Monthly Archives: March 2009

Jesus: Made in America by Stephen Nichols (A Book Review)

Purchase Jesus Made in America by Stephen Nichols (Downer’s Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2008, 237 pp.)


First of all, I must say how grateful I am to Southern Seminary for (1) having a marvelous conference (Southern Seminary and the History of American Christianity, on February 18-19, 2009), and (2) providing two free books to all conference attendees.  One of the books I chose is “Jesus Made in America:  A Cultural History from the Puritans to The Passion of the Christ” by Stephen Nichols. 

I bought this book for two reasons.  First, because of Nichols’ engaging style at the conference.  And, on a personal note, I had a chance to speak briefly with him in the Legacy Center lobby that night.  He was just as engaging in a personal conversation as he was delivering his lecture on the influence of D.L. Moody.  And his engaging style transfers to the written page, making this clearly my favorite read of the year.

Secondly, I am an avid history buff.  Ideal vacations for me are not necessarily to beach resorts or golf vacations (though I wouldn’t be opposed to them), but around historical venues.  Nichols effectively takes the reader through the main stages and eras of American history from colonial times to the present and addresses how American thought and life has influenced our American view of Jesus Christ.  As you read through this, you begin to see how by and large our culture’s view of Christ has developed not necessarily from the Bible but reflecting on differing emphases in differing eras. The chapters are laid out as follows:

Chapter One (The Puritan Christ): The Puritans saw Jesus clearly as the "God-man," but many in evangelicalism today wonder whether recovering their mindset is worth the time. To many today, "He is a bit too far out of reach for personal touch." Yet, for all their flaws, the Puritans offer a balance between the transcendent and imminent Christ.

Chapter Two (Jesus and the New Republic): When our country was formed with the writing of the Declaration of Independence (1776) and the ratifying of the Constitution (1789), many of our most influential founding fathers began to reject the Puritan look as a those of us who are "sinners in the hands of an angry God." Men like Thomas Jefferson rejected the miracles of the Scriptures, only choosing to extract the moral teachings of Jesus. Thomas Paine, author of Common Sense went further to decry religion altogether. Yet, Americans then (and now) thanks to numerous writings and paintings, were quick to paint George Washington as a Messianic figure, even though he gave scant references to God. The Jesus of the New Republic was portrayed as one who desired moral character and virtue, but little use was made for any condemning and judging role Christ played.

Chapter Three (Gentle Jesus, Meek and Mild): Andrew Jackson’s frontiersman celebrity helped craft Jesus into a man’s man, with little use for the creeds and much use for . On the other end of the spectrum, the Victorian Jesus was one who was gentle, respectful, friend of children, and almost effeminate. Many depictions of Jesus were that of one with long hair, blue eyes, smooth skin, and womanly features.

Chapter Four (Jesus, Hero for the Modern World): In this chapter, Nichols discusses the theological debates between liberal scholar Harry Emerson Fosdick and conservative scholar J. Gresham Machen. For Fosdick, Jesus was all about peace and brotherhood, playing off the philosophy of Henry Van Dyke. Machen sought to bring the church back to orthodox Christianity.

Chapter Five (Jesus on Vinyl): From the Jesus People Movement to the mega-corporate Christian Contemporary Music (CCM) scene, adapting Jesus and his ways to the airwaves and drained even more of the deity out of Christ. Now, Nichols contends, we are relegated to singing "love songs" to Jesus. Crossover bands recognize that if they desire airplay on a wider realm, they must refrain from using, as DeGarmo and Key slyly remarked, "the J-Word."

Chapter Six (Jesus on the Big Screen): From DeMille’s King of Kings in 1927 to The Passion of the Christ in 2004 (with a stopover at Scorsece’s The Last Temptation of Christ, Nichols gives an interesting overview of Christ on film. He rightly notes that most of these films fill in some of the spots missing (such as Jesus’ childhood) and gloss over areas where the Scripture does speak. A case in point is Gibson’s Passion, which draws more on his Catholic tradition than it does on the sole authority of Scripture. Nichols gives a helpful survey to help us be more discerning.

Chapter Seven (Jesus on a Bracelet): from the WWJD? bracelets to Precious Moments, Nichols gives a very disturbing view on how Christ is merchandised. You just need to read this chapter to get an idea of how absorbed we are in this mindset.

Chapter Eight (Jesus on the Right Wing): From Jimmy Carter’s claim to being "born again" to George W. Bush’s claim in the 2000 Republican Presidential Primaries that Jesus influenced his thoughts the most, Nichols examines how both the right wing and the left seek to lay claim to Jesus as an advocate to their causes.

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Categories: America, evangelicalism, History | Leave a comment

Jesus: Made in America by Stephen Nichols (A Book Review)

Purchase Jesus Made in America by Stephen Nichols (Downer’s Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2008, 237 pp.)


First of all, I must say how grateful I am to Southern Seminary for (1) having a marvelous conference (Southern Seminary and the History of American Christianity, on February 18-19, 2009), and (2) providing two free books to all conference attendees.  One of the books I chose is “Jesus Made in America:  A Cultural History from the Puritans to The Passion of the Christ” by Stephen Nichols. 

I bought this book for two reasons.  First, because of Nichols’ engaging style at the conference.  And, on a personal note, I had a chance to speak briefly with him in the Legacy Center lobby that night.  He was just as engaging in a personal conversation as he was delivering his lecture on the influence of D.L. Moody.  And his engaging style transfers to the written page, making this clearly my favorite read of the year.

Secondly, I am an avid history buff.  Ideal vacations for me are not necessarily to beach resorts or golf vacations (though I wouldn’t be opposed to them), but around historical venues.  Nichols effectively takes the reader through the main stages and eras of American history from colonial times to the present and addresses how American thought and life has influenced our American view of Jesus Christ.  As you read through this, you begin to see how by and large our culture’s view of Christ has developed not necessarily from the Bible but reflecting on differing emphases in differing eras. The chapters are laid out as follows:

Chapter One (The Puritan Christ): The Puritans saw Jesus clearly as the "God-man," but many in evangelicalism today wonder whether recovering their mindset is worth the time. To many today, "He is a bit too far out of reach for personal touch." Yet, for all their flaws, the Puritans offer a balance between the transcendent and imminent Christ.

