Monthly Archives: April 2010

Leadership Questions Answered

A college student in my church had an assignment regarding leadership.  So he asked me a few questions on the matter, since I’m the pastor of his church (Boone’s Creek Baptist Church). 

1) What is leadership?  What exists at its core?

At its core, leadership is influence, compelling a group under your watch in a focused direction. Leaders have a vision and a conviction that drives them and, through their influence, should drive others who are following them.

Leaders are not simply leaders by their title. For instance, I have been pastor of Boone’s Creek Baptist Church in Lexington for almost seven years. Granted, I had the title of pastor on September 7, 2003 (my first Sunday). But for many, I had to move from being “the preacher” to “the pastor” who earned the trust to shepherd this people in a certain direction. I had to love the Scriptures but also show love toward the people to whom I was preaching. If I was to have any influence, then for this church I had to be steady and strong in the Bible, but also loving and truthful to the people as well. Otherwise, I would have no influence at all.

Aubrey Malphurs in his book, Being Leaders, notes that it often takes five years for a pastor to really become the “pastor” of a church. They have to overcome the shadow of the previous pastor/leader of the church, as well as gain influence with the other ‘layleaders’ (leaders who are not official, ordained ministers, but carry great influence as a regular member of the church).

2) Describe your leadership style.

My leadership style is that of equipping and training our people here to, as the Apostle Paul says in his letter to the Ephesian church, “equip the saints for the work of the ministry” (Ephesians 4:12). I do not possess the mindset nor the desire for an authoritarian leadership where I lead simply by the force of my personality. I preach the Scripture with conviction, but also model and partner with our people here and show them how to apply the Scriptures in all areas of ministry and life.

3) Describe your core beliefs about leadership.

Leaders are not simply ones with titles, but ones with influence. Stand in a crowd of people and see the person to whom everyone looks, and there you will see the leader. Some are born with inbred skills to lead, but leadership can also be taught.

Leaders need a vision to drive them. They need to understand the purpose of their organization, whether a for-profit or non-profit. Leaders also need people around them who share this vision and are ready to help implement the grand vision into the minute details of the organization.

4) How did you become a leader?

I have been in the ministry for 18 years. I have served in numerous capacities in music ministry, children’s ministry, youth ministry before becoming pastor of a small church in July 2002, and my present church in September 2003.

In coming to Boone’s Creek, I submitted my resume to various places who distributed my resume to different churches looking for a pastor. I sent my resume directly to Boone’s Creek after seeing an advertisement for a pastor in our Baptist state paper, The Western Recorder. Through conversations with the head of the Pastor Search Committee, the sending of tapes (audio and VHS), and numerous interviews with the committee, I came to preach a trial sermon on July 22, 2003 and meet with the various ministries at the church. In August 2003, the church voted as a congregation to bring me to Boone’s Creek as their Senior Pastor.

5) What has been your greatest challenge/obstacle as a leader?  How were those challenges overcome?

The greatest obstacle I’ve had in pastoring a church is inheriting a general apathy for the vision of the church. For us as Christians, Christ gave us a commission to “Go therefore and make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And I will be with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).

Yet, many in our churches believe that the church exists exclusively for them and their needs. Others may be new to the church and not aware that there’s more to the Christian life than simply receiving. We must give as Christ gave to us through His death for our sins and resurrection from the dead, which broke the power of sin, and death, and hell.

Those obstacles are being overcome in a number of ways:

First, I have been making our key leaders in our church aware and ready to move forward with what Christ called us to do.

Second, I have steadily preached about what Christ has called us to do, and given them ways to accomplish that goal as individuals and as a church.

Third, prayer and reading the Scriptures. By connecting with the living God, He gives me a heart, a passion, and direction as a leader of His people to move forward.

You see, all leaders need to be led somehow.  If leaders begin focusing exclusively on leading, and yet are not being refreshed and refueled by them continually learning, they will burn out. 

6) What has been the greatest reward as a leader?

