Monday, July 10, 2017

Why People Believe All Roads Lead to Heaven

When I was a freshman in high school, I tried out for the varsity basketball team. On the first day of tryouts, the coach ran a scrimmage, periodically sending players into the game to see how they played. When my turn came, I intercepted a pass on the very first play. Then I took the ball the length of the court, skyed over every other player and made the prettiest layup you ever saw.

The coach instantly blew the whistle, stopped the game and called me over to the bench. I was walking 10 feet off the ground. I just knew my shot was so good that he had to stop the game just to tell me. I envisioned that ESPN had called and wanted the footage, and that Sports Illustrated had every intention of running a photo of me on the next cover. The shoe deal with Nike was only a matter of time. So I walked – actually, strutted – to the sideline.

My coach said, "White, that was a great shot. Your form was great; your intensity was great. Only thing is, you went to the wrong basket – but it was a great shot!"

Is there a right and a wrong basket in the spiritual game? Is Christianity the only way to score with God or simply one of many ways? For today's unchurched person, this is hardly academic. The religious landscape of modern American society can be nothing less than bewildering. Religious groups, sects, cults, movements, philosophies and worldviews abound in incredible numbers and diversity.

Add to this mix one of the most pervasive, fundamental convictions of contemporary American society: All roads lead to God, and to say that one way is right and all the other ways are wrong is narrow-minded, bigoted and prejudicial. What is true for you is true for you, and what is true for me is true for me. 

Searching for God is like climbing a mountain. Since everyone knows there is not just one way to climb a mountain – mountains are too big for that – each person can choose from a number of paths. All the ideas about God contained in the various religions of the world are just different ways up the mountain. In fact, though different religions have different names for God, the names all refer to the same God.

Is it true that a lot of roads lead to heaven, which means we really don't have to worry about which road we're on? Is it true that no person, no religion, no group, no book has a handle on the truth? Is it true that all religions are basically the same and all religious leaders are essentially of one mind so that ultimately all spiritual pursuits lead to the same place? If so, people need not look for spiritual truth. They just need to decide on spiritual preference.
If you embrace the idea that multiple paths lead to God and you turn out to be wrong, the consequences are enormous. 

So let's explore the reasons why people hold to this belief:

1. There Are So Many Religions

The sheer number of faiths from which to choose convinces some people that there is more than one path to God. Religious pluralism has existed for centuries, but people have never been exposed to as many faith options as we are today. As the number of religious options increases in one's mind, the idea that one option represents ultimate spiritual truth lessens. Yet the mere presence of options has little to do with whether a particular faith might be true, nor whether ultimate spiritual truth actually exists. The simple fact is that a test may be multiple-choice, but that does not mean it has multiple answers.

2. The Belief That All Religions Are Basically the Same

The idea that all paths are legitimate is also fueled by the sentiment that all religions are basically the same. Many introductory courses in world religions on the high school and college level stress the common denominators of religion throughout time and culture. While these courses may reveal certain similarities, it is also true that they contradict each other in crucial areas. For example, Christians believe in God, while some Buddhists don't even teach that there is a God. Christians also embrace Jesus' claim that He was God in human form who came to restore our relationship with God. Muslims, on the other hand, don't believe that Jesus was God at all. Christians believe in truth and error, right and wrong, morality and immorality, while adherents to the various forms of New Age thinking contend that there are no absolutes and everything is relative.

You can say that somebody is right and somebody is wrong, or say that everyone is wrong, but you can't say that everybody believes basically the same thing. That would be intellectually dishonest in light of the facts. If God exists—unless He is some senile, confused, muddled, schizophrenic, unbalanced being who isn't sure what He stands for—there is religious truth and religious falsehood among the competing views. And the areas of disagreement among those views are not trivial in nature. The nature of God, the identity of Jesus, and how we enter into a relationship with God are of paramount importance. 

To return to our mountain climbing analogy in which all paths lead to the same peak, the truth is that there isn't a single peak, much less a single idea of what the peak even looks like. Instead, the mountain has many different peaks, which raises a significant question: How do you get to the highest one?