Chapter Two (Jesus and the New Republic): When our country was formed with the writing of the Declaration of Independence (1776) and the ratifying of the Constitution (1789), many of our most influential founding fathers began to reject the Puritan look as a those of us who are "sinners in the hands of an angry God." Men like Thomas Jefferson rejected the miracles of the Scriptures, only choosing to extract the moral teachings of Jesus. Thomas Paine, author of Common Sense went further to decry religion altogether. Yet, Americans then (and now) thanks to numerous writings and paintings, were quick to paint George Washington as a Messianic figure, even though he gave scant references to God. The Jesus of the New Republic was portrayed as one who desired moral character and virtue, but little use was made for any condemning and judging role Christ played.

Chapter Three (Gentle Jesus, Meek and Mild): Andrew Jackson’s frontiersman celebrity helped craft Jesus into a man’s man, with little use for the creeds and much use for . On the other end of the spectrum, the Victorian Jesus was one who was gentle, respectful, friend of children, and almost effeminate. Many depictions of Jesus were that of one with long hair, blue eyes, smooth skin, and womanly features.

Chapter Four (Jesus, Hero for the Modern World): In this chapter, Nichols discusses the theological debates between liberal scholar Harry Emerson Fosdick and conservative scholar J. Gresham Machen. For Fosdick, Jesus was all about peace and brotherhood, playing off the philosophy of Henry Van Dyke. Machen sought to bring the church back to orthodox Christianity.

Chapter Five (Jesus on Vinyl): From the Jesus People Movement to the mega-corporate Christian Contemporary Music (CCM) scene, adapting Jesus and his ways to the airwaves and drained even more of the deity out of Christ. Now, Nichols contends, we are relegated to singing "love songs" to Jesus. Crossover bands recognize that if they desire airplay on a wider realm, they must refrain from using, as DeGarmo and Key slyly remarked, "the J-Word."

Chapter Six (Jesus on the Big Screen): From DeMille’s King of Kings in 1927 to The Passion of the Christ in 2004 (with a stopover at Scorsece’s The Last Temptation of Christ, Nichols gives an interesting overview of Christ on film. He rightly notes that most of these films fill in some of the spots missing (such as Jesus’ childhood) and gloss over areas where the Scripture does speak. A case in point is Gibson’s Passion, which draws more on his Catholic tradition than it does on the sole authority of Scripture. Nichols gives a helpful survey to help us be more discerning.

Chapter Seven (Jesus on a Bracelet): from the WWJD? bracelets to Precious Moments, Nichols gives a very disturbing view on how Christ is merchandised. You just need to read this chapter to get an idea of how absorbed we are in this mindset.

Chapter Eight (Jesus on the Right Wing): From Jimmy Carter’s claim to being "born again" to George W. Bush’s claim in the 2000 Republican Presidential Primaries that Jesus influenced his thoughts the most, Nichols examines how both the right wing and the left seek to lay claim to Jesus as an advocate to their causes.

Categories: America, evangelicalism, History | Leave a comment

The Danger of Unregenerate Pastors (C.H. Spurgeon)

Alas!  the unregenerate pastor becomes terribly mischievous too, for of all the causes which create infidelity, ungodly ministers must be ranked among the first.  I read the other day, that no phase of evil presented so marvellous a power for destruction, as the unconverted minister of a parish, with a 1200-pound (British currency, not weight) organ, a choir of ungodly singers, and aristocratic congregation.  It was the opinion of the writer, that there could be no greater instrument for damnation out of help than that.  People go to their place of worship and sit down comfortably, and think they must be Christians, when all the time all that their religion consists in, is listening to an orator, having their ears tickles with music, and perhaps their eyes amused with graceful action and fashionable manners; the whole being no better than what they hear and see at the opera—not so good, perhaps, in point of aesthetic beauty, and not an atom more spiritual.  Thousands are congratulating themselves, and even blessing God that they are devout worshippers, when at the same time they are living in an unregenerate Christless state, having the form of godliness, but denying the power thereof.  He who presides over a system which aims at nothing higher than formalism, is far more a servant of the devil than a minister of God.

(C.H. Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students, Banner of Trust Trust, 2008, pp. 5-6)

Categories: C.H. Spurgeon, church, evangelicalism, evangelism, Salvation, worship | Leave a comment

The Danger of Unregenerate Pastors (C.H. Spurgeon)

Alas!  the unregenerate pastor becomes terribly mischievous too, for of all the causes which create infidelity, ungodly ministers must be ranked among the first.  I read the other day, that no phase of evil presented so marvellous a power for destruction, as the unconverted minister of a parish, with a 1200-pound (British currency, not weight) organ, a choir of ungodly singers, and aristocratic congregation.  It was the opinion of the writer, that there could be no greater instrument for damnation out of help than that.  People go to their place of worship and sit down comfortably, and think they must be Christians, when all the time all that their religion consists in, is listening to an orator, having their ears tickles with music, and perhaps their eyes amused with graceful action and fashionable manners; the whole being no better than what they hear and see at the opera—not so good, perhaps, in point of aesthetic beauty, and not an atom more spiritual.  Thousands are congratulating themselves, and even blessing God that they are devout worshippers, when at the same time they are living in an unregenerate Christless state, having the form of godliness, but denying the power thereof.  He who presides over a system which aims at nothing higher than formalism, is far more a servant of the devil than a minister of God.

(C.H. Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students, Banner of Trust Trust, 2008, pp. 5-6)

Categories: C.H. Spurgeon, church, evangelicalism, evangelism, Salvation, worship | Leave a comment

Sunday’s Sermon: “Jesus Saves, Jesus Sends” (Luke 9:1-9)

(If you wish to listen to the mp3 of this sermon, click on the title of this sermon in the sidebar of this blog.  This sermon was preached on Sunday, March 22, 2009 at Boone’s Creek Baptist Church, Lexington, KY where I have served as pastor since September 2003.)

