shelbyville. I have gotten to know the director whose name is Diana Cahill. Just a couple of weeks ago she gave me an updated tour of the facility and we talked a good while about how the church can respond. Although there is a time and place to express frustration through social media posts and memes, the way we will rescue children is by developing relationships with men and women who are looking for help. And that requires gentleness, humility, and most of all, the love of Christ.

The Missing Element In Our Discipleship

As a new year approaches, most Christians desire a more intimate walk with the Lord. The transition from “last year” to “next year” is accompanied by hopes of a better tomorrow and plans to improve our lives through adjusted routines and habits. For followers of Jesus, this usually means resolutions to faithfully read our bibles, become more committed to church-related activities, memorize Scripture, spend additional time with family, and begin tithing to the local church.

And I think that’s great. The change of seasons – the passing of something old and the arrival of something new – is an appropriate time to ask questions and consider the quality and character of our lives. Self-reflection and evaluation is certainly a biblical concept (1 Timothy 4:16). But as we know, it tends to fall apart rather quickly.

There are many possible reasons why our new year discipleship resolutions are difficult to keep, but one of the most fundamental is our forgetfulness of the means through which we have power to pursue holiness – our union with Christ.

The last few weeks I have been preaching on the tendency in conservative evangelical theology to separate the work of Christ from the person of Christ.  By that I mean we emphasize (rightly so!) the concepts of justification and sanctification and glorification that are all possible because of the work Christ has accomplished on our behalf at the cross and through his resurrection. No doubt, those are essential truths of our faith that do not deserve to be less preached, less taught, or less modeled by the church.

But the problem is when we present these benefits of faith as “things” Jesus goes and gets for us, turning the theological concepts of justification and so forth into the primary gift of our faith, and creating Jesus as a kind of “errand boy” who runs to the cross and delivers for us a beautiful package called “justification.” What’s wrong with that, you might ask? Isn’t justification a primary gift of our faith?

Well, yes. But here’s the thing. Jesus doesn’t deliver a package labeled “justification” to us. He delivers himself. Jesus is our justification. Jesus is our sanctification. Jesus is our glorification.  And what happens when we unknowingly divorce the work of Christ from the person of Christ is the creation of a benefit-centered faith that Jesus handed to us instead of a Jesus-centered faith that Jesus is for us.  Every single blessing of our salvation – all those wonderful terms such as justification and adoption and sanctification and glorification – they are all possible because of our union with Christ. If our oneness with Jesus does not exist, then neither does our justification. If we are not found in Christ, then we are not found adopted into God’s family. All of it relies on Christ in us and us in Christ. All of it.

Consider 1 Corinthians 1:30 – “And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption.” Jesus became to us our righteousness. Jesus became to us our redemption. Jesus became to us our sanctification. And why? Because we are “in Christ Jesus.” The work must never be separate from the person. Anthony Hoekema has said, “If Christ is indeed our sanctification, we can only be sanctified through being one with him.” (Saved By Grace).

How does this relate to our discipleship and a new year? Well, if we divorce the work of Christ from the person of Christ, we will undoubtedly divorce our work of discipleship from the person of Christ. Although we would never consciously suggest that Jesus is left out of our plans for discipleship and personal sanctification, we will become convinced that the right bible reading plan or the appropriate small group or a better church or healthier life or a increased determination will accomplish our freshly written resolutions. “It’s all for Jesus” we might say. But it’s not. It’s all in Jesus.

Whatever resolutions and whatever plans you have for 2019, I wish you the very best. If it is a new Bible reading plan, that’s great! (I have a new one myself I am excited about). If it is a commitment to a small group, that’s great! The point here is not to dissuade us from pursuing holiness. The point is to persuade us that these things will not sanctify us; Jesus is our sanctification. Jesus is both the one who provides the power of grace to pursue holiness and he is the object of that pursuit. We toil in Jesus to be shaped by Jesus to look more like Jesus.  

 

My Christmas Eve Devotion 2018

Oh come all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant. Come ye, oh come ye to Bethlehem.

It is a classic Christmas carol and a wonderful song we sing every year. But is this the only group to whom the invitation to come and experience Jesus is given? To the faithful, to the joyful, and to the triumphant?