My greatest reward as a leader is seeing the light click on where they ‘get it.’ Where my leaders here get ‘it’ and have a passion for what God has truly gifted them and called them to do. It’s seeing the non-believer in Christ suddenly understand that they were not created to simply be their own ‘god’ and rule their own life (which is a dead end), but to see that they were created and wired to serve the living God through the only way possible—through Jesus Christ. He rescues us from ourselves and our own agendas, exposes how we have strayed from him, and loves us enough not to leave us that way. He changes us not from the inside out with a bunch of rules, but from the outside in. He changes our heart and will. And to see people ‘get it,’ in that way and turn from their selfishness and turn to Christ—that’s the greatest reward.

7) What is the greatest advice you can give to a potential leader like myself?

Fall in love with the vision and direction of the organization. Fall in love with the people in your organization and take care of them. John Maxwell once said, “If you’re leading and no one is following, you’re just taking a lonely walk.” The vision should never trump your care for your people that you are leading. Otherwise, you will turn from a leader into a manipulator.

8) What leadership books do you recommend?

First, the Bible. The Bible is full of leaders who are flawed (except for Christ) such as Abraham, Moses, King David, Nehemiah, the Apostles Peter and Paul, to name many. Each of them failed, but each of them learned much. Nehemiah had the task of organizing a community to rebuild the wall around Jerusalem, which had been decimated by the Babylonians decades prior. Peter was called to lead the new church after Christ’s resurrection and in the midst of great persecution. Their flaws show their humanity, but the lessons they learned from those failures were as golden as their successes.

Here are some others:

· Spiritual Leadership by Oswald Sanders.

· Visioneering by Andy Stanley

· The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John Maxwell

· Lincoln by David Herbert Donald

· Robert E. Lee on Leadership by H.W. Crocker

· Leaders Who Last by Dave Kraft

9) What’s the most important thing to leadership?

Integrity and character. If you are leading, but have no integrity, you have lost your influence.

10) How do you utilize communication in leadership?  What is the relationship between communication and leadership?

As a pastor of a church, communication is the primary tool I have (coupled with character). Again, if I communicate, but have no character to match the truth I’m communicating, they will believe my character before the content which I’m communicating.

It’s like sharing the gospel. Some say, “Well, I just live it and show it by my actions.” Yet, how will they know what drives your actions? Communicating the content that drives your actions brings clarity to your actions.

11) What do you look for in potential future leaders?

I look for a love for Christ, a love for His Word, a love for His people, and the fact that they understand the giftings God has given them to be used in serving and loving His church. Before they can be leaders with a title, they need to show they can be people ofinfluence in their circle of influence.

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Pastors, Know Your Faith—And the Faith of Others

Apologetics is not simply for the evangelists or the seminary professors, but also for the pastors on the front line of the church, culture and community. 

There are a number of worldviews, philosophies and religions that aim to claim the minds of those around us.  Yet, the Apostle Paul notes in his letter to the Colossian church:

See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits (also translated ‘elementary principles’) of the world, and not according to Christ.  For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily (Colossians 2:8-9, ESV).

Pastors who spend the majority of time around Christians who think and believe like they do will have little reason to see the need to know what others believe because they are never around those who challenge them with their differing beliefs, opinions, and queries.  They will spend their time preaching to those who believe like they do, saying, “This is what the Bible says,” and all who listen will nod affirmatively. 

While we must preach from the authority of Scripture in the power of the Holy Spirit who inspired those Scriptures, we must also be aware that there are those who may visit our church, listen to our sermons online, or read them in our newsletters or blogs who do not have that foundation of authority which comes from Scripture.  How should pastors handle that?

First, never compromise on your conviction of the authority of the Word of God (a.k.a, the Scriptures, the Bible).  Apologetics is not apologizing for what we believe in light of what people believe today.  Apologetics comes from the Greek word ‘apologia,’ which means to make a defense.  In our case, it means to make a defense of the faith. 