Every leader, no matter who he is or what he is engaged in, must multiply himself. If a leader does not pass along his vision, delegate that vision out, and then give away some of that responsibility, that influence will be small. That influence will only go as far as that person can. But leaders and organizations’ influence multiplies when others are involved in making the vision a reality.

When I became a minister of music and youth at a church in South Florida, I went from a small church with a very small choir and about a ten-voice children’s choir to a church that had five large choirs from preschool to senior adults. While they already had people in place for the preschool choir and children’s choir, I was directly in charge of the youth choir, adult choir, and senior adult choirs which had a combined 90 people involved. I was swamped.

Yet, my greatest challenge was the youth choir. We formed an instant bond, and I knew how to direct choirs—but the youth also were involved in large dramatic musicals. This wasn’t where you just gave them some lines and said, “OK, guys—do your best!” There were tryouts, auditions, and some serious practices. It was not my strength, and it showed at our first musical.

So I had to swallow my pride and get some help with this. Someone in our church was good at drama and had experience doing it, so I enlisted Sean and he took over all the drama. We would coordinate, I’d tell him my thoughts, and he’d either run with what I said or improve on what I said. But the burden was lifted, ministry was expanded, and the youth choir absolutely flourished.

Jesus understood this. As we have been going through Luke, we have seen that Jesus was very busy in doing ministry. He would do the preaching, he would do the healing, he would talk to the opposition—and he did this alone! Even the account of Jairus’ daughter and the woman with the issue of blood, people pressed in around him so much that he struggled to get from Point A to Point B. He was it! He even had to divert his attention from Jairus’ issue to tend to the woman. As far as the perspective of heaven was concerned, this was exactly how God planned it. But from heaven’s and earth’s perspective, Jesus needed to give away his ministry not only so he could spread his influence—he needed to train these young “interns” to carry on after He ascended to the Father.

It’s interesting that Jesus chose this path—involving flawed and frail human beings to expand his ministry and work through them and all who follow the Gospel.

1 And he called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, 2 and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. 3 And he said to them, "Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not have two tunics. 4And whatever house you enter, stay there, and from there depart. 5And wherever they do not receive you, when you leave that town shake off the dust from your feet as a testimony against them." 6 And they departed and went through the villages, preaching the gospel and healing everywhere.

7 Now Herod the tetrarch heard about all that was happening, and he was perplexed, because it was said by some that John had been raised from the dead, 8 by some that Elijah had appeared, and by others that one of the prophets of old had risen. 9Herod said, "John I beheaded, but who is this about whom I hear such things?" And he sought to see him.

As we look at this passage, we must remember this without fail: those whom Jesus saves, Jesus sends. He calls you, he empowers you, he directs you, and when it comes to the church he stays with you in his Spirit. Not only this, but the Spirit moving you along gives you the desire to point others to Christ. The connection is such in the New Testament that if you find yourself not wanting to be sent or resisting it, there is always a question as to whether you are saved. Spurgeon says:

Any Christian has a right to disseminate the gospel who has the ability to do so; and more, he not only has the right, but it is his duty so to do as long as he lives. The propagation of the gospel is left, not to a few, but to all disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.[1]

1. Jesus saves us and sends us, armed with the gospel (1-3).

Again, look at verses 1-3:

1 And he called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, 2 and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. 3 And he said to them, "Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not have two tunics.”

Jesus chose these twelve out of many, and he poured his life and teaching into these twelve men. During this mission, they were only armed with the power of the Word of God to do both physical and spiritual healings. This is great in seeing how Christ uses people to expand and conduct his ministry. In John 6:69-71, we read:

After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. 67So Jesus said to the Twelve, "Do you want to go away as well?" Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, 69and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God." Jesus answered them, "Did I not choose you, the Twelve?”

Christ chose the Twelve to serve as an extension of himself in the world. This is a foreshadowing of how his church would serve. Remember from Ephesians 2:19-21:

19So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.

Jesus saves us and sends us to be an extension of Him as well—the apostles were sent, yet we are His body that’s living and active in the world. What is the resource He gave them to use? “He sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal.” I read this, and two things came to mind. I recall in Acts 1 after Jesus rose from the dead, he spent his last days: “He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3).

The other thing that came to mind was a conference I went to in Elizabethtown this past Tuesday called “Essential Church?: Reclaiming a Generation of Dropouts.” Dan Summerlin gave a breakout session talk about the necessity of a church understanding its mission. He recommended to us pastors gathering together your key leaders and spend three months on this. He said, “The first four weeks of this, do a study on the Kingdom of God to get that framework in mind. Then you’re ready for the particulars of your church.”

Notice over what Jesus gives them authority: demons and diseases. Why is this significant? Did not Jesus have power over the demons and to cure diseases in Luke 8? Jesus called them, saying that they now have His power and authority over these issues as well. He doesn’t just save them. He doesn’t just empower them. He sends them to proclaim the Kingdom of God and to heal.

We must realize that this was a short-term mission for a specific purpose. In this passage, they were to take nothing for their journey, when in another missions trip they were to take extra supplies. This was a time where they would get used to sharing the gospel in various communities, especially after the time Jesus was ascended—given great evidence of this in the Book of Acts.

We must also realize that Jesus is bringing together his apostles (and this word, from the Greek, means ones who are sent—in this case, ones who are sent by Christ for a specific purpose).

2. Jesus saves us and sends us to work the Gospel out in our communities (4-6).

Look with me at verses 4-6:

4And whatever house you enter, stay there, and from there depart. 5And wherever they do not receive you, when you leave that town shake off the dust from your feet as a testimony against them." 6 And they departed and went through the villages, preaching the gospel and healing everywhere.

Verse 6 is telling: “And they departed and went through the villages.” Jesus sent out the Twelve to “proclaim the Kingdom of God and to heal.” Notice too the parallel understanding of proclaiming the Kingdom of God and “preaching the gospel.” So that’s the what—now we see the where: the villages. They went into the communities where people lived.

Christ empowers us to be witnesses from our neighborhoods to our nations. How? “The Holy Spirit will empower you, and you will be my witnesses…” (Acts 1:8). Do we understand that the power that God gave to Christ and that Christ gave to the disciples is ours as well? We need to realize a few things: one, the one who calls us; two, what he arms us with; and three, who he sends us to.

