Monthly Archives: February 2014

What If Our Church Was a Church Plant?

God has called Arapahoe Road Baptist Church to help all peoples (ourselves included) take that next step in their journey with Christ. We are called to cultivate, to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18) in taking those steps in helping others come to Christ, connect with His Church, and contribute to His Kingdom. This must sink deep into our hearts, our minds, our souls, and our strength to be a vibrant, flourishing organism for Christ.

God birthed Arapahoe Road Baptist Church in 1960, almost 54 years ago. For a church in Colorado, this is considered a very established church (the equivalent of the 225 year old church from which I came in Lexington, Kentucky). How wonderful that God has provided such perseverance and fortitude. God has used ARBC mightily and has fantastic things in store!

I know a number of pastors who have planted churches in the last few years. Having been a pastor of established churches my entire 22 years of ministry, I watch how they live and move and have their being with fascination. I do not do so because I wish I was in their shoes—I have no desire to be anything else but your pastor. Yet, I look at fascination at their DNA.

Here’s what I’ve gleaned:

  1. The whole DNA of church plants is a decided mix of discipleship and outreach. The new ones that come to Christ are invested in so they will become the leaders and contributors that the church desperately need. And they spent a great amount of time, money, and resources on bringing others to Christ, then growing them in Christ into Kingdom-minded contributors. 
  2. Their ministry is not building-centric. As a result, church plants go to where the lost are, not simply expecting the lost to come to their building. 
  3. Along the lines of #2, their small groups meet outside the building of the church, not always inside. Part of this has to do with many not having a permanent facilities, but, again, it’s another door for unbelievers to walk through that’s more inviting and less intimidating than coming into a big church with scads of strangers. And the plus for us is that we grow to understand the unchurched better—the ones to whom we are to ‘go, and make disciples’ of.
  4. They don’t do things that only Christians want to do. A lot of times in our churches, we set up things for those far from God to come to, but usually they are things that only Christians want to do. They get to know their community and then look to provide something that others can’t. We know we have the gospel, but we also need to recognize the bridges that need building to the gospel.
  5. As they are out and about, they invite, invite, and invite some more. They carry around the love of Christ and His church in their hearts, and often carry around cards in their pockets about the church. We have a number of cards in the office that we can make available to you—but a caring smile and word of mouth do very well indeed.
  6. They identify big days, sharing with those already coming that the gospel will be shared from the pulpit. While we have Big Days (musicals, harvest festivals, special speakers, summer picnics, etc.), we will start setting aside the first Sunday of each month for testimonies from our people. You need to hear the Word from your pastors, yes. That’s primary and necessary. Yet, God is working in and through our people, even in the midst of the most harrowing of circumstances. How are they navigating through it? You need to hear their stories of how Christ is moving and working in them as a source of encouragement for all of you to persevere.

Friends, this isn’t what a church plant is all about, this is what the church must be about. Be praying that God would change our hearts individually to change the culture spiritually that the Word matters, the lost matters, and growing in Jesus matters. Keep an eye out for how we shall put feet to this.

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Am I a Liar to My People? Pastors and Being Vulnerable

I am so grateful for the ministry of The Gospel Coalition, if for no other reason than for articles such as this.  Some backstory.

  1. As many of you know, one of my brothers in the Lord and in ministry Tommy Rucker ended his life last week.  He found himself in a very dark place, but no one was aware of this until it was too late. 
  2. I preached from Romans 13:8-14 and 15:1-7 on how we are to love one another, encouraging one another in the Scriptures, especially in our weakness.  We have to take care of one another.
  3. I’m reading through Alexander Strauch’s Love or Die: Christ’s Wake-Up Call to the Church, a study of Revelation 2:1-7 on how we must not lose our first love.  A lack of love inside the church is more devastating to that church than a lack of truth from outside the church.  God is using this book mightily in my own heart.
  4. Art Azurdia, one of my favorite preachers (who has lost a lot of weight—good for him), spoke to The Master’s Seminary about “Loving God First” from the text – you guessed it – Revelation 2:1-7. 