In sports, the defense of a team interacts with those on offense who are trying to move past toward a goal.  We are on defense (being careful not to be defensive), knowing the schemes and tactics of those on offense and work to meet them with our offensive weapon, the Word of God (Ephesians 6:10-17).  We have nothing to fear, for we know from God’s Word that every other philosophy that sets itself up against the things of God and Scripture are elementary, a first-grade reader in comparison to the glory of Christ. 

Secondly, ask yourselves what critiques would come against the passage from which you are preaching.  Preach the Word in season and out of season, for sure (2 Timothy 4:2), but also take a look at the passage from someone who does not have a foundation of the authority of Scripture and look to see what issue and umbrage they would take with that passage. 

For instance, if you will be preaching on John 1:1, where Jesus is both with God and is God, know that there are those in your congregation who have a mindset of “God said it, that settles it,” but there will be others who may ask, “How can someone be distinct, but also the same as that object?”  This will not only help you to love and care for the lost more as you try to answer their unspoken questions, but will show those in your congregation and on the receiving end of whatever conversation you have that you are working to interact with those who have a different worldview. 

Third, recognize that some will consider you arrogant for holding to such a ‘narrow’ position in your view of the Word.  Do not go on the defensive here.  Trevin Wax has written an excellent article on how the homosexual movement (especially in light of Christian artist Jennifer Knapp ‘coming out’ saying she is a lesbian) who accuses orthodox Christianity of being arrogant and judgmental are actually committing the same arrogance and judgmentalism.  We are accused of being intolerant for our convictions that have not only been held by God’s Word but also all society up until this one—yet, they are intolerant against 3,000 years of accepted norms regarding men and women.  Suddenly, after all this time and all those witnesses, they feel they are the ones now who have it right and all of us have been wrong all these years? 

The same could be said about Darwinism.  “Where is the evidence of the proof of God in creation?”  We have a record of forty men over 1500 years who attest to the very notion, as well as the mechanism of the created order which needs millions of things to happen every nanosecond in order to function.  Yet, some reject this by saying nothing (no God) times nothing (no matter before the Big Bang) equals everything.  Yet from the friendly confines of a laboratory, they project what has happened billions/trillions of years ago with no record—only pieces of things that they have worked to piece together by speculation and hope.  As one Harvard professor once said, “I cannot believe in God—where else do I have to go but to evolution!”  So then we see that Darwinism is just as much of a religion as anything else, needing a bunch of faith to hold it all together. 

Lastly, remember where you were before you came to Christ.  All of us were searching for God—until God came along and rescued us (Romans 3:10-31).  We can rail against the culture for their evils and problematic worldviews.  Yet, without Christ coming to rescue us from ourselves and our sin and our foolish and darkened hearts, where would we be?  We’d be speculating and trying to figure out the meaning of our existence without knowing or being known by the One who brought us into existence. 

So pastors of churches large and small, know your Lord, know your faith, know your people, know your community—so that the glory of the Gospel may be made known.  We cannot change hearts, but we do plant seeds so that God may cause the growth (1 Corinthians 3:7-8). 

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Pastors, Take Care of Your Temple

This past issue of the Western Recorder has an article on how pastors are running and working to get in shape (“Run, Pastor, Run”).  I appreciate this article for a number of reasons.

As some of you know, I have lost around 45 pounds since this time last year.  By cutting out most fast foods, starch, and most (not all) sweets, plus taking time to exercise four times a week, I began to lose weight.  Why did I feel the need to do this?