John Benton in his book, “Why Join a Small Church?” tells the story of when U.S. troops captured the Pacific Island of Okinawa towards the end of World War II. The island by and large contained great moral and social issues, except for one city—Shimbakuku. Upon their arrival there, they were greeted by two men, one carrying a Bible.

Everything in that village was neat and tidy, a far cry from the state of the other villages they had encountered. The reason? Thirty years prior a missionary had stopped in Shimbakuku on his way to Japan. He didn’t stay long and only two people (the old men) became Christians. He left them a Bible and begged them to shape their lives by it. They did so, and the whole community changed.

Do we not need to go into our villages? Has not God called us to go into our communities as part of the Great Commission? You see, in every case where God saves, He sends! And He arms us with the Spirit and His Word! We are to know our Savior, we are to know His Word, but we are also to know the people to whom we minister.

Have you ever talked to someone who feels called into international missions? In Southern Baptist life, if someone goes into missions through the International Missions Board, whether career or a two-year journeyman stint, end up spending some time a the Missionary Learning Center. There, they are trained to learn the language and culture of the people to whom they will serve and minister the Gospel. Why? Because some of our American traditions and customs may not only fit, but some may take offense. Plus, we need to be ready to adapt.

What is so interesting to me is, we do not question those methods of the IMB in training these missionaries to study their culture. Yet, we fail to see that this is what we need to be doing as well! 1 Chronicles 12:32 says, “Of the sons of Issachar who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do.”

You see, there is a difference between the church being like the world and the church understanding the world. Some Bible-believing churches want to completely cut themselves off from anything in the world

3. Jesus saves us and sends us, challenging outsiders to deal with Him and His Gospel (7-9).

7 Now Herod the tetrarch heard about all that was happening, and he was perplexed, because it was said by some that John had been raised from the dead, 8 by some that Elijah had appeared, and by others that one of the prophets of old had risen. 9Herod said, "John I beheaded, but who is this about whom I hear such things?" And he sought to see him.

Consider the progression here. Jesus saves us in order to send us. He gives us His power and His love and His desire for His prized creation and re-creates them, making them new creatures in Christ who no longer desire their own wills and appeal to their own flesh are sold out to the Kingdom of God—such a disparity will make a great difference in the world.

Yet, Jesus’ ministry had gotten the attention of none other than Herod the Tetrarch (also known as Herod Antipas). Herod ruled Galilee from around 4 B.C. until 39 A.D. He was every bit as evil as his father. Luke alludes to the fact that he was “perplexed because it was said by some that John had been raised from the dead” (v. 7). He by the urging of Herodias beheaded John the Baptist who accused him of adultery by having his brother Philip’s wife. He was familiar with John’s powerful preaching on the Kingdom of God, and Jesus (as far as he knew) had the same powerful preaching as well. “John I beheaded, but who is this about whom I hear such things?”

Herod wanted to meet him. Yet later on Herod wanted to kill Jesus. But in Luke 13:32, Jesus told the messengers, “Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my course.’” (Luke 13:32). Later on in Luke 23, during Jesus’ trial, Herod finally meets Jesus in person and wants a miracle from him—something in which Jesus did not oblige him.

What do we see from this? For one, we see that on the surface, Christianity looks very good. The disciples were preaching, yes, but they were healing! Many saw these incredible miracles and wanted to be a part of what was going on. They liked what they saw on the outside concerning Jesus and Christianity in general.

Yet, as we see with Herod, when people hear of the very nature of Christianity and the message that not only saved us but the message that we as saved people are armed with, they want to silence us. They may like what we do, but the world will hate what Christians say because it will not just involve an enjoyment of physical miracles, but it involves a spiritual change. When the Scriptures say, “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness,” they will resent the notion that a change, a spiritual transformation must take place.

A.W. Tozer calls for a certain type of preacher to step up:

Another kind of religious leader must arise among us. He must be of the old prophet type, a man who has seen visions of God and has heard a voice from the Throne. When he comes (and I pray God there will be not one but many), he will stand in flat contradiction to everything our smirking, smooth civilization holds dear. He will contradict, denounce and protest in the name of God and will earn the hatred and opposition of a large segment of Christendom. Such a man is likely to be lean, rugged, blunt- spoken and a little bit angry with the world. He will love Christ and the souls of men to the point of willingness to die for the glory of the One and the salvation of the other. But he will fear nothing that breathes with mortal breath.[2]

Yet, we may wish to silence Jesus, but there is a little seed that still intrigues us—as it did with Herod during Jesus’ trial. He wanted to see a miracle. Even with his skepticism, he still wanted to see if Jesus was all he said he was, but the only thing he could muster up was a desire to see an external magic trick. He still felt as if the world bowed to him, yet Jesus showed numerous times that He followed another King!

Our lives must be lived both in private and in public in such a way that the world and its leaders will have to contend with Christians—not politically, but spiritually. First Peter 3:15-16 says,

“In your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.”

Conclusion

One time, Billy Graham took time to speak to President John F. Kennedy about the gospel and the Second Coming of Christ. Kennedy disregarded what Graham had to say. Yet, sometime later when he and Graham were together, President Kennedy asked Billy if he could ride with him to his hotel room—clearly something was on his mind. Graham was suffering from a nasty cold and told the President he did not want to give this to him. So they settled for another time. Yet, just days later, JFK was shot in Dallas, and the conversation never took place.


[1]C.H. Spurgeon, Lectures To My Students (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 2008), 19.

[2]A.W. Tozer, The Size of the Soul, 128-129.

Categories: Christ, church, evangelism, leadership, missions, Salvation, worship | Leave a comment

Sunday’s Sermon: “Jesus Saves, Jesus Sends” (Luke 9:1-9)

(If you wish to listen to the mp3 of this sermon, click on the title of this sermon in the sidebar of this blog.  This sermon was preached on Sunday, March 22, 2009 at Boone’s Creek Baptist Church, Lexington, KY where I have served as pastor since September 2003.)

