Monthly Archives: May 2010

For What Cause Would You Die?

Here are some reflections I had from my visit to the Jefferson Davis State Historic Site near Hopkinsville, Kentucky. 

http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=12149113&server=vimeo.com&show_title=1&show_byline=1&show_portrait=0&color=&fullscreen=1

For What Cause Would You Die? from Matthew Perry on Vimeo.

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New LASKO Podcast: Leading a Small Church to Worship

Just wanted to inform you that we are starting a “Leading a Small Kingdom Outpost” podcast.  Click here to subscribe via iTunes.  This is geared for those in ministry in a small church (a.k.a., kingdom outpost).  Spread the Word!  Go also to http://www.sermoncloud.com/lasko to subscribe in various other ways.

Take a listen to the new podcast that is out called “Leading a Small Church in Worship.” 

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Is It Enough to Preach the Word?

“I heard of one graduate of a theological school who determined to follow his professor’s advice and preach the Word only. His crowds were average. Then one day a cyclone hit the little town and he yielded to the temptation to preach on the topic "Why God Sent the Cyclone to Centerville." The church was packed. This shook the young preacher and he went back to ask his professor for further advice in the light of what had happened. Should he continue to preach the Word to smaller crowds or try to fill his church by preaching sermons a bit more sensational? The old man did not change his mind. "If you preach the Word," he told the inquirer, "you will always have a text. But if you wait for cyclones you will not have enough to go around." 

–A. W. Tozer, “God Tells the Man Who Cares, 86” – from Literature Ministries International.

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Why We Observe the Lord’s Supper? (Video)

http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=12096993&server=vimeo.com&show_title=1&show_byline=1&show_portrait=0&color=&fullscreen=1

Why Observe the Lord’s Supper? from Matthew Perry on Vimeo.

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New Podcast from LASKO

Just wanted to inform you that we are starting a “Leading a Small Kingdom Outpost” podcast.  Click here to subscribe via iTunes.  This is geared for those in ministry in a small church (a.k.a., kingdom outpost).  Spread the Word!  Go also to http://www.sermoncloud.com/lasko to subscribe in various other ways. 

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Pastors, Don’t Enter the Pulpit “Cold”

Yesterday, I felt compelled to share with you an insight that God gave me about entering into our times of corporate worship ‘cold.’  Today, we must understand the need for pastors to enter the pulpit not simply warm but ablaze with the Spirit of God.

Paul urged Timothy to “fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:6-7).  Pastors, when you ascend to the pulpit, you must be on fire through your calling to salvation, your character in holiness before the living God, and your compulsion to preach the Word in season and out of season (2 Timothy 4:1-5). 

What can douse that flame and leave a pastor cold?

Fear.  The moment we take our eyes off the Lord and see the storm around us, we (like Peter) are sunk!  The beauty of the church is its diversity of backgrounds being brought together in unity in Christ.  Yet, that diversity also means different ways of trying to accomplish the same goals.  A negative, stray remark heard by a pastor who desperate loves his sheep can send that pastor reeling.  Yet, our course is set by Christ, not the critic.  Don’t let anyone usurp the role of Christ in leading a church in his/her direction.

Floundering.  When a pastor’s devotional life is struggling or non-existent, it will not be long before the pastor’s private life becomes public knowledge.  Floundering in this area must never be.  When the only study that takes place is for sermon preparation rather than soul preparation, we will grow cold in our love toward God and our neighbor.

Focus.  “Fix your eyes on Jesus” (Hebrews 12:2).  “I do it all for the sake of the gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:23).  “Him we proclaim” (Colossians 1:28).  I’m seeing a pattern with the apostle Paul.  His focus was on Jesus and the gospel (and you can see from Mark 1:1 that Jesus is the gospel)!  If the pastor’s focus becomes numbers oriented rather than nurture oriented in working to strengthen the church and share the gospel to the glory of God, we become pragmatic—whatever works to bring the people in, let’s do it.  Yes, we must minister, not to be a self-help therapy session, but having a hope in God through Jesus Christ and the Word. 

Feeble.  When pastors always seek to encourage, but shy away from exhortation and challenging, they grow feeble.  Many churches want a nice pastor, but churches need both a shepherd and a prophet.  Someone to guide and someone also to defend and warn.  In Jude 22-23, we see the both/and of pastoral ministry:

“And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.”

Being merciful doesn’t mean being mealy-mouthed.  Have mercy toward the sinner, have a hatred toward the sin and the judgment that takes place. 

What else do you see that can leave a pastor cold?

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Don’t Come to Church ‘Cold’

Our Sunday night services are being geared to help, as the apostle Paul says, “equip the saints for the work of the ministry” (Ephesians 4:12). On Sunday evening, May 23rd, I shared with you something that has been a growing conviction of mine. I have been hearing how the Holy Spirit is really moving and hearts are being softened and changed for the gospel. My question is, is yours?