3. The Idea That Sincerity Is What Matters

"It isn't what a person believes that matters, but how he or she believes it; all that really matters is one's sincerity." Something deep inside of us knows, and I think correctly, that the nature of true spirituality is somehow connected with authenticity. But it is one thing to value sincerity and another to make sincerity the lone characteristic of spiritual truth. How you believe matters, but so does what you believe. If you say it doesn't matter what you believe as long as you are sincere, you miss a very important point: You can be sincerely wrong.

If I have a headache in the middle of the night and I blindly reach into my medicine cabinet, I can sincerely believe I am taking an aspirin. But if I am really taking cyanide, my sincerity will not save me from the perils of the poison I've ingested. Sincerity matters, but it cannot be all that matters because sincerity alone cannot alter reality. Therefore, it is not simply the sincerity of our faith that matters but the object of our faith as well. Faith is very much like a rope – it matters what you tie it to.

4. The Belief That No Religious Group Should Think It's Better Than Any Other

Some people are offended by religious groups who think their religion is better than any other religion. They believe that because God is so big and our understanding is so small, it is nothing less than arrogance and narrow-mindedness for a single religious group to maintain that it holds all truth. To ensure that tolerance of other people's views exists, one should not claim some people are wrong and some people are right—or that "wrongness" or "rightness" even exist. But let's imagine a young student who is given a question on a math test in school. The question is: "What is 2 + 2?" The answer, of course, is "4." But let's say the child answers "37." Is the teacher intolerant, narrow-minded and bigoted if he/she corrects the answer?

Everyone must avoid a spirit that persecutes people for their differing beliefs or denies them their religious freedom. But this spirit of tolerance is different from believing all points of view are equally valid. Just because you come to a conclusion about where you should place your spiritual trust does not mean you are intolerant of other beliefs. It does not even mean you deny that some truth can be found in other perspectives. 

As C. S. Lewis once observed, "If you are a Christian you do not have to believe that all the other religions are simply wrong all through… If you are a Christian, you are free to think that all those religions contain at least some hint of the truth." Returning to our math student, there is one and only one right answer to "2 + 2," but there are some answers that are much closer to being right than others.

5. They Don't Believe in Truth

Ultimately, the question is whether people believe in truth and today many do not. A study by the Barna Research Group discovered that 66% of all Americans deny the existence of absolute truth. As Allan Bloom has observed from his years teaching in a university classroom, there "is one thing a professor can be absolutely certain of. Almost every student entering the university believes, or says he believes, that truth is relative."

The most enduring and accepted definition of truth is the correspondence between our ideas or perceptions, and reality. If I make the statement "It is raining," it is true if I look outside and find that it is raining. What is true is that which actually is. The belief in more than one way to God is really a belief that truth does not exist or, even more to the point, that it doesn't matter. Yet nowhere in life does this match our experience. 

There is not a single area of life where you can make any choice you want from a wide array of options and achieve the same result or experience. Even a skeptic as noteworthy as Sigmund Freud maintained that if "it were really a matter of indifference what we believed, then we might just as well build our bridges of cardboard as of stone, or inject a tenth of a gramme of morphia into a patient instead of a hundredth, or take tear-gas as a narcotic instead of ether."

The question, therefore, isn't "Is there truth?", (there is, and we live our lives by it every day) but "Can spiritual truth be found?"

Perhaps now the most incredible spiritual claim in all of human history can be heard. Jesus said: "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6). Not a way, a truth or alife, but the way, the truth and the life. It is this idea that marks the Christian faith. In the Book of Acts, we read the apostle Peter's proclamation: "It is by the name of Jesus Christ… Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:10,12).

While there are many religions from which to choose, they differ radically from one another, and choosing where to place your spiritual trust is neither narrow-minded nor intolerant.

Truth exists, and it matters.

If all roads do not lead to God, then a spiritual search will lead you to the scandalous reality of one way. And for the Christ follower, that way is through a person:

Jesus Christ.

Adapted from James Emery White, A Search for the Spiritual (Baker). 

Additional sources can be found in the endnotes of this book.

Knechtle, Give Me an Answer.

C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Friday, July 7, 2017

Try Not To Laugh Challenge - Step up and enjoy!

Here is my first Try Not To Laugh Challenge  with comedian Jeanne Robertson. If you have what it takes to take the challenge then step up. Good Luck. Enjoy Everyone.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Is there a "death spiral for churches today?