Every leader, no matter who he is or what he is engaged in, must multiply himself. If a leader does not pass along his vision, delegate that vision out, and then give away some of that responsibility, that influence will be small. That influence will only go as far as that person can. But leaders and organizations’ influence multiplies when others are involved in making the vision a reality.

When I became a minister of music and youth at a church in South Florida, I went from a small church with a very small choir and about a ten-voice children’s choir to a church that had five large choirs from preschool to senior adults. While they already had people in place for the preschool choir and children’s choir, I was directly in charge of the youth choir, adult choir, and senior adult choirs which had a combined 90 people involved. I was swamped.

Yet, my greatest challenge was the youth choir. We formed an instant bond, and I knew how to direct choirs—but the youth also were involved in large dramatic musicals. This wasn’t where you just gave them some lines and said, “OK, guys—do your best!” There were tryouts, auditions, and some serious practices. It was not my strength, and it showed at our first musical.

So I had to swallow my pride and get some help with this. Someone in our church was good at drama and had experience doing it, so I enlisted Sean and he took over all the drama. We would coordinate, I’d tell him my thoughts, and he’d either run with what I said or improve on what I said. But the burden was lifted, ministry was expanded, and the youth choir absolutely flourished.

Jesus understood this. As we have been going through Luke, we have seen that Jesus was very busy in doing ministry. He would do the preaching, he would do the healing, he would talk to the opposition—and he did this alone! Even the account of Jairus’ daughter and the woman with the issue of blood, people pressed in around him so much that he struggled to get from Point A to Point B. He was it! He even had to divert his attention from Jairus’ issue to tend to the woman. As far as the perspective of heaven was concerned, this was exactly how God planned it. But from heaven’s and earth’s perspective, Jesus needed to give away his ministry not only so he could spread his influence—he needed to train these young “interns” to carry on after He ascended to the Father.

It’s interesting that Jesus chose this path—involving flawed and frail human beings to expand his ministry and work through them and all who follow the Gospel.

1 And he called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, 2 and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. 3 And he said to them, "Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not have two tunics. 4And whatever house you enter, stay there, and from there depart. 5And wherever they do not receive you, when you leave that town shake off the dust from your feet as a testimony against them." 6 And they departed and went through the villages, preaching the gospel and healing everywhere.

7 Now Herod the tetrarch heard about all that was happening, and he was perplexed, because it was said by some that John had been raised from the dead, 8 by some that Elijah had appeared, and by others that one of the prophets of old had risen. 9Herod said, "John I beheaded, but who is this about whom I hear such things?" And he sought to see him.

As we look at this passage, we must remember this without fail: those whom Jesus saves, Jesus sends. He calls you, he empowers you, he directs you, and when it comes to the church he stays with you in his Spirit. Not only this, but the Spirit moving you along gives you the desire to point others to Christ. The connection is such in the New Testament that if you find yourself not wanting to be sent or resisting it, there is always a question as to whether you are saved. Spurgeon says:

Any Christian has a right to disseminate the gospel who has the ability to do so; and more, he not only has the right, but it is his duty so to do as long as he lives. The propagation of the gospel is left, not to a few, but to all disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.[1]

1. Jesus saves us and sends us, armed with the gospel (1-3).

Again, look at verses 1-3:

1 And he called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, 2 and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. 3 And he said to them, "Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not have two tunics.”

Jesus chose these twelve out of many, and he poured his life and teaching into these twelve men. During this mission, they were only armed with the power of the Word of God to do both physical and spiritual healings. This is great in seeing how Christ uses people to expand and conduct his ministry. In John 6:69-71, we read:

After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. 67So Jesus said to the Twelve, "Do you want to go away as well?" Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, 69and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God." Jesus answered them, "Did I not choose you, the Twelve?”

Christ chose the Twelve to serve as an extension of himself in the world. This is a foreshadowing of how his church would serve. Remember from Ephesians 2:19-21:

19So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.

Jesus saves us and sends us to be an extension of Him as well—the apostles were sent, yet we are His body that’s living and active in the world. What is the resource He gave them to use? “He sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal.” I read this, and two things came to mind. I recall in Acts 1 after Jesus rose from the dead, he spent his last days: “He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3).

The other thing that came to mind was a conference I went to in Elizabethtown this past Tuesday called “Essential Church?: Reclaiming a Generation of Dropouts.” Dan Summerlin gave a breakout session talk about the necessity of a church understanding its mission. He recommended to us pastors gathering together your key leaders and spend three months on this. He said, “The first four weeks of this, do a study on the Kingdom of God to get that framework in mind. Then you’re ready for the particulars of your church.”

Notice over what Jesus gives them authority: demons and diseases. Why is this significant? Did not Jesus have power over the demons and to cure diseases in Luke 8? Jesus called them, saying that they now have His power and authority over these issues as well. He doesn’t just save them. He doesn’t just empower them. He sends them to proclaim the Kingdom of God
and to heal.

We must realize that this was a short-term mission for a specific purpose. In this passage, they were to take nothing for their journey, when in another missions trip they were to take extra supplies. This was a time where they would get used to sharing the gospel in various communities, especially after the time Jesus was ascended—given great evidence of this in the Book of Acts.

We must also realize that Jesus is bringing together his apostles (and this word, from the Greek, means ones who are sent—in this case, ones who are sent by Christ for a specific purpose).

2. Jesus saves us and sends us to work the Gospel out in our communities (4-6).

Look with me at verses 4-6:

4And whatever house you enter, stay there, and from there depart. 5And wherever they do not receive you, when you leave that town shake off the dust from your feet as a testimony against them." 6 And they departed and went through the villages, preaching the gospel and healing everywhere.

Verse 6 is telling: “And they departed and went through the villages.” Jesus sent out the Twelve to “proclaim the Kingdom of God and to heal.” Notice too the parallel understanding of proclaiming the Kingdom of God and “preaching the gospel.” So that’s the what—now we see the where: the villages. They went into the communities where people lived.

