Modern Mission Trips

I normally write this little article on Thursday of each week. During the week an issue will come up and I use this space to shed a little light on the topic. This week I was rolling some issues around and couldn’t decide on just one so I put it off till Sunday morning. My mind was settled when I checked the mail this morning. I was invited to go on a mission trip to a country half way around the world!

Yeah, and it will only cost me $3000 plus shots, a passport and visas. I would be joining a team from Arkansas and working with a team from that country to: run a medical clinic, train church leaders, lead in singing/worship and prayer walk. Well, I’m no doctor and I’m a terrible nurse so that’s out. I can’t sing or play an instrument and they all speak a different language anyway so that’s out. Prayer walking… Now that needs it’s own paragraph.

What in the world is that? Where do we find it in Scripture? The walls of Jericho? I’m not an expert on all things Bible but I had never heard of this until about ten years ago and now every mission trip is doing it. I observed it a few times at church camp, a group of people walking to all the dorms stopping and praying at each one before marching around the tabernacle in prayer. Isn’t this the exact same thing the Pharisees did on the street corners? “Oh no, we pray quietly as we walk, they prayed out loud.” Then why don’t you pray in private at home and send your $3000 to a needy missionary. If our prayers are truly aimed at heaven, then they will have no trouble reaching any part of the globe. This is just a modern idea to make everyone “qualified” for missions. I also firmly believe it has it’s roots in Pentecostalism and the need to touch and rebuke things in person.

It’s true, I could give some advice to church leaders over there. Truth is I already do, via the world wide web. I regularly correspond with missionaries discussing any number of issues they have. Our church has sent books and care packets to a number of native pastors for training and encouragement. While many have expressed a desire to see me face to face, if given the option, $3000 dollars would be of better use to them than seeing my ugly mug.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not anti mission trips. But mission trips are for missionaries. Missionaries don’t travel the world and risk their lives to play music, sing or prayer walk. They go to preach the gospel and aid the people. Paul would never use this kind of money to spend 4-5 days with someone. But we will, because we spend it on vacations every year. And that’s what it is, a religious vacation. I’m not judging all who go on these trips, but I am condemning the whole “mission trip” system. Christians have lost sight of real missions and we need to get it back.

God told me _______

I continue to be amazed at what God tells people these days. You all have heard me many times warn against saying “God told me…” So you may be saying to yourself “Is he going to talk about that subject again?” Why yes I am, and I admire your discernment. The reason I continue to discuss the subject is because I’m constantly confronted with the phrase. Maybe that’s because I’m a pastor and people feel led to give me a word from God directly, and that may be true to a degree. However, I don’t think is the full story. I honestly think the subject hasn’t been addressed in churches for decades. Couple this with the rise of Pentecostalism and we now have it’s widespread acceptance. Add to this the fear that most Christians have about challenging anyone who claims to have received a special word from God.

The stage is set for anyone to claim that God told them anything and everything. In all seriousness, many of these people genuinely believe God really did tell them this. So when we finally work up the nerve to ask “How do you know that God really did tell you this?” The answer is all to often “I just know.” or “I just believe he did.” And that’s usually where we leave it.

This past week I couldn’t leave the conversation at “I just know.” Because I, just knew, God would never say what he claimed. He said “God told me to vote for Hillary Clinton, so I did what I was told.” Now fast forward to this part of our discussion: “Preacher, how do you know God didn’t tell me this?” #1 God wouldn’t verbally endorse something He has condemned in writing. #2 God wouldn’t ask us to promote sinful behavior that He already forbid in Scripture. #3 While God picks each and every leader, He still holds us personally accountable for who we vote for. #4 God’s views on homosexuality an abortion are clear and unchanging. #5 If the apostle Paul was qualified and in the running, I wouldn’t claim God told me to vote for him. I would simply say he is the best candidate according to the Bible.

When challenging the claim of “God told me” we must go to what God has already said, and that is on paper. But more importantly me must do it with love for them and love for the Truth. I know this is true because God told me so… What? You can check for yourselves, I got it from 1 Cor 13.

 

The Best Church

“_____ is the best church in our area. They have more stuff going on than every other church combined. They go on camping trips and fishing trips, have a soft ball league, have a special event for every holiday, ride ATV’s together, offer free nights at the water park and the go-cart track, they even have their own ice cream truck.” Well, that settled the debate for all who were listening, what other church can compete with an ice cream truck? I mean after all, to be viewed as a pillar of Christian religion in our community these things are now mandatory. A W Tozer once said “Most churches can’t operate having only a hymn book and a Bible.” Most shocking of all was Tozer made that statement in the 1950′s.

This is the view of many a church goer in America. Church is no longer a place of prayer, praise and preaching. While these three elements may remain in the church to some degree they are no longer the the primary role of the church. The driving force is now numbers, and by numbers I mean people, and lots of them. The surest way to attract people is to offer the things people want. You won’t win any BBQ competitions with tofu and you won’t attract large crowds by only offering preaching, prayer, and praise for a holy God. It’s simply does not appeal the masses.