And now, this article from TGC of “Pastor, Stop Lying.”  Here’s an excerpt regarding how one reacted to a fellow pastor for a reason you might not expect:

When asked how he was doing, he always replied, “Great!” When asked what he needed prayer for, he always offered some generic request.

He kept things guarded, impersonal, and close to the vest, even when others around him shared the depths of their heart. I don’t think I ever heard him apologize to anyone for anything, ever.

Yet he smiled a lot. He laughed heartily and kept things as “positive” as possible. But I saw how the people closest to him were positively crushed by his lack of vulnerability. I was one of them.

I shared with a deacon of mine who asked me how things were going, and I was able to share with him some issues that were arising personally (with my friend Tommy’s suicide), and otherwise.  I then shared with him that, as a pastor, I am more comfortable providing comfort to those who are hurting, than I am sharing my hurt in order to receive comfort. 

I need to get over that and fight that. 

I am a Christian on a journey to the Celestial City as every other pilgrim.  I also get mired in the Slough of Despond.  I am tempted to listen to and dine with Worldly Wiseman.  As are we all.  And we need each other.  And by me loving my Lord, loving His Word, loving my family, and loving His church, I have a significant incentive to keep my relationship with Christ primary.  And I have incentive to bring others into my life to make sure I’m not just giving help, but receiving it when necessary.

Am I lying to my church?  I’m sure I have.

May God continue to give me the desire not to do so anymore.

Categories: pastor, pastoring | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

What’s An “Alternative Lifestyle” Today? You’d Be Surprised

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David Wise won USA Olympic gold.  But his personal life deemed by NBC as an “alternative lifestyle” caught much attention.  What was that lifestyle?

He’s in his early 20’s, married, with a child, goes to church, and has aspirations of being a pastor one day.

David Wise is at the top of his sport. He’s always smiling among his friends and competitors, however, he’s not like the rest of the field. He is mature.

Not to say the rest of the freestyle skiers of halfpipe are not mature, but Wise is mature far beyond his years. At only twenty-three years old, he has a wife, Alexander, who was waiting patiently in the crowd, and together they have a two-year-old daughter waiting for them to return to their home in Reno, Nevada.

As you read, you see another quote, “At age 23, he has the lifestyle of an adult.”  Last I check, 23 is classified as an adult, but since so many are staying “younger” nowadays and marrying later, no wonder this writer finds Wise so fascinating.  He has something most young 20-somethings don’t have…

Maturity.

I think my lifestyle — the fact that I have a little girl to take care of and a wife — really takes the pressure off of my skiing, because first and foremost I have to be a good husband and father. . . . When you’re out there skiing for something bigger than just yourself, it just takes a lot of the pressure off for me. I’m happy and content, fulfilled. I have an amazing life outside of skiing. I don’t have to perform at any time, I just get to go out and do what I enjoy doing.

Maturity… and perspective.  At 23.

No wonder that’s considered so ‘alternative.’

(HT: The Federalist)

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A Closer Look at What It Means to Be a Southern Baptist

The Southern Baptist Convention (a denomination of which I’m proudly a part) has updated their website.  I encourage you to take a look around, especially at the page, “A Closer Look: What It Means to Be a Southern Baptist,” which goes into some detail about what we’re all about.  One of the things I like best about the SBC is the Cooperative Program.  They have a very cool graphic on that page, which is reproduced below:

It’s always good to cooperate, knowing that the funds given by the churches’ members, who are part of local, autonomous churches who give and cooperate at a level they see fit. 

Take time not only to read up on this page, but to peruse around the sparkly new site. 

Take that next step!

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Paul Tripp on a Preacher’s Heart in the Pulpit

I believe this video will help us all understand more of a pastor’s heart in and out of the pulpit.  I’m so thankful for Paul Tripp’s work and ministry.  It’s borne marvelous fruit in my life.