  1. Too many Southern Baptist pastors get-togethers.  I would go to many Southern Baptist conferences and see pastors 10-20 years older than me struggling greatly with being overweight—and I was on my way to joining them.  I began to realize that I could not preach on self-control, then not demonstrate it with my eating habits.  Gluttony is a sin against God like all other sins.
  2. Healthy for my wife and church.  When my wife was diagnosed with lupus back in May 2009, I knew that I needed to get in shape for her as well as myself.  Plus, the duties of a smaller church pastor makes it necessary for me to be in shape for the preaching, training, visitation, and other duties that come with being a husband, father, pastor, and friend.
  3. History of heart problems in my family.  Being so close to 40 (I’ll turn 40 next year), I knew that many in my family had heart issues.
  4. Pictures.  Photographs do not lie.  We can look in the mirror and fool ourselves, but photos make a big difference.  Take a look:


matt at destin

Bro Matt 42510

Not sure if these pictures can tell a difference.  The first is from 2006 for a directory at 206 pounds. The second is from Destin Florida, March 2010 at 168 pounds.  The picture to the right is me preaching on Sunday, April 25th at 161 pounds. 

  I will be running my first 5K this year—definitely at the Raptor Run 2010 at the Creation Museum in Petersburg, KY.  This is a big deal for me, since I’m not crazy about running but still want to see if I can actually do it.  There’s another race here in Lexington (the Midsummer Night’s Run) on Saturday, August 14 that a bunch of us from our church at Boone’s Creek Baptist Church will be running. 

I urge you to take care of your ‘temple’ (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)—it’s the only one God provides you.  Take care of your temple for your sake, the sake of your calling as a minister of the gospel, for your family, for your church, for the glory of God! 

What think ye?

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“I’m So Glad You’re Preaching on Hell”

One dear saint at our church said this too me right before our Sunday Morning Bible Study hour.  My response was, “Wow, that’s morbid.”

No laughter.  She was serious.

At my church (Boone’s Creek Baptist Church), many of our senior adults grew up with a minister who preached and taught on this in some manner every Sunday.  They called it “hellfire and brimstone” preaching.  Some believe this is one of the major contributing causes of the problems in our society—preachers don’t preach on hell as much, so there is no fear of the Lord anymore. 

I believe she was on to something!

Now, I want to be clear, I do not preach on the subject of an eternal hell every Sunday.  It comes up every Sunday, but I seldom preach on it as the exclusive subject.  Why?  As an expositor, I go through books of the Bible and I preach what comes up as the Holy Spirit has outlined in His Word.  This allows me to preach on the subject the Bible addresses, not simply my pet subjects.  And when it comes to the doctrine and reality of hell, many preachers believe in it and preach on it, and rightly so. 

Nuclear weapons are back in the news. Last week, negotiations were underway between our country and Russia about the amount of nuclear weapons we have and, for the sake of peace (as the argument goes), we need to reduce or lay down our nuclear weapons to show we are committed to peace and not war on a grand scale.

Two sides of this argument come out. One says that having nuclear weapons shows that we are aggressive, combatant, and are willing to use force first to get our way. What is needed is diplomacy, they say.

The other side says that having nuclear weapons serves as a deterrent that makes our enemies think twice about attacking us. Whether we use those weapons or not, the fact that they exist and are at our disposal serves as a warning and keeps us safe.

Take your pick on that issue. Yet, when it comes to the issue of the doctrine and the reality of hell, we see a lot of these issues. One side says, “You need to be uplifting, encouraging, and show God being a God of love and mercy. Preaching on hell doesn’t fit this spirit of this age.

The other side says, “Hell is real. Jesus preached on it. And we have to preach hell as a deterrent because what we do in this life will be reflected in the next. To think that we will not be judged for how His creation acts in His world to others who bear His image is sheer lunacy.”

Truth be told, hell is real. Jesus preached on hell and judgment of the unbeliever more than any other subject. Yet, in our day as in every age, some question how a loving God could send anyone to an eternal hell for a passing (or not so passing) sin? To them, sending someone to hell for all eternity is disproportionate to the crime committed.

But the truth is, it is not disproportionate. Those who desire to live apart from Christ in this life will get that in abundance in the next.

Miroslav Volf, a Croatian who has experienced significant violence in the Balkans, has a very different view than most Americans on the doctrine of hell and judgment. While many American believe that a God of judgment leads to a harsh religion filled with harsh people, this is not always the case. That’s more American than it is biblical.