I recently read the following from a post by Thom Rainer:

65 percent of churches are declining or plateaued. For most of us, that number was better than the conventional “wisdom” we have heard. In that sense it was good news.

Over 61 percent of churches average fewer than 100 in worship attendance. Yes, we are a nation of small churches. I love it. I love small churches.

But if your church has fewer than 100 in worship, it is likely to be a declining church. In fact two out of three of these small churches are declining.

Even more, there is a direct correlation with the rate of decline in a church and the size of the church. Simply stated, the smaller the church, the greater the rate of decline in attendance. Perhaps these three statements will clarify my point:

  • A declining church with an attendance of 200 or more declines at a rate of 4 percent each year.

  • A declining church with an attendance of less than 100 declines at a rate of 7.6 percent per year.

  • A declining church with an attendance of less than 50 declines at a rate of 8.7 percent a year.
It’s a death spiral. Declining smaller churches decline much more rapidly than larger churches. Once the declining church goes below 100 in attendance, its days are likely numbered.

Here is the sad summary statement of this portion of the research: Once a church declines below 100 in worship attendance, it is likely to die within just a few years. The life expectancy for many of these churches is ten years or less.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Churches in America

By:  Ed Stetzer

The polls are in and the news is bad for the Church in America. 

Christianity is on the decline, Americans have given up on God, and the “Nones”—those who have no religious ties—are on the rise. It is indeed true that parts of the Christian Church in America are struggling, while a growing number of Americans are far from God.

As head of a research firm that studies the church and culture, I often tell pastors and other Christian leaders that “facts are our friends.” Surveys and other polls are a bit like running a series of tests during an annual physical. The scale, stethoscope, and blood tests don’t lie. There is no positive spin on your increased weight, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. Research data gives us a realistic picture of our health—rather than the overly optimistic view we’d prefer.

What the Numbers Tell Us (If We Will Listen)

Overall, the Church’s influence on Americans is beginning to fade.
So what do the numbers tell us about the Church in America?
Overall, the Church’s influence on Americans is beginning to fade. A growing number of Americans have given up on God—or at least on organized religion. They have become “Nones,” a term popularized by Pew Research. And their numbers are growing.

Pew’s 2007 Religious Landscape study, which surveyed 35,000 respondents, found that about 16% of Americans claimed no religious affiliation. By 2015, that number had grown to 23%, almost one in four Americans.

Gallup, another well-respected national firm, gives a wider view of the rise of the Nones. In 1967, Gallup found that about 2% of Americans—or 1 out of every 50—claimed no religious preference. By 2014, that number had grown to 16%, or about 1 in 7.

Pew has also tracked the decline in the percentage of Americans who claim to be Christians. In 2007, Pew found that about 8 in 10 Americans identified as Christians. That number dropped to 7 in 10 in 2014—a statistically significant change in a relatively short time. Pew also found that less than half of Americans (46.5%) now identify as Protestants for the first time in American history.

The Pew data demonstrates a consistent and noteworthy increase among Americans who are disconnected from faith. If this trend continues, and we have every reason to believe that it will, this portion of society will become increasingly prominent and perhaps even become a majority.

These studies show that American religion is in a period of slow decline, says Mark Chaves of Duke University: “None of this decline is happening fast, and levels of religious involvement in the United States continue to remain very high by world standards. But the signs of decline are unmistakable.”

There is no credible research showing that Christianity is dying in America.

Pew’s findings have led some to forecast the complete collapse of Christianity in the United States. The data, however, implies a more complex reality. Frankly, there is no credible research showing that Christianity is dying in America despite the flashy headlines we often see.

Instead, American religion is simultaneously growing and in decline. Fewer people claim to be Christians, but churchgoers—those who regularly attend services—are holding steady in some segments, and thriving in others.

America the Devout?

To gain further perspective, let’s look at Pew’s data alongside data from the General Social Survey. The GSS, which began in 1972, is particularly helpful for tracking trends in religious belief and practice.
Some background: the GSS uses a classification of religious tradition commonly known as RELTRAD, which was devised with both doctrinal and historical changes in religious groups in view. This classification system is particularly helpful as we look deeper at the data and seek to understand the nuanced reality of American religion.