Now, I mean no disrespect to the beautiful song at all – to be certain, Christmas Day is a day of faith and joy and triumph. But my hunch is that for some of us worshiping in Graefenburg, KY on Christmas Eve in 2018, there might be a sense of our own lack of faith, or perhaps very little joy, and maybe we feel more defeated than we do triumphant. And so what shall we do with this invitation that beckons the faithful, joyful, and triumphant to come to Jesus?

Yesterday before Sunday School I was hanging out in the cafe and it was a beautiful morning of greeting one another and exchanging gifts and lots of laughter. I saw one of my favorite people and said, “Merry Christmas, how are you?” And at first she wanted to reply with a typical, “Merry Christmas, I’m doing great.” But she stopped herself and let me know that she wasn’t feeling all that joyful at the moment because of a conversation she had with a family member. And we talked for a bit and she went on to her class, no doubt thinking that she was betraying the spirit of the season which is joy and happiness and spreading Christmas cheer.

But tonight, just hours before Christmas Day, I want to read for you one verse that, I hope, will put the invitation to come to Jesus in perspective. The prophet Isaiah hundreds of years before the birth of Jesus testified to his arrival. And here is part of what he said:

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.” Isaiah 9:2

You know, if it is the middle of a hot, summer day and the sun is shining down with its brilliant light, you might not even notice if I flip on the switch to a flashlight. But if you are searching for something that eludes you and you are covered in darkness, the illumination from a flashlight will be a great relief. You see, there is a reason why we make Christmas Eve services a candlelight service. It isn’t because it adds a touch of charm and beauty to the service, which it certainly does. But because we are reminding ourselves that Christmas Day is about the shining of a light into our lives filled with darkness. That Jesus is, in fact, the light of the world.

And that means that if today your world is filled with darkness. If you are struggling to find faith. If you don’t know where your joy went. And if your victory has been swallowed up in defeat. Then the invitation to come to Bethlehem is for you. For the great light of Jesus is most beautifully and powerfully seen when it shines in our messy, chaotic darkness. Jesus lived on earth, died on a cross, and rose from the dead to save you. To forgive you. And to change you, forever. And that means you can come to him or return to him right now.

Sam Allberrry is a pastor who earlier this year sent a message on Twitter that my wife forwarded to me. I loved it so much that I tucked it away to use as the closing to my comments to you tonight. He said,

“Oh come all ye faithless, joyless, and defeated. Come ye, Oh come ye to Bethlehem. Christmas is for the weary, for the messed-up, and for the broken. If your life isn’t instagrammable, Christmas is for you.”

Do you remember that friend of mine I told you about a moment ago? Who told me she had a difficult conversation with a family member and it was causing her not to have as much joy? She sent me an email this morning. I asked her permission to read part of it to you. The subject of the email was “Yesterday’s Joy” and she says:

“I wanted to say I was sorry for unloading my burden on you yesterday. In responding to your joyous greeting I could not lie. In sharing my burden your joy was spilled over to me and I was able to be in Bible study and worship with a lighter heart. After worship that joy was shared with others in Merry Christmas wishes, in hugs and ‘I love yous’. So even though I wanted to say I’m sorry I guess I’m not because Joy was shared in a way that it would not have been otherwise. And I believe by sharing my burden your joy was increased, if not then at least now as you know that that Joy was carried onto others.”

Bethlehem has never been a place of much comfort for those who fake it. But for the ones who come to Jesus in all their brokenness and sin and shame, the light truly has come.

And joy can come in the morning.

Christian, Do This Before Posting A Facebook Meme

Facebook memes are incredibly popular. I suspect about every other post on my Facebook wall is a meme that has been shared by a Facebook friend. Sometimes they make me laugh. Sometimes they make me thankful. But usually, they make me wonder. 

To be clear, the memes I am referring to are not the humorous ones or the silly ones, but the ones with a certain kind of “life message” embedded in them. These are the ones I see most. And they make me wonder. I wonder if the person sharing the meme has given any thought to the underlying message of what they are sharing with the world. Something might sound good at the moment and it is so easy to click “share.” But should we?