If God were not angry at injustice and deception and did not make a final end to violence—that God would not be worthy of worship. . . . The only means of prohibiting all resource to violence comes from God. . . . My thesis that the practice of non-violence requires a belief in divine vengeance will be unpopular with many. . . in the West. . . . [But] it takes the quiet of a suburban home for the birth of the thesis that human non-violence [results from the belief in] God’s refusal to judge. In a sun-scorched land, soaked in the blood of the innocent, it will invariably die . . . [with] other pleasant captivities of the liberal mind.[1]

I am thankful that Tim Keller included this in his book, The Reason for God.  We need a God who is just and who will not let injustice go unpunished.

Christians want to hear sermons on hell as a warning to those who aim to be separated from God in this life, and yet feel there will be no consequences (a very American idea, to be sure).  Christians need to hear sermons on hell to reassure them that there is the hope of heaven!  

[1]Miroslav Volf, Exclusion and Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation (Abingdon, 1996), 303-04. Quoted in Timothy Keller, The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism (New York: Dutton, 2008), 74.

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Five Foundations For Children’s Ministry (Tony Kummer)

What are the real essentials in Children’s Ministry? What core values should transcend your curriculum and ministry methods? I am constantly asking these questions to myself. When the children I teach this Sunday turn 30 what will really matter in their lives?

Here are what I consider four essential foundations for all church based ministry to children. Let me know what you think.

1. Children’s Ministry must be God-Centered. This means that in our teaching, we must emphasize the greatness of God. The Bible is first and foremost a book about God. We want our children to see how strong and big and faithful and loving and majestic and smart and satisfying our God is. Psalm 34:8 says, “Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!” This is my prayer for you children this year – that they would experience God in such a way as to develop a lifelong desire for him. So when times of trouble come they will take refuge in him.

2. Children’s Ministry must be Bible-saturated. This means that God’s Word must permeate everything that we do. In 2 Timothy 3:15 Paul reminds Timothy, “From childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” Mere human works are not enough to guide our children to God – they need the Bible. Only God’s Word can change hearts.

3. Children’s Ministry must be Gospel-driven. We must be intentional to proclaim the Gospel to children and their families. Romans 1:16 says, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” This was the command of Christ in Mark 16:15, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.

4. Children’s Ministry must minister to the whole family. We recognize that God has called parents to be the primary faith-nurturers of children. Therefore, our Children’s Ministry must partner with parents to assist them in fulfilling this calling. This means serving the parents as well as the children.

5. Children’s Ministry is about serving kids. At the end of the day, we are working to help and serve the children. Our work is to put their ultimate spiritual needs ahead of our own. Our ministry becomes great as we excel in service. As Jesus says in Mark 9:35, ““If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.

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The Bare Minimum of Following Christ (Part I)

I will never forget a conversation I had in the lunchroom of Lecanto High School late morning on January 28, 1986. I was getting my lunch when I saw a friend of mine nearby. He told me, “You’ll never guess what happened—the shuttle blew up.” And all afternoon in my 5th, 6th, and 7th period classes, we had televisions on watching and listening to the details about the seven crew members of the Space Shuttle Challenger. Most notable in that crew was Christa McAuliffe, who was the first of the Teacher in Space Project. Imagine being a student at the school where she taught, seeing their teacher on the big screen in their auditorium dying in such a manner.

The shuttle program took a 32-month hiatus as the Reagan Administration looked into the matter.

The Rogers Commission found that NASA’s organizational culture and decision-making processes had been a key contributing factor to the accident. NASA managers had known that contractor Morton Thiokol’s design of the solid rocket boosters contained a potentially catastrophic flaw in the O-rings since 1977, but they failed to address it properly. They also disregarded warnings from engineers about the dangers of launching posed by the low temperatures of that morning and had failed to adequately report these technical concerns to their superiors.

Sadly, this is not the only time something of this nature happened due to a lack of preparation and accountability and communication. These issues had been around since 1977, yet no ill effects had come of it. They failed to count the cost of such issues and heed such warnings, to grave consequences.