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Are You Giving Over Jesus? When Cowardice Trumps Conviction in a Leader

This morning, I read through Mark 15 and was once again challenged at how easy it is for leaders to “satisfy the crowd.”  Even though none of the charges against Jesus stuck, the Jewish leaders stirred the crowd to release the murderer and insurrectionist Barabbas (as was Pilate’s custom at that time of year), and sent Jesus off to be crucified.  “Why, what evil has he done?”  No answer from them, but in the drumbeat of rage they continued, “Crucify him.” 

Verse 15 is telling of Pilate’s cowardice:  “So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released from them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.”

All leaders have a bit of Pilate running around in them.  Their cowardice overruns and overrides their conviction.  Pilate knew Jesus was innocent (even his wife knew this as well), but in order to keep the peace, He gave over Jesus.

As far as a church is concerned:

  • Anytime a preacher of the Word preaches in order to satisfy a crowd rather than preach the unvarnished truth of God’s Word give over Jesus and His unvarnished gospel of God’s plan of salvation in the world and in the church.
  • Anytime a pastor shepherds the church in order to satisfy the parishioners rather than counsel them, “speaking the truth in love,” gives over Jesus and His work to grow and mature them in the faith.
  • Anytime a deacon serves the church in order to satisfy the parishioners rather than to roll up the sleeves, meet the physical needs of the people, and help along the pastors in the work of the ministry, we give over Jesus saying that our plans and way of running the church is better than Jesus’ plan.  (Keep in mind, it’s Christ’s church, not ours—Matthew 16:13-20).
  • Anytime a leader or person of influence seeks to satisfy the crowd (or even their own heart) in setting a direction for the church, we give over Jesus.  In fact, we will be working to usurp His role as the prophet, priest, and king of the church.  It takes great courage to defer to Jesus’ direction.  It takes great cowardice to fear that He doesn’t know what He’s doing, and we then try to take over. 

What others ways to you see how leaders can become Pilates—where the cowardice trumps the conviction?

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If Scripture is Truly Sufficient, Why Do We Need Other Books on Scripture?

Our stance as a church is that we believe in the authority, infallibility, inerrancy, and sufficiency of Scripture.  The Baptist Faith & Message (2000) states in Article I: Scriptures:

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The Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired and is God’s revelation of Himself to man. It is a perfect treasure of divine instruction. It has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter. Therefore, all Scripture is totally true and trustworthy. It reveals the principles by which God judges us, and therefore is, and will remain to the end of the world, the true center of Christian union, and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried. All Scripture is a testimony to Christ, who is Himself the focus of divine revelation.

In our day, the sufficiency of Scripture stands as the great front in both the cultural and ecclesiastical battles of our day, especially ecclesiastical:  is the Word of God sufficient in the life and practice of the church?  Since the essence of Scripture is that God has spoken, it is sufficient and it must be sufficient.

One question one might ask is, “If Scripture is sufficient, then why do we need other books about areas that Scripture addresses?”

It’s a valid question. But we must realize that just because Scripture is sufficient does not mean that we can I have other books to help us understand Scripture. Some principles need to be in play.