The GSS shows only a slight decline among frequent churchgoers.
For example, after seeing recent polls, including Pew’s data, some concluded that the number of churchgoers has collapsed. When we look at the GSS, however, a different picture emerges. The GSS shows only a slight decline among frequent churchgoers. In all likelihood, that decline will be reversed as the data returns to the mean. This should hardly be categorized as a collapse, and in no way affirms popular doom and gloom predictions.

Church attendance data over time is important here. In 1940, 37% of Americans said, “yes,” when asked by Gallup if they had been to church within the last week. In 2015, almost the same number—36%—said they’d been to church. Hardly a collapse; reasonable people, as Chaves described them, don’t need to disagree when the facts are this clear.

What’s more, according to the GSS, we find a stable percentage of the Protestant population attending church regularly—no prodigious drop in Protestant church attendance. Instead, over the past 40 years, the share of Americans who regularly attends a Protestant church has only declined from 23% to 20%.

The reality is that the United States remains a remarkably devout nation. Taken as a whole, about 4 in 10 Americans claims to go to church weekly. Further, more than 138 million Americans—or 44% of the population—belong to a congregation, according to the Association of Religion Data Archives.

Monday, July 3, 2017

A Prayer for America

As we prepare our celebrate our Nation's Independence Day, we pause to remember why we celebrate.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

God Bless America

“I’d like to write a great peace song,” Irving Berlin told a journalist in 1938, “but it’s hard to do, because you have trouble dramatizing peace.”

Years before John Lennon or Bob Dylan were even born, Berlin took up the challenge of penning an anthem that would inspire his fellow men to live in harmony. As America’s most successful songwriter, the 50-year-old Berlin had already lived through one world war, and with the rise of Nazi Germany, he knew a second was brewing.

He recalled, “I worked for a while on a song called ‘Thanks America,’ but I didn’t like it. I tried again with a song called ‘Let’s Talk About Liberty,’ but I didn’t get very far. It was too much like making a speech to music. It then occurred to me to reexamine an old song of mine, ‘God Bless America.’”

Berlin’s practice of “going to the trunk,” where he squirreled away every verse, chorus and half-finished idea he ever wrote, often got him out of songwriting jams. He’d come up with “God Bless America” in 1918, while serving in the Army at Camp Upton in Yaphank, N.Y. It was intended for a military revue called Yip Yip Yaphank.
His musical secretary Harry Ruby remembered, “There were so many patriotic songs coming out at the time. Every songwriter was pouring them out. I said, ‘Geez, another one?’”

Berlin decided Ruby was right, calling the song “just a little sticky.” He cut it from the score, stashing it away in his trunk.

Two decades later, Berlin saw new hope in the old tune. “I had to make one or two changes in the lyrics, and they in turn led me to a slight change and improvement in the melody, one line in particular. The original ran: ‘Stand beside her and guide her to the right with a light from above.’ In 1918, the phrase ‘to the right’ had no political significance, as it has now. So for obvious reasons, I changed the phrase to ‘Through the night with a light from above.’”

Pleased with the revamped song—he packed a lot into its compact five-line frame—Irving searched for the right singer to introduce it.

Kate Smith was 200 pounds of wholesome country girl goodness, a vaudeville singer who’d entertained WWI troops when she was 8 years old and gone on to host her own CBS radio show, with millions of devoted listeners. On Nov. 11, 1938, Smith sang “God Bless America” as part of her Armistice Day broadcast (anniversary of the end of WWI).

This is the recording of the original broadcast performance:

Saturday, July 1, 2017

A view from the past - This is my country! God Bless America

      This is the closing scene in John Wayne's "Swing Out Sweet Land" 1970. 

Friday, June 30, 2017

Chonda Pierce & Mark Lowry - 'Features On Film' by CCM

This week Sharron has been working in the church office as our church office manager is away. Yesterday I heard a conversation taking place outside my office and I wondered way they were laughing so loud.  I went to my office door to see Sharron laughing so hard she had tears in her eyes. 

 Here is what she was watching:

Thursday, June 29, 2017

How to balance the demands of Ministry and Family.