Christ empowers us to be witnesses from our neighborhoods to our nations. How? “The Holy Spirit will empower you, and you will be my witnesses…” (Acts 1:8). Do we understand that the power that God gave to Christ and that Christ gave to the disciples is ours as well? We need to realize a few things: one, the one who calls us; two, what he arms us with; and three, who he sends us to.

John Benton in his book, “Why Join a Small Church?” tells the story of when U.S. troops captured the Pacific Island of Okinawa towards the end of World War II. The island by and large contained great moral and social issues, except for one city—Shimbakuku. Upon their arrival there, they were greeted by two men, one carrying a Bible.

Everything in that village was neat and tidy, a far cry from the state of the other villages they had encountered. The reason? Thirty years prior a missionary had stopped in Shimbakuku on his way to Japan. He didn’t stay long and only two people (the old men) became Christians. He left them a Bible and begged them to shape their lives by it. They did so, and the whole community changed.

Do we not need to go into our villages? Has not God called us to go into our communities as part of the Great Commission? You see, in every case where God saves, He sends! And He arms us with the Spirit and His Word! We are to know our Savior, we are to know His Word, but we are also to know the people to whom we minister.

Have you ever talked to someone who feels called into international missions? In Southern Baptist life, if someone goes into missions through the International Missions Board, whether career or a two-year journeyman stint, end up spending some time a the Missionary Learning Center. There, they are trained to learn the language and culture of the people to whom they will serve and minister the Gospel. Why? Because some of our American traditions and customs may not only fit, but some may take offense. Plus, we need to be ready to adapt.

What is so interesting to me is, we do not question those methods of the IMB in training these missionaries to study their culture. Yet, we fail to see that this is what we need to be doing as well! 1 Chronicles 12:32 says, “Of the sons of Issachar who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do.”

You see, there is a difference between the church being like the world and the church understanding the world. Some Bible-believing churches want to completely cut themselves off from anything in the world

3. Jesus saves us and sends us, challenging outsiders to deal with Him and His Gospel (7-9).

7 Now Herod the tetrarch heard about all that was happening, and he was perplexed, because it was said by some that John had been raised from the dead, 8 by some that Elijah had appeared, and by others that one of the prophets of old had risen. 9Herod said, "John I beheaded, but who is this about whom I hear such things?" And he sought to see him.

Consider the progression here. Jesus saves us in order to send us. He gives us His power and His love and His desire for His prized creation and re-creates them, making them new creatures in Christ who no longer desire their own wills and appeal to their own flesh are sold out to the Kingdom of God—such a disparity will make a great difference in the world.

Yet, Jesus’ ministry had gotten the attention of none other than Herod the Tetrarch (also known as Herod Antipas). Herod ruled Galilee from around 4 B.C. until 39 A.D. He was every bit as evil as his father. Luke alludes to the fact that he was “perplexed because it was said by some that John had been raised from the dead” (v. 7). He by the urging of Herodias beheaded John the Baptist who accused him of adultery by having his brother Philip’s wife. He was familiar with John’s powerful preaching on the Kingdom of God, and Jesus (as far as he knew) had the same powerful preaching as well. “John I beheaded, but who is this about whom I hear such things?”

Herod wanted to meet him. Yet later on Herod wanted to kill Jesus. But in Luke 13:32, Jesus told the messengers, “Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my course.’” (Luke 13:32). Later on in Luke 23, during Jesus’ trial, Herod finally meets Jesus in person and wants a miracle from him—something in which Jesus did not oblige him.

What do we see from this? For one, we see that on the surface, Christianity looks very good. The disciples were preaching, yes, but they were healing! Many saw these incredible miracles and wanted to be a part of what was going on. They liked what they saw on the outside concerning Jesus and Christianity in general.

Yet, as we see with Herod, when people hear of the very nature of Christianity and the message that not only saved us but the message that we as saved people are armed with, they want to silence us. They may like what we do, but the world will hate what Christians say because it will not just involve an enjoyment of physical miracles, but it involves a spiritual change. When the Scriptures say, “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness,” they will resent the notion that a change, a spiritual transformation must take place.

A.W. Tozer calls for a certain type of preacher to step up:

Another kind of religious leader must arise among us. He must be of the old prophet type, a man who has seen visions of God and has heard a voice from the Throne. When he comes (and I pray God there will be not one but many), he will stand in flat contradiction to everything our smirking, smooth civilization holds dear. He will contradict, denounce and protest in the name of God and will earn the hatred and opposition of a large segment of Christendom. Such a man is likely to be lean, rugged, blunt- spoken and a little bit angry with the world. He will love Christ and the souls of men to the point of willingness to die for the glory of the One and the salvation of the other. But he will fear nothing that breathes with mortal breath.[2]

Yet, we may wish to silence Jesus, but there is a littl
e seed that still intrigues us—as it did with Herod during Jesus’ trial. He wanted to see a miracle. Even with his skepticism, he still wanted to see if Jesus was all he said he was, but the only thing he could muster up was a desire to see an external magic trick. He still felt as if the world bowed to him, yet Jesus showed numerous times that He followed another King!

Our lives must be lived both in private and in public in such a way that the world and its leaders will have to contend with Christians—not politically, but spiritually. First Peter 3:15-16 says,

“In your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.”

Conclusion

One time, Billy Graham took time to speak to President John F. Kennedy about the gospel and the Second Coming of Christ. Kennedy disregarded what Graham had to say. Yet, sometime later when he and Graham were together, President Kennedy asked Billy if he could ride with him to his hotel room—clearly something was on his mind. Graham was suffering from a nasty cold and told the President he did not want to give this to him. So they settled for another time. Yet, just days later, JFK was shot in Dallas, and the conversation never took place.


[1]C.H. Spurgeon, Lectures To My Students (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 2008), 19.

[2]A.W. Tozer, The Size of the Soul, 128-129.

Categories: Christ, church, evangelism, leadership, missions, Salvation, worship | Leave a comment

The Devil’s Jackals (Charles Spurgeon)

"One evening David got up from his bed and strolled around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing–a very beautiful woman." 2 Samuel 11:2

At that hour David saw Bathsheba. We are never out of the reach of temptation! Both at home and abroad we are liable to meet with allurements to evil. The morning opens with peril–and the shadows of evening find us still in jeopardy. They are well kept–whom God keeps! But woe unto those who go forth into the world, or even dare to walk their own house, unarmed. Those who think themselves secure, are more exposed to danger than any others. The armor-bearer of sin–is self-confidence.