Here is my one-step process for deciding whether or not to post a Facebook meme:

  1. Is the message in the meme consistent with the gospel and supported by Scripture? 

Here is what we should think when posting a meme: could I immediately post a passage of Scripture in the comment box below the meme that affirms and supports the life message of the meme itself? Or, to put it another way, could I post a passage of Scripture that contradicts the message of the meme I just shared? If the answer to the first question is “no” or the answer to the second question is “yes” then don’t post the meme.

Here are three common themes of memes I regularly see that I would strongly suggest we never share again:

If someone hurts you, then that person doesn’t need to be in your life any longer. Cut them off.
I’m just so broken hearted as to how often I see this general message in memes shared by Christians. It is so devastatingly contrary to the gospel and everything that Christ has done for us. Imagine if Jesus took the advice of this meme as it pertains to us. Wow. (Romans 5:8)

Only you have the power to change your life and make good choices. 
I know, it sounds so motivational and empowering. But this is the message that causes deep depression and discouragement because people begin to wonder why they actually don’t have the power to change themselves. There must be something wrong with me, they will think, since apparently everyone else has this self-power to change. But we don’t. None of us do. Only Christ in us empowers us to do anything eternally good.  (John 15:5, Hebrews 11:6).

Follow your heart wherever it takes you.
Sounds great. Except for this and this.

The problem with these “life message” memes is that there is no larger context for them. When a meme says to follow your heart, there is no context for describing the necessity of a heart that has been transformed by Christ. When a meme says you have the power to change your life, there is no context for the dependence of Christ in us that is necessary for any real change.  Thus, these kinds of memes are ambiguous and largely unhelpful.

I might add that many preachers are essentially standing in the pulpit on Sunday morning and speaking one big, giant meme. Sounds motivational, but isn’t based on the Word of God.

At the end of the day, this is about our ongoing development of a Christ-centered worldview. That everything – absolutely everything – is filtered through the message of the gospel.

Including our memes.

My Favorite Magic – Post #1

The first “real” magic trick I can remember being performed for me personally was in a small Gatlinburg, TN magic shop. The close-up trick was called the “Fantastic” and it was a color changing stick that amazed me. I purchased the trick (my parents did actually) and I still love performing it to this day.  That started in me a deep love for magic and the history of magic. I have read a significant amount on the history of some of the most well known and beloved magicians (and some who the world has never heard of!). I am fascinated by magic in part due to the nature of communication between the magician and the audience.  A great magician is a great communicator, leading the audience to hear and see precisely what the magician wants to be heard and seen. For example, the American magician Harry Kellar was such a master of communicating on stage that he once remarked how “a brass band playing at full blast can march openly across the stage behind me, followed by a herd of elephants, yet no one will realize that they went by.” More than expert technique, that is the part of magic that I find irresistible.

What I want to do in this series of posts on my blog is not write about the history of magic or share my own personal journey through the amazing hobby (such as, I owned an online magic store for two years). Rather, I simply want to post a few videos of some of my most favorite performances, ranging from very old to very new, in no particular order. I will briefly describe what I find to be mesmerizing about the illusion and then let the trick speak for itself. I hope you find this to be a lot of fun, and perhaps even open your eyes to the wonderful world of magic. I have plenty of reading suggestions and even magic trick suggestions for those who might like to try their hand at fooling their friends or family.

The first trick I want to showcase is by a magician that most have never heard or seen. His name is Hans Moretti and he was a German magician who became a legend among other magicians for a few of his stage illusions. The trick that captivated me was his “Cardboard Box” illusion. Most of us are familiar with tricks that involve swords being thrust into some kind of cabinet with the magician escape unharmed. But Moretti did it like no one else. Not only was he getting inside a cardboard box as opposed to an elaborate looking cabinet of some sort, but it was members of the audience who were invited to come and thrust swords into the box! Moretti’s specific secret for how he performed this illusion remains a mystery, and the trick continues to amaze me with a very surprising ending. Take a look and enjoy!

 

Me and My Friend Jay

I like this picture.

This is my friend and colleague Jay Padgett and this is us doing what we do quite often – visiting a church member together.  On this particular occasion, we were in the Frankfort Regional Medical Center to have prayer with a dear friend. Unbeknownst to us, as we left the hospital, the husband of the patient we had just visited snapped this photo from their hospital room. It shows Jay and I walking side-by-side, wearing our overcoats (this was last winter), making our way to our vehicle to move on to the next visit.