Before we go on the mission God has called us to perform (being disciples), we must count the cost. And Jesus loves us enough to tell us what that cost is—and it’s a high cost! But we must realize that the bare minimum of following Christ is a surrender of everything to Him. Christ would have us persevere, following through to the end. Satan deceives us with this line of thinking: “As a Christian, what is the bare minimum I can get away with?”

As usual, great crowds were following Jesus. His words to the Pharisees regarding their actions and stance before the throne of heaven attracted many to Jesus. It’s amazing how the gospel both attracts and offends. It attracts those who realize they have little. It offends those who believe they have enough!

Yet, they were following Jesus. Was this enough? Was this the type of following that Jesus intended?

It’s not enough to simply be following him outwardly, but we must follow him inwardly as well.

In verse 26, Jesus gives a condition of being his disciple—a condition not simply given to those in his own day, but also to us as well. “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26). To say this is a stiff and difficult command and condition to discipleship.

What is discipleship?

For those of us who have been in ministry and Southern Baptist life for any amount of time, discipleship is first thought of as a program in the church. It’s a class we have, it’s a budget item we fill, but this is not what we mean. That is a process to the main view of what a disciple is.

A disciple is a learner. In our day, we would call him or her an “apprentice,” someone who comes alongside one more knowledgeable and experienced to learn a trade. When I was younger in the ministry, I had a pastors who would come along and help me learn the areas of general ministry. Others came along to help me understand the nature of music ministry, which was more than picking hymns and music for the choir to sing. The same thing happened when I worked as a janitor, or in the produce department at Winn-Dixie when I was in college—and every place I worked. Some of you may think of men and women who trained you.

We as Christians are disciples. Jesus had 12 disciples (who later because Apostles who through Christ laid down the foundation of the church until this day). We as Christians are heirs to those disciples, and thus heirs to Jesus himself spiritually speaking.

Be careful of those who wish to separate being a Christian from being a disciple. One author I respect greatly felt the need to make this distinction. Yet, in the early church as recorded in the book of Acts, Christians are referred to as disciples over 260 times. A true Christian is a disciple, is a learner, who longs to and actually does sit at the feet of Christ.

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Wonderful Book on Visitation to the Sick

Brian Croft has contributed an excellent book entitled Visit the Sick: Ministering God’s Grace in Times of Illness (Day One: 2010, 128 pp).   He outlines the biblical, theological, historical, practical and pastoral reasons behind this all-important ministry. 

Don’t skip ahead to the practical advice.  Croft takes the reader through the biblical examples as well as examples from church history from men like Richard Baxter and Charles Spurgeon to show how we can stand on the shoulders of giants in bringing a gospel touch to those who are in great need.

I will use this book for training of upcoming pastoral students and deacons at my church.  Much-needed!

About the Author (from Amazon)

Brian Croft graduated from Indiana University in 1997 with a B. A. in Sociology and did some graduate work at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He has served in pastoral ministry in some manner for over 12 years and is currently in his 5th year as Senior Pastor of Auburndale Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky, USA. He and his wife, Cara, have 4 children: Samuel, Abby, Isabelle and Claire. His hobbies include sports (golf, tennis, racquetball), playing music (piano and guitar), reading (especially biographies and American history), teaching self-defense classes and teaching his children sports and music.

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(Sm)all Churches Must Battle for the Gospel

On the question of justification we must remain adamant, or else we shall lose the truth of the Gospel. It is a matter of life and death. It involves the death of the Son of God, who died for the sins of the world. If we surrender faith in Christ, as the only thing that can justify us, the death and resurrection of Jesus are without meaning; that Christ is the Savior of the world would be a myth. God would be a liar, because He would not have fulfilled His promises. Our stubbornness is right, because we want to preserve the liberty which we have in Christ.