I’ll admit it: I like when I’m in the supermarket or the mall and someone from church (even if I do not know them) comes up to me and says, “Hey, Chris. How’s it going?” It’s flattering. Something about being known gives a little boost to the ego.

But then there are times when I want to just blend into the crowd.

Honestly, if I’m on a date night with my wife, I’d prefer not to be interrupted by someone asking me, “When’s the next summer camp?” (Of course, there are times when an interruption to family is appropriate, like in the case of a community crisis or an immediate church need.)

The idea of “personal time” is something that represents a struggle for all of us. There is tension when it comes to how we live out our different roles: When do we play the role of youth minister, and when do we play the role of spouse and parent? It can sometimes feel like we’re in high demand. The line between our vocation and our personal lives gets blurred, crossed or flat out wiped away.

It’s an ongoing challenge to make sure we’re faithfully carrying out our ministerial calling, yet still giving our family top billing.

I found it necessary to create some rules to protect what’s most important. Here are a few I try to live by:

Rule 1: When I’m Home I’m Home

With a few unique exceptions, when I get in the car to head home, I’m done with youth ministry. I’ve told my leaders that unless it’s an emergency, if they are going to call me on a Friday or Saturday (off days) then it better be social. My work laptop stays in the office or in my bag. Blogging is done at designated times so it doesn’t interfere with family. Obviously, emergencies will occasionally come up. But for the most part, when I am at home, I am fully at home.

Rule 2: Communicate When You Are Needed

There are going to be times when you’re needed outside the normal work hours. It might be a special event or even a crisis. Some of these are scheduled and should be noted in the family calendar, while others will pop up out of nowhere. Communication is the key to navigating these extra demands. You need to clearly communicate with family what your role and obligations are to the church. It’s not always going to be easy, but we can prevent major issues if we communicate with those we love.

Rule 3: Social Media Is About My Job, Not My Family

I try to keep my family out of the social media spotlight. Those of you who follow me on Twitter or read my blog know that I’ll make comments from time to time about my family, but that’s rare. And if I do it, it’s done with permission. It’s not that my family has anything to hide. It’s just that the line between transparency and “TMI” can be grey when it comes to family. I try to protect it as much as possible.

Do I live these rules out perfectly? No. Do I try? Yes. Will you agree with my rules? No. But, I would suggest you sit down with your family and talk about the tension between family life and your church responsibilities. 
Even if you’ve been in ministry for years, take some time to sit down with your spouse and even your kids and decide:

1.  What days (and time) are sacred to family?

2.  What time do you need to be home to help out your spouse or child?

3.  What seasons are most busy at work?

Those are my rules, and I need to abide by them, yet be flexible at the same time. It’s an interesting balance, but it’s working. And my efforts are building trust at home, as well as at work.

What are the rules that you abide by to protect the sanctity of your family?

This article originally appeared here.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Please update your blog!

I have heard several remarks lately that some people miss my blog postings.  For this reason, I am considering beginning to begin posting again. I now spend time on my Facebook page and the church Facebook page. 

Trustworthy Sayings plans to return within the next 30 days. 

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Are YOU ready to get wet?

The two pictures I posted today on the Facebook page of First Wesleyan Church in Gastonia NC: Sunday May 21st  will be a historic day at our church as we plan to baptize 7 people. 

The forecast calls for rain - which we will interpret as "Showers of blessings". Bring your umbrella and gather in the courtyard for the worship which begins at 11:00am with the baptism taking place near the beginning of our time together.

Remember - "Shall we gather at the river?" Tomorrow we gather in the courtyard to celebrate the work of God in our midst. Don't miss this Spirit filled time together!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Eight Signs Your Church May Be Closing Soon

I'm Back!   After an extended time away - I have decided to renew my passion to extend trustworthy words by re-establishing my blog.   I am still deciding on the frequency and the format - but I am back.  

Please let me know if you find this helpful with a simple comment on my page...  Thanks.