I’m thankful for my friend.  And this photo of us silently walking to our car on a crisp, cool winter day sums it up nicely. If I have any say in the matter, Jay and I will serve the Lord and the church together until God puts us on the sideline.

And while I’m talking about my friend Jay, I want to express thanksgiving for my friend Philip Coleman. Pastor Phil Coleman is sharp as a tack and doing an incredible job reaching families and parents with gospel-saturated guidance and instruction. He and I are often found discussing weighty heart issues about families in our congregation either in our office or on the phone late at night and I am deeply grateful to the Lord for his leadership and friendship.

I’m certain that many pastors across the country have a staff they are in tension with and struggle to connect with. But the staff at GBC truly are together for the gospel in more ways than one. They are blessings, and if you are a member of GBC, I hope you recognize and give thanks for Pastor Jay Padgett and Pastor Phil Coleman.

The Bright Future of the SBC

The 2018 Annual Meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention was not without its share of challenging moments. Motions were made to fully defund an SBC entity, to remove all Executive Committee trustees from one of our seminaries, and to remove Vice President Mike Pence from speaking to the messengers. From one perspective, I suppose a Southern Baptist could walk away from this year’s meeting a bit discouraged and concerned. But I’m encouraged and excited.

Here’s why…

Some SBC voices are expressing concern about a growing number of Southern Baptists who are increasingly vocal and practically engaged in important issues such as racial reconciliation and the treatment of women. There is irony here. Often those who are unconvinced about the wisdom of emphasizing these kinds of issues will express their discontent with phrases such as “cultural Marxism” or “social liberalism.” And yet, from my perspective, those working toward these issues are demonstrating a zealousness for God’s Word that is undiluted with any political or societal influence. On the other hand, the concerned group – those who are lamenting a perceived rise of capitulation to culture – are themselves embracing the marriage of a political mission with the Great Commission. Some of us who love our country and respect our vice president were hanging our heads in disbelief as a stump speech for President Trump was delivered only hours after hearing passionate sermons about the SBC’s mandate to align ourselves only and always with King Jesus.

And yet, I’m optimistic because there was noticeable tension in the room during the Pence speech. There was uneasiness. Although the vice president received standing ovations and many were enthusiastically behind his speech, I sensed the room was awakened to both the danger and the damage of any political presence in a convention hall devoted to the blessed task of making disciples of all nations. This awareness combined with the election of President J.D. Greear ensures that we will not be hearing a stump speech at the 2019 Annual Meeting in Birmingham from any politician or political party. That, I hope, will set a precedent for years to come.

I’m also encouraged by the passionate and unified principles on which the SBC continues to stand. Part of what made the Pence arrival so unfortunate is because it unnecessarily distracted from the overwhelming unity in the SBC on the most essential issues. The authority and inerrancy of Scripture, the exclusivity of Christ, the necessity of discipleship and evangelism, the work of NAMB and the International Mission Board, a priority of planting churches, and a commitment to the Cooperative Program are all positions that are rock solid and uniformly held by Southern Baptists. That is reason to rejoice.

Another encouraging aspect of this year’s meeting was the convention’s brokenness by recent developments in the SBC, especially as it pertains to the treatment of women. We heard and saw genuine repentance, multiple motions, strong seminary reports, and future collaborations to help the SBC make progress in these areas. Alongside this, on difficult motions that were potentially divisive, the messengers voted correctly. For example, the messengers correctly and overwhelmingly voted against a motion to remove all Executive Committee Trustees from the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Finally, I left the annual meeting this year excited and thankful to be a Southern Baptist. I left anxious to get back to my church that I love so much and be a better pastor. I left even more convinced of the need to evangelize the lost. I left with a renewed spirit after sitting under the preaching of the word. I left with the hope of the gospel that was once for all delivered to the saints.

So yes, the meeting this year had its challenging moments. But the future is bright for the SBC. I’m excited to see what the Lord will do.