(Martin Luther, Galatians)

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Lessons on Authority, Integrity, and Accountability

Everyday, we are confronted with images on advertisements as large as billboards, or as small as marginal ads on websites that cause stumbling blocks to many men. We are confronted with movies, television shows, even commercials which seek to stimulate our sexual desires in ways never before thought of in previous generations. This is a grave danger! What starts out as a simple innocuous seed in the heart and mind can bloom into full blown sin. We would do well to heed what James says:

12Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. 13Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am being tempted by God," for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death (James 1:12-15, ESV).

God has called us to remain “steadfast under trial”—the trial being the trials of Satan, the world, and the flesh (1 John 2:15) luring us with temptation into sin. He is so subtle, that he can even use things provided by God Himself for God’s good and turn it into something wicked.

1. Christian husbands must embrace the role of spiritual leaders in the home without fail.

The Apostle Paul gives us some very timely words in his letter to the Ephesians: In Ephesians 5:25-30, we read:

25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30because we are members of his body.

The temptation for Christian husbands and fathers is to simply go through the motions to get through the day. Get up, eat breakfast, go to work, come home, eat dinner, watch TV, go to bed. If you’re a great father by our culture’s standards, you may read stories or play games with your children, even have a meaningful conversation with your wife. These activities would put you in the minority of most homes, and thus give you a false sense of confidence as to your leadership in the home.

Yet, is there any spiritual, Christ-centered leadership taking place? While God wants us to provide for our families, pay our taxes, spend time with our kids, etc., God has entrusted our spouses and children to us to nourish and cherish as Christ nourishes and cherishes the church and gave Himself for her.

Men, our wives are silently begging and pleading for us to step up to the plate and be the spiritual leaders in the home. Sadly, too many of us have abdicated that role to our wives. Prayer and family worship are hard work and out of the norm. Our parents may not have modeled that for us. Let’s break that generational curse and lead our families! Otherwise, you risk having them starve for spiritual nourishment, only to risk being fed by someone else (maybe another man). Our bodies, emotions, and souls are all connected within us—they each affect the other. So do not give room to the devil. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you (James 4:7-8).

2. Christian men must engage in the fight of spiritual integrity at all costs.

Rick Warren rightly notes:

Integrity is the foundation of leadership. You only lead people if they trust you. If you lose people’s trust, you’ve lost it all. That’s why the right to lead is earned, and it’s earned by being trustworthy. I think the most damaging sin a leader can commit is to betray the trust of his people.[1]

This applies to every area of leadership we have: the home, the ministry, the workplace, or within the recesses of your own heart. We fight for integrity not simply because people may think ill of us or that people may start a rumor to ruin our reputation—we fight for integrity for the sake of our own souls before the living and all-seeing Savior and Lord. We maintain integrity to protect ourselves! Jesus says in Mark 7:21-23:

21For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person” (Mark 7:21-23).

These issues reside within us because we are all sons of Adam whose flesh has been seared by the Fall’s curse! So being aware of this makes us see our need for the Gospel to cleanse and transform our sullied hearts. And we preach the Gospel to ourselves every day because we see the need for cleansing every day. We understand ourselves, and we understand our dire need for the Spirit to lead us where we should be.

3. Christian men must enlist other men to not only disciple but also to whom to be accountable without exception.

Proverbs 27:17 says, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” Galatians 6:1-2 says,

1Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. 2Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

Jesus says in John 15:12-17:

12 "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. 14You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. 16You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. 17These things I command you, so that you will love one another.

What does this say? This says that Christians (and specifically in our case, Christian men) must never try to walk their Christian walk alone. There must be some significant transparent accountability. Why? This will serve to stave off potential sins that would occur if they worked in their own strength to resist. Hebrews 10:23-25 says,

23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

Stir up one another. Encourage one another. Bear one another’s burdens. Love one another. Are we seeing a pattern here?

4. Christian leaders (pastors and deacons) must examine areas in which they would be alone with another woman and take appropriate measures.