Eight Signs Your Church May Be Closing Soon

  By Thom Rainer
We call it the death spiral.
I know. It’s not a pleasant term. I can understand if it causes you to cringe.
By the time I am contacted about a serious problem in a church, it is often too late. The problems are deeply rooted, but the remaining members have been blind to them, or they chose to ignore them.
There are eight clear signs evident in many churches on the precipice of closing. If a church has four or more of these signs present, it is likely in deep trouble. Indeed, it could be closing sooner than almost anyone in the church would anticipate.
  1. There has been a numerical decline for four or more years. Worship attendance is in a steady decline. Offerings may decline more slowly as the “remnant” gives more to keep the church going. There are few or no conversions. Decline is clear and pervasive.
  2. The church does not look like the community in which it is located. The community has changed its ethnic, racial, or socioeconomic makeup, but the church has not. Many members are driving from other places to come to the church. The community likely knows little or nothing about the church. And the church likely knows little or nothing about the community.
  3. The congregation is mostly comprised of senior adults. It is just a few years of funerals away from having no one left in the church.
  4. The focus is on the past, not the future. Most conversations are about “the good old days.” Those good old days may have been 25 or more years in the past. Often a hero pastor of the past is held as the model to emulate.
  5. The members are intensely preference-driven. They are more concerned about their music style, their programs, their schedules, and their facilities than reaching people with the gospel. Their definition of discipleship is “others taking care of my needs.”
  6. The budget is severely inwardly focused. Most of the funds are expended to keep the lights on and/or to meet the preferences of the members. There are few dollars for ministry and missions. And any dollars for missions rarely include the involvement of the members in actually sharing the gospel themselves.
  7. There are sacred cow facilities. It might be a parlor or a pulpit. It could be pews instead of chairs. It might be the entirety of the worship center or the sanctuary. Members insist on holding tightly to those things God wants us to hold loosely.
  8. Any type of change is met with fierce resistance. The members are confronted with the choice to change or die. And though few would articulate it, their choice by their actions or lack of actions is the choice to die.
Churches with four or more of these signs have three choices. They can embark on a process of change and revitalization. Or they can close the doors for a season and re-open with a new name, a new vision, and some new people.
Of course, the third choice is to do nothing. That is the choice to die.
Thousands of churches will unfortunately do just that the next twelve months.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Have you noticed?

Have you noticed?

  A few days following my birthday this year, I made a decision to take a break from my blog postings for the Lenten Season. Since Resurrection Sunday I have noticed no comments or response about my lack of posting. For this and several other reasons, I am discontinuing my blog at this time.  

Friday, February 17, 2017

Today in church history

I am an avid fan of Church History.  Recently I subscribed to a service of Today in Church History and enjoy reading the daily  reminders of those who came before us.

Here is the offering for today -  February 17, 2017

February 17, 661: Finan, bishop of Lindisfarne (an island off the eastern coast of England) who throughout his life sought to preserve Celtic customs against Roman influence, dies. Three years later, at the Synod of Whitby, Celtic Christians agreed to abide by Roman traditions. "Peter is guardian of the gates of heaven, and I shall not contradict him," said the Celtic King, Oswy (see issue 60: How the Irish Were Saved).

February 17, 1858: Waldensians, ancient "Protestants" from the Italian Alps who survived through persecution for 800 years, are finally guaranteed civil and religious rights. They began with the teaching of a wealthy merchant named Pater Waldo in the late 1100s; thus they are considered "the oldest evangelical Church" (see issue 22: The Waldensians).

February 17, 1889: Former White Stockings baseball player Billy Sunday preaches his first evangelistic sermon in Chicago. By the time he died in 1935, he had preached to an estimated 100 million people, and about 1 million "walked the sawdust trail" to become Christians at his invitation.

February 17, 1898: Francis Willard, crusader for prohibition and women's suffrage, dies. She served as dean of Northwestern Women's College before becoming president of the Women's Christian Temperence Union.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Every Pastor Needs a Plane!

Kenneth Copeland, Jesse Duplantis,
defending their private jets...

In a commentary on this video,  Drew Dyck
Senior Editor CT Pastors , said the following:

In the exchange, they talked about the hassle of being recognized and approached by strangers wanting prayer on commercial flights (as a celebrity newsletter writer, I get this All. The. Time.) One of them described the horrors of flying commercial as getting into "a long tube filled with demons."
(I guess he'd flown Spirit Airlines).