David should have been engaged in fighting the Lord’s battles, instead of which he tarried at Jerusalem, and gave himself up to luxurious repose, for he arose from his bed in the evening. Idleness and luxury are the devil’s jackals–and find him abundant prey. In stagnant waters–noxious creatures swarm. Neglected soil–soon yields a dense tangle of weeds and briers. Oh for the constraining love of Jesus to keep us active and useful!

When I see the King of Israel sluggishly leaving his couch at the close of the day, and falling at once into temptation–let me take warning, and set holy watchfulness to guard the door! Is it possible that the king had mounted his housetop for prayer and devotion? If so, what a caution is given us to count no place, however secret–a sanctuary from sin!

While our hearts are so like a tinder-box, and sparks so plentiful–we had need use all diligence in all places–to prevent a blaze. Satan can climb housetops, and enter closets! And even if we could shut out that foul fiend–our own corruptions are enough to work our ruin–unless God’s grace prevents it.

Reader, beware of evening temptations. Be not secure. The sun is down–but sin is up. We need a watchman for the night–as well as a guardian for the day. O blessed Spirit, keep us from all evil this night. Amen.

(This is from today’s Grace Gem – http://www.gracegems.org .)

Categories: C.H. Spurgeon, prayer | Leave a comment

The Devil’s Jackals (Charles Spurgeon)

"One evening David got up from his bed and strolled around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing–a very beautiful woman." 2 Samuel 11:2

At that hour David saw Bathsheba. We are never out of the reach of temptation! Both at home and abroad we are liable to meet with allurements to evil. The morning opens with peril–and the shadows of evening find us still in jeopardy. They are well kept–whom God keeps! But woe unto those who go forth into the world, or even dare to walk their own house, unarmed. Those who think themselves secure, are more exposed to danger than any others. The armor-bearer of sin–is self-confidence.

David should have been engaged in fighting the Lord’s battles, instead of which he tarried at Jerusalem, and gave himself up to luxurious repose, for he arose from his bed in the evening. Idleness and luxury are the devil’s jackals–and find him abundant prey. In stagnant waters–noxious creatures swarm. Neglected soil–soon yields a dense tangle of weeds and briers. Oh for the constraining love of Jesus to keep us active and useful!

When I see the King of Israel sluggishly leaving his couch at the close of the day, and falling at once into temptation–let me take warning, and set holy watchfulness to guard the door! Is it possible that the king had mounted his housetop for prayer and devotion? If so, what a caution is given us to count no place, however secret–a sanctuary from sin!

While our hearts are so like a tinder-box, and sparks so plentiful–we had need use all diligence in all places–to prevent a blaze. Satan can climb housetops, and enter closets! And even if we could shut out that foul fiend–our own corruptions are enough to work our ruin–unless God’s grace prevents it.

Reader, beware of evening temptations. Be not secure. The sun is down–but sin is up. We need a watchman for the night–as well as a guardian for the day. O blessed Spirit, keep us from all evil this night. Amen.

(This is from today’s Grace Gem – http://www.gracegems.org .)

Categories: C.H. Spurgeon, prayer | Leave a comment

Book Review: “Why Join a small Church?” by John Benton

smallchurch

I came across John Benton’s wonderful little book, Why Join a small Church? at a very important and crucial time in my ministry. Benton serves as pastor of Chertsey Street Baptist Church in Guildford, England, and has written such a helpful work in this area, that I cannot recommend it highly enough.

I serve as pastor of what some consider a small church (approx. 160-170 on a Sunday morning when the weather holds up). We have a number of folks who come through our church either just to visit, or are looking for another church that is, well, smaller than a number of larger churches that are in our area.

(An interesting trend here: many in our larger churches are looking for a smaller church to develop some close relationships, and others are in smaller churches looking to larger ones because of larger ministries and programs in which they may be involved. No wonder we see so many jumping churches all the time. Just a thought.)

Benton comes along and says

To join a big and thriving church is not always wrong, but it is frequently the easy option. To join a little needy congregation is not a decision to be taken lightly. It will probably require far more guts, love, resilience and spiritual exertion. But how the devil would love to herd Christians into a few big city centre churches, getting them to travel miles from their communities, and leaving vast tracts of our country with no viable witness for the gospel.

In Chapter One, Benton gives seven reasons to “throw your lot” into smaller churches (11-15):

    1. The big churches can spare you.
    2. The small churches need you.
    3. Small churches give opportunities to serve.
    4. Small churches enjoy closer fellowship.
    5. Smaller churches will stretch you more as a Christian.
    6. Small churches offer you a life’s work of real significance.
    7. Small churches offer you the chance to confound the world.

Benton closes the chapter by saying what many look for in a church.

  • What’s the music program like?
  • Is the church building impressive?
  • Can I find me a marriage partner? (Translate: are there young people there?)
  • Do the services employ the latest technology?
  • What’s the coffee like?
  • Will I be asked to do a lot? (16)

Rather, we should ask, “Is the love of Christ shown? Is the Bible taught faithfully? Is the church seeking to win others to Christ?” (16)

Chapter Two, entitled “Problems You May Face,” deals honestly with the plight of many smaller churches (bad facilities, nothing for children or youth, discouragement, lack of spiritual life, idiosyncracies, stale worship, etc.). Benton even questions the need for planting churches, for he feels that “it is far better, whatever the difficulties, if we can help to build up what is already in existence” (24).

Chapter Three, entitled “Why It Is a Tragedy if Small Churches Close,” he answers up front:

Everyone needs to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ and if possible to see it lived out in practical life. When a Bible church closes it usually leaves an area where people have been robbed of the possibility of hearing the gospel. But, in fact, everyone needs to become a Christian and local churches are the God-ordained means of holding out the world of life to the community.