Consider what this father tells his son in Proverbs 5:7-14:

7And now, O sons, listen to me,
   and do not depart from the words of my mouth.
8Keep your way far from her,
   and do not go near the door of her house,
9lest you give your honor to others
   and your years to the merciless,
10lest strangers take their fill of your strength,
   and your labors go to the house of a foreigner,
11and at the end of your life you groan,
   when your flesh and body are consumed,
12and you say, "How I hated discipline,
   and my heart despised reproof!
13I did not listen to the voice of my teachers
   or incline my ear to my instructors.
14 I am at the brink of utter ruin
   in the assembled congregation."

Men, you must never be alone with another woman, unless she is your wife. “Too legalistic,” you may say. No matter the intentions, someone will always believe the worst. “But what if it’s a church member who needs counsel?” Insist on taking someone with you, or that they bring a friend. It’s not worth losing your reputation.

Remove yourself from situations that will cause you to stray. Have to work on the computer? Install an Internet filter like Find yourself up late watching shows you shouldn’t after your spouse has gone to bed? Turn off the TV and go to bed with your spouse. Take every step you can to keep yourself away from all appearance of evil. It only takes a rumor.

[1]Rick Warren, How To Maintain Moral Integrity in the Ministry. Downloaded on 5 March 2009; accessed at Internet.

Copyright © 2010, Matthew Perry, Boone’s Creek Baptist Church, Lexington, KY. All rights reserved.  You have permission to link to this, as well as print it off for non-saleable use in the context of a church or parachurch ministry. 

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When Smaller Churches Rise to Greater Heights

bcbcjan2002a I am pastor of a church that averages around 170 per Sunday morning: 30 in the children’s area (workers included) and 140 in the main worship service. Technically, we are above the national average of churches (which average approximately 75), but we are just below the “medium” range, which begins at 200.

By the world’s perspective, smaller churches face a daunting task. In an age of consumerism where people come to a church to see what that church can do for them and provide for them, we are tempted to work to make the “big sell.”

Over the years, we have lost some of our long-time members to bigger churches in our area that have more resources to provide more programs for children, youth, young adults, parents, grandparents, singles, divorced—every type of demographic available.

While these churches gain traction and momentum, many of our smaller churches work hard to maintain. Some may visit the church, take a look and examine the particular ministries on the table, then may feel they need to move on to churches with … well… more!

John Benton in his wonderful little book “Why Join a small Church?” recounts a story of a friend of his who was a zealous Christian and a pastor of a small church. Though the church had only a dozen or so elderly folks in attendance, he took the call. He preached the Word of God faithfully, with much boldness, and accompanied by much prayer. Here Benton describe this:

What a situation! For many years nothing much seemed to happen, except a few minor encouragements from time to time. Though the preaching was good, the church continued fairly small. But my friend stuck to the task, praying, preaching, and doing whatever he could, with the help of a faithful few, to make the little flock a group of Christians pleasing to Christ. And after something like fifteen years of his ministry there, suddenly the church took off. Christians moving into the area began to join, people began to get saved. Things they had only dreamed of before as a church began to come true. The church numbers something like 200 to 250 people on Sundays, the building has been renovated and they have been used by God to plant another church in a nearby town.

Numbers are not everything. I believe this church had already become a great church even before attendance began to increase.

Even with slight numbers, small churches can rise to greater heights. How?

  1. A commitment to prayer and ministry of the Word (Acts 6:4).
  2. A determination to establish God-centered, Christ-exalting relationships (Acts 2:42-47);
  3. A desire to inject the message of the Gospel, accompanied with genuine compassion and care for those you are trying to reach (Ephesians 4:15);
  4. A hunger and thirst for knowing what you believe, why you believe, and why it is worth telling (Ephesians 4:11-16);
  5. A dogged commitment to assembling together with the saints at the appointed time (Hebrews 10:23-25);
  6. A shedding of a consumeristic attitude, looking for a church that meets your particular needs, rather than rolling up your sleeves and helping that church be what God would have it to be!

I’m sure there are more. But notice what resources are needed to maintain these things: the Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), the Bible, and you.

What about it?

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