Like many, I was horrified by the video. How could a pastor cope without a private jet? Now that I think about it, I've attended many churches over the course of my life and not one of my pastors owned a plane. Not one! Where is their faith?
But let's not lay all the blame at the feet of planeless pastors. Those of us in the pews have sat idly by and ignored these pastors' planeless plight (that alliteration was for the pastors, by the way). I for one intend to do something about it.
Maybe it's a pledge drive. Or a Kickstarter campaign. But we have to do something. In the 1920s, President Hoover proudly promised Americans a "chicken in every pot." I can't help but wonder if this is my President/Chicken moment. But instead of promising poultry, my rallying cry will be "a plane for every pastor!"
Please give generously. Unless you want your pastor in a "tube filled with demons."

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

How Do We Glorify God in All We Do?

God reveals Himself to us, and we are to mirror Him.
He created, and at the end He said, “It was good.”
So whatever it is that you do—do it well.
Do it with purpose. Do it for Him.
And at the end of the day, you can say,
“It was good.”

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Preparing for worship at First Wesleyan Church - Gastonia - Mission

Yesterday I asked a simple question on the Facebook page of our church:

Why would you NOT invite someone to church?

I am already aware that there will be several people away from church tomorrow. The beaches of NC are calling – the beautiful Mountains beckoned their call and others will enjoy the comforts of bed in the am.

I am excited about church tomorrow at First Wesleyan Church of Gastonia NC. I have already walked the worship center and placed my hands on each pew to pray the Lord’s Presence upon our time together tomorrow.

Tomorrow may be a life changing day for some who are at church.  Who will YOU bring with you? 

Here is the order of worship we have planned - We make our plans, but God has the last word! 

We begin with a welcome and then stand to sing unto the Lord

We now pause for some announcements and bringing our tithes and offerings to the Lord. The choir will present a special entitled:

Take Now My Voice

It is now time for our Missions Moments as we feature Tome and Grace Ensz - Missionaries to Brazil, South America. 

We continue singing in worship:

Hear the Word of the Lord!

Here is a little thought to prepare for tomorrow: 

Friday, February 10, 2017

If Jesus Trusted the Bible, Then You Can, Too

“For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished”               (Matthew 5:18 NIV).

You may have heard someone say,   “I trust Jesus, but not the other guys who wrote the Bible.” There’s a problem with that logic.

Jesus trusted the Bible — every word of it! He taught that the Bible was a unique book, above all the others.

Jesus said in Matthew 5:18, “For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished” (NIV).

Jesus says the Bible will last until the end of time. It will accomplish what God wants to accomplish in this world. In John 10:35a Jesus said, “We know that Scripture is always true” (NIRV). Jesus proclaimed the truth of the Bible. And when Jesus talks about the truthfulness of the Bible, we need to listen.

When Jesus talked about the Bible with people, he would often base his argument about the truth of the Bible on a single sentence or even a single word from the Bible. He believed every single sentence, every single word of Scripture. So if I trust Jesus, why wouldn’t I trust the Bible?

When Jesus talks about the Bible, he doesn’t just talk about it as poetry and history, either. He saw the Bible as something that changes lives. In Luke 11:28 Jesus said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it” (NIV). Jesus doesn’t just want us to read the Bible. That’s what you do with poetry and history. Jesus wants us to obey the Bible. That’s what you do with anything the Creator of the universe writes.

When Jesus talked about the Bible, he talked about it as if the people and events in it were real. He talked about all the prophets being real. He talked about Daniel being real. Jesus believed in Noah and everything that happened with the flood. He believed in Adam and Eve. He believed in the tragedy of Sodom and Gomorrah. He believed that Jonah was swallowed by a large fish.

Jesus believed in some of the most disputed stories in the Bible, particularly Noah, Adam and Eve, Sodom and Gomorrah, and Jonah. People who think that the Bible is mostly good stories that didn’t really happen always point to those four stories.

If Jesus really believed in Jonah, then I should, too. I don’t know how God created a fish that could swallow a guy, but he did.

I trust in the Bible because Jesus trusted in it.

Source:  Pastor Rick Warren

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Systoms of a church dying for change

It wasn't the surgery that killed him. 

The boy died because hospital residents and nurses overlooked signs that the postoperative pain control regimen had gone awry. 

Autopsy revealed the error. He bled to death internally via a perforated ulcer brought on by pain meds he had been given as part of his treatment.