 

My Comments To My Church About The Recent SBC Concerns

As I prepare to leave for Dallas next week to attend an important Annual Meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention, I want to publically share the comments I recently made to Graefenburg Baptist Church.  This statement was read to our church before Paige Patterson was removed from his privileges at the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. The pastors of GBC are broken over recent developments in the SBC but trust God to work all things for his glory and the good of the nations. Grace and peace to each of you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Over the last couple of weeks, some of you might have read about a controversy that has developed in the Southern Baptist Convention. An SBC leader and President of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Dallas, whose name is Paige Patterson, was recorded during a teaching lecture several years ago and in the recording he tells the story of how he advised a lady in an abusive marital relationship to return to her abuser, pray for him, and try to submit in all things. Patterson was also on record saying some inappropriate remarks about a teenage girl.

As your pastor, and in agreement with my colleagues, your pastoral staff, we reject in the strongest terms any notion that an abused spouse is obligated or commanded by Scripture to return to their abuser and thereby place themselves in harm’s way. Abuse in a marriage relationship is an attack against the gospel of Jesus Christ because marriage is the most perfect human expression of the gospel.

Some of you here today and some of you watching online have experienced spousal abuse or are experiencing it. Unfortunately, some of you will experience it. Please hear me clearly – your pastors are here for you. We will listen to you. We will believe you. And we will do anything we can to help you get out of a dangerous situation.

I also want to say a quick word to those of you who might be abusers. Some of you might not know what to do with your anger. Some of you might deeply regret your actions, but you find yourself doing it all over again. I want you to know something too – we won’t abandon you. Jesus hasn’t abandoned you. His gospel of grace is bigger and stronger than your sin. We are here to walk with you as best as we possibly can.

My hope is that the SBC will use this as a growing opportunity instead of a vendetta against a single person. My hope is that God will use this controversy to open our eyes wider to the reality of the shame and embarrassment and fear of so many women who are in abusive relationships and have no idea what to do. My hope is that we as a church, here at Graefenburg, will not waiver for a second in our commitment to marriage and to the gospel, and yet we will fight against injustice and abuse even as we uphold those commitments.

Please pray with me, for our church, for the SBC, and for the church around the world.

 

The Conservative Resurgence and Moral Compromise

Albert Mohler has written a brutally honest article in the wake of Paige Patterson’s dismissal as President of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. It will go down as one of his more important and most powerful statements on the life of Southern Baptists. If you haven’t read it yet, then stop now and take a look.

One of the most fascinating portions of the article for me personally was Mohler’s decision to return to the Conservative Resurgence in which Paige Patterson played an important role. I found his reflections to be honest, helpful, and precise. I am in, I suppose, somewhat of a unique situation in that my theological education and training in pastoral ministry afforded me the opportunity to experience both the moderate viewpoint of things and the more conservative viewpoint. I attended Belmont University from 1994-1998 – before the school split from the Tennessee Baptist Convention – and their approach to religious studies was certainly moderate. During my time there, the President of the University called a faculty meeting to ask the question, “What does it mean to be a Baptist?” It was only a matter of time before the school could no longer hold to the principles of the TBC.

And yet, I have nothing but good memories about Belmont. The school challenged me, took me into areas of study I probably never would have considered otherwise, and most importantly, the professors never dismissed me, even with my more conservative viewpoint. I’m sure that some of my professors and fellow students who attended Belmont might wish that I was not quite so evangelical in my thinking, but we respect one another, even in our different viewpoints, and I think most of us are thankful for the time we spent on that Nashville campus.

I attended the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary from 2006-2009 and am currently studying there for my D.Min degree. The program was dramatically different from Belmont and it was overwhelming (and comforting) to be around some of the most well-known and brilliant scholars in the world who actually believed the Bible is without error! My passion for my education, but more importantly, my passion for the Lord skyrocketed.

So, with that background in mind, I was amazed by Albert Mohler’s comments when he said this:

“Has the Conservative Resurgence in the Southern Baptist Convention come to this? Is this what thousands of Southern Baptists were hoping for when they worked so hard to see this denomination returned to its theological convictions, its seminaries return to teaching the inerrancy of the Holy Scriptures, its ministries solidly established on the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Did we win confessional integrity only to sacrifice our moral integrity?