Every one of us comes into a church, our work, our homes, everywhere with certain expectations. The question is, do those expectations line up with the Word of God, or simply our own personal preferences? If we come into church without having read the Word, engaged in prayer, been involved in ministry and encouragement, and sharing the gospel, we risk as Christians coming into the worship service ‘cold.’ As a result, we come in cold and then may expect the preacher or the music or someone else to ‘warm us up.’ Then we begin to focus on some outside thing that we can see to bring us together and begin focusing on traditions or man-made things, rather than seeing that the gospel of Jesus is what brings us together.

Don’t come in to church ‘cold.’ One person said that whereas followers of other religions see their religion as a lifestyle, Christians often see theirs as a hobby. The church is not a luxury liner there to service you primarily (although we do wish to serve you the glories of the fruit of the gospel, for sure), but it is a warship combating the sins of the flesh, the world, and the devil so we may rescue others from their captivity to sin. The moment we see the church being about us more than about Christ, we begin to take Christ’s place as the director and even the pastor of this church. So pray for me that Christ as the true pastor of this church would give me the direction He desires so that we all may follow and not get sidetracked by our own selfish whims. Remember, as God showed us through Dr. Lawless: “God is stronger than the enemy.”

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Qualities of an Ingrown Church from C. John Miller

This is from his book, Outgrowing the Ingrown Church  by C. John Miller(Zondervan, 1986) pp. 27-40.

1. Tunnel Vision

Members of the ingrown church body are characterized by tunnel vision that limits potential ministries of the church to those that can be accomplished by the visible, human resources at hand. These possibilities are often further limited by recollections of past negative experiences and perceptions of present obstacles. At bottom, this is unbelief based on a secularized ignorance of the Spirit’s power—His ability to supply us with God’s goals for the church and the supernatural means to reach them.

2. Shared Sense of Group Superiority

This visionless church is often characterized by a sense of superiority to “the others.” Many smaller congregations and their leadership have become egocentric because of their fear of extinction. Struggling churches are likely to exaggerate points of superiority they actually possess as means of compensation for their limitations. . . . This assumed positive feature leads to an unconscious elitist attitude. If we are proudly clinging to an ecclesiastical tradition and making it our hope, we may have secured our status in our own eyes yet failed miserably with the Lord.

3. Extreme Sensitivity to Negative Human Opinion

The members of the ingrown church are also likely to feel inferior and shrivel up and die at the first sign of opposition. A world of disapproval from a “pillar” of the church is enough to rattle the ecclesiastical squirrel cage and send everyone running for cover. . . . The sad truth is that one negative critic with a loud voice who speaks from within the inner circle of the ingrown church usurps the role of Christ, wielding the power to make or break programs. . . . An ingrown church has given in for so long to intimidation that its fears have obscured vital contact with the promises of God.

4. Niceness in Tone

The ingrown church has the shared desire to be seen as “nice.” What is often wanted in the local church is unrelieved blandness: a “nice pastor” preaching “nice sermons” about a “nice Jesus” delivered in a “nice tone” of voice. . . . It is likely that those who are walking with Him in close fellowship will not always be nice and predictable. But the introverted church wants to secure the church doors against divine surprises and unannounced entrances by the King.

5. Christian Soap Opera in Style

In the introverted church we find that the members use their tongues a great deal—not to witness or pray or praise or to affirm one another, but to publicly review on another’s flaws, doings, and sins. We all know how easy it is for church members to go home after hearing a sermon and have “roast pastor” for lunch. Why does this happen? . . . . Unbelief and fear characterize the mental outlook in the ingrown church. The members of the church do not see themselves as living, praying, and talking in partnership with Christ and one another through His indwelling Holy Spirit. There is often a failure to cultivate among leaders and people a spirit of forgiveness, mutual forbearance, and love.

6. Confused Leadership Roles

In many churches the members of the congregation do not want officers who are trying to be pacesetters for God’s kingdom. This is especially true of the small church, where fear of change runs high. In the typical self-centered church, there is a hidden determination to eradicate enthusiasm that disturbs the comfortable routine dictated by self-trust, self-exaltation, niceness as a defense mechanism, and the rights of gossip. . . . In this system elders also lack great convictions about God and His gospel and have little active role in the daily lives of church members.

7. A Misdirected Purpose

It is clear from the foregoing that the controlling purpose in the ingrown church has to do with survival—not with growth through conversion of the lost. We can recognize this misdirected purpose by noting what goes into the church budget (and what is left out) and how visitors to the church services are welcomed. No planning is devoted to finding ways to assimilate visitors into the fellowship.

Read through Romans 1, Psalm 95, and Matthew 28:18-20 each day for a week. Ask God to show you how to prevent or to overcome being an inward, ingrown church.

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Qualities of an Ingrown Church from C. John Miller

This is from his book, Outgrowing the Ingrown Church  by C. John Miller(Zondervan, 1986) pp. 27-40.

1. Tunnel Vision

Members of the ingrown church body are characterized by tunnel vision that limits potential ministries of the church to those that can be accomplished by the visible, human resources at hand. These possibilities are often further limited by recollections of past negative experiences and perceptions of present obstacles. At bottom, this is unbelief based on a secularized ignorance of the Spirit’s power—His ability to supply us with God’s goals for the church and the supernatural means to reach them.