Crafted around 1 Peter 1:3-12, Benton gives some helpful and necessary principles on why small churches are so needed. Chapter Four, entitled “How to Make a Small Church a Great Church,” was covered in a previous blog post, so I’ll move on to Chapter Five, entitled, “Encouragement for the Task.” Allow me to list off seven encouragements Benton believes (and I would agree) will help small churches to persevere and achieve great things for God.

  1. The potential of the church is far greater than we realize.
  2. The Lord is able to use small groups of Christians to transform whole communities.
  3. The Lord is able to use the most unlikely people to do remarkable things.
  4. The Lord Jesus will build His church.
  5. The Lord’s power is not dependent on great human resources.
  6. The power of God’s Spirit is available to all Christians
  7. The breakdown of secular society is a sign of how much each community needs small churches.

Conclusion

While each person must seek after God as to which church to join, we must make sure that our reasons are not simply due to external looks and resources, but rather they must match up to biblical mandates. We have become a consumeristic society, where we look at churches to see what they can offer us, rather than pouring our gifts into them.

Are you someone who prefers a larger church? Why? Do smaller churches not have the ministries or programs you desire? Do smaller churches make you feel conspicuous, whereas larger churches give you a place to blend in and hide? Would you be willing to be used by God to roll up your sleeves and help those small churches out so they may focus on a lost and dying world?

Frankly, are you elevating personal preferences to tests of faith? If so, you may well be walking in pride and selfishness, all the while deluding yourselves into thinking you are doing these things for spiritual reasons.

(John Benton, Why Join a small Church?, Rosshire, Scotland: Christian Focus Publications, 2008, 61 pp., $7.99.)

To read another fine (and far better) review of this work, click here.

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Categories: church, evangelism, missions, small groups | 2 Comments

Book Review: “Why Join a small Church?” by John Benton

smallchurch

I came across John Benton’s wonderful little book, Why Join a small Church? at a very important and crucial time in my ministry. Benton serves as pastor of Chertsey Street Baptist Church in Guildford, England, and has written such a helpful work in this area, that I cannot recommend it highly enough.

I serve as pastor of what some consider a small church (approx. 160-170 on a Sunday morning when the weather holds up). We have a number of folks who come through our church either just to visit, or are looking for another church that is, well, smaller than a number of larger churches that are in our area.

(An interesting trend here: many in our larger churches are looking for a smaller church to develop some close relationships, and others are in smaller churches looking to larger ones because of larger ministries and programs in which they may be involved. No wonder we see so many jumping churches all the time. Just a thought.)

Benton comes along and says

To join a big and thriving church is not always wrong, but it is frequently the easy option. To join a little needy congregation is not a decision to be taken lightly. It will probably require far more guts, love, resilience and spiritual exertion. But how the devil would love to herd Christians into a few big city centre churches, getting them to travel miles from their communities, and leaving vast tracts of our country with no viable witness for the gospel.

In Chapter One, Benton gives seven reasons to “throw your lot” into smaller churches (11-15):

    1. The big churches can spare you.
    2. The small churches need you.
    3. Small churches give opportunities to serve.
    4. Small churches enjoy closer fellowship.
    5. Smaller churches will stretch you more as a Christian.
    6. Small churches offer you a life’s work of real significance.
    7. Small churches offer you the chance to confound the world.

Benton closes the chapter by saying what many look for in a church.

  • What’s the music program like?
  • Is the church building impressive?
  • Can I find me a marriage partner? (Translate: are there young people there?)
  • Do the services employ the latest technology?
  • What’s the coffee like?
  • Will I be asked to do a lot? (16)

Rather, we should ask, “Is the love of Christ shown? Is the Bible taught faithfully? Is the church seeking to win others to Christ?” (16)

Chapter Two, entitled “Problems You May Face,” deals honestly with the plight of many smaller churches (bad facilities, nothing for children or youth, discouragement, lack of spiritual life, idiosyncracies, stale worship, etc.). Benton even questions the need for planting churches, for he feels that “it is far better, whatever the difficulties, if we can help to build up what is already in existence” (24).

Chapter Three, entitled “Why It Is a Tragedy if Small Churches Close,” he answers up front:

Everyone needs to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ and if possible to see it lived out in practical life. When a Bible church closes it usually leaves an area where people have been robbed of the possibility of hearing the gospel. But, in fact, everyone needs to become a Christian and local churches are the God-ordained means of holding out the world of life to the community.

Crafted around 1 Peter 1:3-12, Benton gives some helpful and necessary principles on why small churches are so needed. Chapter Four, entitled “How to Make a Small Church a Great Church,” was covered in a previous blog post, so I’ll move on to Chapter Five, entitled, “Encouragement for the Task.” Allow me to list off seven encouragements Benton believes (and I would agree) will help small churches to persevere and achieve great things for God.

  1. The potential of the church is far greater than we realize.
  2. The Lord is able to use small groups of Christians to transform whole communities.
  3. The Lord is able to use the most unlikely people to do remarkable things.
  4. The Lord Jesus will build His church.
  5. The Lord’s power is not dependent on great human resources.
  6. The power of God’s Spirit is available to all Christians
  7. The breakdown of secular society is a sign of how much each community needs small churches.

Conclusion

While each person must seek after God as to which church to join, we must make sure that our reasons are not simply due to external looks and resources, but rather they must match up to biblical mandates. We have become a consumeristic society, where we look at churches to see what they can offer us, rather than pouring our gifts into them.

Are you someone who prefers a larger church? Why? Do smaller churches not have the ministries or programs you desire? Do smaller churches make you feel conspicuous, whereas larger churches give you a place to blend in and hide? Would you be willing to be used by God to roll up your sleeves and help those small churches out so they may focus on a lost and dying world?

Frankly, are you elevating personal preferences to tests of faith? If so, you may well be walking in pride and selfishness, all the while deluding yourselves into thinking you are doing these things for spiritual reasons.

(John Benton, Why Join a small Church?, Rosshire, Scotland: Christian Focus Publications, 2008, 61 pp., $7.99.)

To read another fine (and far better) review of this work, click here.

Technorati Tags:
Categories: church, evangelism, missions, small groups | 2 Comments