  1. The Scriptures are a closed canon.  A ‘canon’ is a measuring rod or stick; so in relation to Scripture, the Bible is the ‘measuring stick’ for the authority of truth.  The canon is closed in that when the last apostolic eyewitness of Christ’s earthly ministry (the apostle John), then the canon was closed with his last book, the Revelation of John, which outlines the end times.   Every religion has their perceived ‘canon’ (Muslims with the Qu’ran, Mormons with their Book of Mormon, etc.), but with us as Evangelical Protestants, the 66 books of the Bible serve as our canon.  Every OT book except for Esther is mentioned in the NT.  And every NT author has a connection as a witness to the earthly ministry of Jesus.
  2. Preachers are called to expound on Scripture by using Scripture.  While this may seem a circular argument, we see that it’s not due to the fact that the Bible is not simply one Book but a collection of books written by 40 men over a span of 1500 years and present an ‘inspired’ unity of one Author.  Given the continuity of the same progression of redemptive revelation that God unrolled, we most certainly can use Scripture to interpret Scripture and still sleep well at night.
  3. God’s ways are higher than ours and his thoughts are higher than ours (Isaiah 55:8-9).  As a result, God has called preachers (Romans 10:13-14) to go and to preach the gospel as outlined in the Scriptures to others who do not know the Good News of Jesus.  Preachers must not make up new ‘inspired’ material; neither should authors or blog posts.  We read books on Scripture, listen to preachers preach on Scripture, go to classes to learn to study Scripture better (a discipline known as hermeneutics) because we understand the vastness and the majesty of the One who penned it.
  4. We were never met to ‘do’ Christianity alone–and that includes interpreting Scripture.  All of us stand on the shoulders of the giants who went before us, all the way to the foundation of the apostles and the prophets (the Scriptures).  Those committed to the authority of Scripture will seek to rightly divide Scripture.  Should someone say, “God told me this…,” how can we know if it’s true?  Not based upon our fallen, fallible faculties; but on the perspicuity and infallibility of Scripture.  We are an ‘ekklesia’ (called-out ones), a ‘koinonia’ (a fellowship of believers united to Christ), a body of believers with one True Head who is Christ (Colossians 1:18).  To say we need no help is disingenuous (after all, we have received the help of those who translated it from the Hebrew and Greek to begin with), and arrogant.

This is not meant to be all-inclusive or necessarily authoritative.  But these are reasons which have helped me in holding to the Scriptures alone as sufficient, but actually reading other commentaries and listening to other preachers in the process of interpreting, explaining, and applying Scripture.

What think ye?

Other helpful articles:

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Why I Was Pulling for the Broncos

2014-01-17 14.02.40Football-wise, I’m a Cincinnati Bengals fan—but more and more I gravitated to the Denver Broncos.  This is an odd thing.  I grew up liking the Browns a lot, but 1986 (The Drive), 1987 (The Fumble), and 1989 (The Blowout) did not endear me to the Broncos one bit.

Then I moved to Denver and slowly but surely started pulling for them a bit vigorously.  Here are a few reasons (I give them if for no other reason than to put pen to paper, so to speak). 

  1. Relief.  Denver and Colorado in general have been through quite a bit over the last few years.  Seeing them have some relief from the various events that took place encouraged me.  It makes me realize how all of us need Christ to provide the comfort, relief, and perspective needed that football only touches.  The gospel is what grips!
  2. Identity.  I live in Denver, and love it!  I love that God sent me to a city and to a church that I absolutely treasure.  I love that God sent me to a city that needs the gospel desperately.  When you love the people, you begin to love what they love.  We must keep a constant reminder that, as believers, our ultimate identity is being united in Christ not being United in Orange. 
  3. Knowledge.  The news covers the Broncos endlessly here in Denver.  For me, it’s about the players themselves.  You get to know Peyton Manning and his epic work ethic, his faith, his family.  You get to know some of the issues regarding the other players, such as Von Miller’s numerous off-field issues, and this fuels your prayer life that Christ would turn him around.  Sure, these guys are on the team because of a paycheck and a contract.  When they become free agents or the team decides to move on, they move on.  But they are part of our community here in Denver.  It’s hard not to pull for ‘your people.’ 

Yes, they lost the Super Bowl 43-8 in rather epic fashion.  And it is just a game.  But this team is a part of our community.  But, again, let this help us recognize our need for community, and for a community that truly matters and will truly last. 

And may we as a church find ourselves ready to truly develop a gospel-centered community and to share the stories that God is writing in our lives as we take that next step in our journey with Christ.

Just some post-Super Bowl thoughts. 

Tell me, why do you root for the sports teams you root for?

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