It was a tragic case of professional attitudes and diagnostic preconceptions led to catastrophic failure—the death of an otherwise healthy fifteen-year-old boy.

The same problem—preconceptions and attitudes that obscure otherwise evident problems—may lie at the heart of many a church's failure to recognize serious trouble. In our ministry we have found that pastors, church leaders, and congregants overlook the obvious signs, focusing on those few data points that allow them to feel comfortable in their plight.

The following list is far from complete. My objective isn't to produce the definitive list; it is to motivate pastors, church leaders, and congregants to set aside their preconceptions, approach the condition of their churches with open minds, and then listen closely to what the patient is telling them. They will recognize whether the church is in need of change lest it die.

1. The church isn't praying for laborers, open doors, and for evangelistic success.

On numerous occasions (e.g., Matthew 9:35-38; Luke 10) Jesus instructed us to always be prayerful for the gospel's effectiveness. Paul prayed diligently for opportunity, for the right words to say, and for successful evangelistic endeavors (e.g. Colossians 4:2-4). He often recruited the churches to join him in these prayers.

What signs reveal that your church prays regularly and fervently to the Lord of the harvest? The people in the church should be praying for laborers to enter the field, for boldness to speak clearly and persuasively in the face of hostility, and for open doors to the people in their social circles and to the people in the community.

2. Lagging indicators reveal unproductive processes.

Churches and pastors tend to pay attention to lagging indicators- things like attendance, income, baptisms, membership. Metrics of this type are the results of the systems and procedures already at work in your church.

By looking more closely at these lagging indicators, and analyzing what they mean, you will discover where change needs to occur. For example, consider the number of visitors who find their way to your church services. A widely used rule of thumb is that the annual total number of visitors should be equal to or greater the average worship service attendance. Thus, a church with an average Sunday attendance of 125 should see at least 125 first-time visitors per year. Another bit of conventional wisdom holds that a church needs to add new people at the rate of 2.5% per year to offset its losses. 

Those church visitors are low hanging fruit. They will be the easiest to move into the ranks of the affiliated - into church membership.

Do the metrics indicate your church is on plateau or in decline? If so, isn't about time to give some serious consideration to changing things up to revitalize the church?  

3. Ten people selected at random give different statements about the mission and vision.

If the church's core constituents don't voice the same ideas about the church's mission and vision, then one of two conditions exist. Either the pastor has been an unclear and inconsistent communicator about the vision, or there really is not a settled mission and vision at the heart of the church's ministry.

This can lead to a deadly condition in which bitter conflict erupts because people will always fill the "vision vacuum" with their own ideas.

4. Programs, events, and activities are designed for church members.

This is deadly. Smaller churches (less than 200) are especially prone to this. Congregations with limited resources (time, money, space, personnel) must apply those resources to fulfilling the mission and achieving the vision. If the church is aligned around its members, it is living in maintenance mode. 

"Maintenance" keeps a church on the downward trajectory - until there's impact at ground zero.

5. Leadership is different from the people you've focused on reaching.

While mature believers are (or should be) comfortable worshipping and ministering with a diverse gathering of believers, such is not the case with unbelievers. The people we would reach with the gospel respond far more readily to the gospel when it is brought to them by others who are like them.

The makeup of a church's leadership team (staff - paid and unpaid, officers, ministry leaders) conveys a subtle message about "the kind of people we are." The team should include people with whom outsiders will comfortably identify. A church three miles from the local university campus should include young adults, perhaps even some university students, on its leadership team. If your church hopes to minister to political refugees from the Congo and Burundi, the public faces of your church should be familiar to them. 

A physician friend, now retired, once offered an interesting observation:

If the physician would listen, the patient will generally tell what's wrong with them.

Apparently attentive listening is a skill not widely taught in medical schools or mastered by medical practitioners.

So, as the physician attending to an ailing congregation – what changes do the patient's symptoms call for?

Bud Brown / An experienced ministry leader, writer and educator, Bud Brown is co-founder of Turnaround Pastors. He is a change leader in many venues — small rural, upscale suburban and mega-sized churches. Bud also trains pastors in conferences, workshops and coaching sessions. You can reach him by emailing