This is exactly what those who opposed the Conservative Resurgence warned would happen. They claimed that the effort to recover the denomination theologically was just a disguised move to capture the denomination for a new set of power-hungry leaders. I know that was not true. I must insist that this was not true. But, it sure looks like their prophecies had some merit after all. As I recently said with lament to a long-time leader among the more liberal faction that left the Southern Baptist Convention, each side has become the fulfillment of what the other side warned. The liberals who left have kept marching to the Left, in theology and moral teaching. The SBC, solidly conservative theologically, has been revealed to be morally compromised.”

It’s hard to argue with that. Most (not all!) of my fellow students at Belmont continued to progress to the left in their theological liberalism, and I could never in good conscience recommend the school for religious studies today. But it appears their concerns about SBC power and corruption are truths we are forced to deal with now, like it or not.

As for me, I like it. And here’s why. The Southern Baptist Convention does not have the power to dilute, distort, or alter the glorious goodness and holiness of God. But God certainly has the power to do whatever he wants with the Southern Baptist Convention. Although I do not rejoice when our denomination suffers brokenness, I trust the sovereignty of God to bring us to repentance where necessary and to turn our hearts back to him and his commission.

I have faith in the SBC not because of the SBC. I have faith in the SBC because I have faith in God. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

 

The Church Calendar and Making Disciples

People Over Programs. Eternal Over Temporal.

The idea is simple. An overemphasis on programming and its accompanying time for administration tends to make people busier, but doesn’t tend to make them more like Jesus.

It’s not that programs aren’t important. They are. And it’s not that temporal issues should be overlooked. They shouldn’t. But what should demand the majority of our time? What should be most noticeable about a church calendar?

Church revitalization director Mark Clifton recently tweeted, “…churches are often among the busiest places in our lives with much of that activity providing little in discipleship & kingdom growth. Think frequent & lengthy committee mtgs.”

I think that’s right. A Christ-centered, gospel-oriented church is one that preaches the glorious grace of God against the unbiblical burden of works-righteousness. Yet, even the most grace-focused church in relation to salvation can become a works-righteousness church in relation to discipleship. In other words, churches will be tempted to base their discipleship success on the number of events, programs, and services on their church calendar. The question, “what is your church becoming” is supplanted with “what is your church doing?”

The goal of every church program should be two-fold:  to help the participants find greater joy in Jesus and greater love for one another. When leaders are spending more time trying to plan, correct, and keep the program operating than they are investing in the people of the programs, then the program is probably failing. Programs should be designed to properly provide support for discipleship. Programs should point people to Christ and one another, not point people back to the program. In staff meetings, discussions on programming should have the freedom to focus more on the people than on the structure.  About three years ago I jokingly told my staff that I wanted to see a calendar void of programs in 10 years. What I meant is that I want our people to understand discipleship to be a product of investing in the Bible and one another. Fancy videos, study guides, and tied-up evenings during the week isn’t necessary. Although those things can be helpful and fruitful, they don’t magically make disciples, and often, they make disciple-making our families more difficult. Churches can’t preach the necessity of family discipleship while simultaneously keeping families away from home due to programming.

I believe in the power of the word of God to transform people in Jesus. In reverse, I believe nothing else has the power to transform people in Jesus. Thus, programs should be a tool by which the Bible is treasured and given the opportunity to do what it was breathed out to do – “for training in righteousness.”

Preaching remains the single greatest means by which people hear the gospel, respond to the gospel, and grow in the gospel. It is not a coincidence that preaching does not (or at least, should not) feel like a program. It happens every week. It follows a pattern of some kind. But it isn’t programmed. It involves the Bible being studied, being spoken, and being received. God responds by saving the lost and maturing the righteous.

The solution to over-programming is not to kill all programs. I’m thankful for solid programs and I’m doubly thankful for the dedicated leaders and teachers who are involved in keeping the programs running. Instead of killing programs, the more productive (and more difficult) response is to determine how well the programs are serving the people by moving them toward your church’s identity and vision. Discovering how much time is spent working on the programs versus how much time is spent discipling the people is a powerful assessment tool. And of course, determining if the programs are helping produce growing disciples should be an essential and common discussion among the church staff.

So, what does your church calendar look like?

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