2. Shared Sense of Group Superiority

This visionless church is often characterized by a sense of superiority to “the others.” Many smaller congregations and their leadership have become egocentric because of their fear of extinction. Struggling churches are likely to exaggerate points of superiority they actually possess as means of compensation for their limitations. . . . This assumed positive feature leads to an unconscious elitist attitude. If we are proudly clinging to an ecclesiastical tradition and making it our hope, we may have secured our status in our own eyes yet failed miserably with the Lord.

3. Extreme Sensitivity to Negative Human Opinion

The members of the ingrown church are also likely to feel inferior and shrivel up and die at the first sign of opposition. A world of disapproval from a “pillar” of the church is enough to rattle the ecclesiastical squirrel cage and send everyone running for cover. . . . The sad truth is that one negative critic with a loud voice who speaks from within the inner circle of the ingrown church usurps the role of Christ, wielding the power to make or break programs. . . . An ingrown church has given in for so long to intimidation that its fears have obscured vital contact with the promises of God.

4. Niceness in Tone

The ingrown church has the shared desire to be seen as “nice.” What is often wanted in the local church is unrelieved blandness: a “nice pastor” preaching “nice sermons” about a “nice Jesus” delivered in a “nice tone” of voice. . . . It is likely that those who are walking with Him in close fellowship will not always be nice and predictable. But the introverted church wants to secure the church doors against divine surprises and unannounced entrances by the King.

5. Christian Soap Opera in Style

In the introverted church we find that the members use their tongues a great deal—not to witness or pray or praise or to affirm one another, but to publicly review on another’s flaws, doings, and sins. We all know how easy it is for church members to go home after hearing a sermon and have “roast pastor” for lunch. Why does this happen? . . . . Unbelief and fear characterize the mental outlook in the ingrown church. The members of the church do not see themselves as living, praying, and talking in partnership with Christ and one another through His indwelling Holy Spirit. There is often a failure to cultivate among leaders and people a spirit of forgiveness, mutual forbearance, and love.

6. Confused Leadership Roles

In many churches the members of the congregation do not want officers who are trying to be pacesetters for God’s kingdom. This is especially true of the small church, where fear of change runs high. In the typical self-centered church, there is a hidden determination to eradicate enthusiasm that disturbs the comfortable routine dictated by self-trust, self-exaltation, niceness as a defense mechanism, and the rights of gossip. . . . In this system elders also lack great convictions about God and His gospel and have little active role in the daily lives of church members.

7. A Misdirected Purpose

It is clear from the foregoing that the controlling purpose in the ingrown church has to do with survival—not with growth through conversion of the lost. We can recognize this misdirected purpose by noting what goes into the church budget (and what is left out) and how visitors to the church services are welcomed. No planning is devoted to finding ways to assimilate visitors into the fellowship.

Read through Romans 1, Psalm 95, and Matthew 28:18-20 each day for a week. Ask God to show you how to prevent or to overcome being an inward, ingrown church.

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Book Review: “Change Your Church for Good” by Brad Powell

powell Brad Powell, pastor of NorthRidge Church in Plymouth, Michigan, loves the church, seeing it as the “hope  of the world . . . when it’s working right.”  He aims to have a vibrant, dynamic, relevant church which does not seek to compromise the message of the gospel.  Powell tells the story of how a traditional, Southern-minded church in Michigan which worked while many Southerners migrated to work in the auto plants, began to slide significantly over the past twenty years.  He sought to bring change without compromise, bring relevance without sacrificing the crux of the Christian religion. 

This book came along at just the right time for me.  As a pastor of a smaller church (averaging around 150), I found myself dealing with the 150-200 barrier.  Powell’s book encourages pastors to engage the culture in their teaching and maintain fidelity to the truth of the Word.  Powell understands the need for relevance, which he defines as bringing the truth to a particular language or culture.  The following quote hooked me:

We should never dumb down God’s power to our level in order to protect ourselves from disappointment. We should determine to offer people what God has promised and willingly deal with the consequences. I would rather fail according to human standards, by offering people the hope of transformation God has promised, than to succeed by watering down God’s truth, ensuring they never find it. . . . I’d rather fail believing in God’s promises and power than succeed by diminishing them (45). 

His chapters on leadership (Chapter 5—“You Gotta Be Crazy” and Chapter 6 “Can’t Do It Alone”) are worth the price of the book.  If you are leading a church, yet you fail to bring others along with you will be ministerial suicide at that church, even if that leader is leading them in the right direction.  Powell makes the point that leaders must lead, stay upbeat, exhort, encourage, challenge—even if no one at first seems to be following.  Leaders must identify the issues and not be afraid to expose and confront those issues. 

I recommend this book greatly.  Churches must put forth the truth honestly, but never overlook the issues that turn their members away from the Great Commission.

[Disclosure: This book was given to me as a complimentary copy for review by Thomas Nelson Publishers. All opinions expressed are my own.]

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