But if you take it to be the goal of the church to “reach” people, then by all means reach them. Use every available option to get their attention. If I or anyone else criticizes this ideology, well we don’t love Jesus and aren’t concerned about lost people. Even worse, were just jealous of their success.

One has to wonder how the early church gained such a strong footing in the world with out the resources of modern churches. A study of this topic will quickly reveal the early church had a resource the modern church is void of: power from the Holy Spirit. Man kind does not like to rely on God’s help, he wants to do it all by himself. Therefore todays churches have found out how to draw people to themselves without the power of God. They have even made it their mission. The world agrees these are the best churches. Ravenhill said “The apostles had no gold, but lots of glory. We have lots of gold and no glory.”

In praise of the sovereignty of God

It is no secrete that we preach the sovereignty of God in all things. Many people hate this doctrine. They are okay with God being sovereign over some things like the climate and solar system. Some go a step further and grant God to be sovereign over life and death, he may even control some governments they say. But when we say God is sovereign over the salvation of men’s souls they lose their minds. They will not back off their claim to man’s free will to choose or not choose to follow God.

They claim that if you take away free will, you make man a robot. I would argue that man is already a robot. He is a sin robot. He was born in sin and he can not stop sinning. Nor does he want to stop sinning. It is only the consequences of his sin that he fears. No one feels bad about speeding until they see the blue lights flashing. As long as man can justify his sin he’s okay with it and his free will will freely sin as long he can get away with it. That is until the blue lights flash on to his sins. Question: Who catches sinners in their sins? Is it the sinner who self arrests himself? Or is it a power higher than himself that intervenes and stops him in his sins? I think every honest Christian has to answer it is the Holy Spirit that convicts us of our sins and brings us to the place of faith and repentance.

Now that we’ve established it is the Spirit’s role to bring sinners before a holy God for reconciliation in Christ, some more questions are in order. How is it that most humans escape the Spirit? Is the Spirit of our God bad at his job? Is he so over worked and under manned that he catch them all? Or is the free will of man just to much for the third person of the Trinity? Or could it be that the Holy Spirit overcomes the individuals he sets out after?

You say “wait a minute, that makes God unfair!” How so? Did he promise to save everyone? Has he not offered the gospel world wide? Did God not send missionaries to every people group on the earth commanding all men everywhere to repent? The problem has never been that God is unjust but it has been that man is dead in his sins. Apart from a sovereign God taking an active role in drawing us to himself, no one would be saved. His sovereignty over us is not doctrine to be despised but rather an attribute to be praised.

Luke 9:57-62 Outline

Three Versions of a Shallow Superficial Faith
Luke 9:57-62

V57 A Charismatic Faith: Built on emotion and a swift decision.
V58 Downfall: The loss of personal comfort.
Example: Lot’s Wife Gen 19:26

V59 A Convenient Faith: When ever it fits into your plans.
V60 Downfall: The pursuit of cash.
Example: Young Ruler Mat 19:16-22

V61 A Confused Faith: Looking to others for approval.
V62 Downfall: The prospect of coming home.
Example: Family and God Luke 14:26-27

This is a simple outline I used in a Bible study to demonstrate that all who claim to believe may not truly believe. True faith is not built on emotion, advantage or what others think. True faith comes from God to convict of sin and causes us to place our only hope in the work of Christ Jesus. True faith is visible in our lives by the choices we make and the lives we live. Regardless of the cost true faith will forever stand.

A Mighty Fortress Is Our God

A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing:
For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and power are great, and, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.

Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing;
Were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing:
Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord Sabaoth, His name, from age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.

And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us:
The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.

That word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him who with us sideth:
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.

Words & Music: Martin Luther, 1529

Meaningful Membership Pt 2 Membership Matters

Part one can be found here http://leecreekbaptist.org/wp/?p=52

Some have asked the question “Is church membership even biblical?” The simple one word answer is Yes. However we don’t have a verse like “Thou shalt join a local church” so let us look at some verses that imply church membership.

 
Take Mat 18:17 for example “And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.” Who is the church? If it’s every saved believer how could we tell all of them? Do we tell this problem to every one who sits in our church? These answers are obviously no, but it is implied that the church would know it’s members. In Acts 5:11-14 we find ” And great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things. 12And by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people; (and they were all with one accord in Solomon’s porch. 13And of the rest durst no man join himself to them: but the people magnified them. 14And believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women.)” Verse 13 tells us the people outside the church did not want to join the church. There must have been some way of keeping track of who was a member of the church. In I Cor 5 Paul gives clear instructions on removing a person from the church at Corinth. Verses 12-13 read “For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within? 13But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.” Paul uses the the words “without” and “within” to describe those who are members and those who are not. The church has a God given authority to judge those within. These passages of Scripture primarily demonstrate the practical side of church membership. Early churches had members, but there is more to it than just joining a group.

 
The church is also designed to show forth the love of God to a lost and dying world. Listen to our Lord’s prayer in Jn 17:20-23 “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; 21That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. 22 And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: 23 I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.” By uniting with and submitting to a local church you are showing the work of God’s grace in your heart to the world around you. By members of a church working together and loving one another the love of God is lived out in a broken world. The church should be a picture of the love we have in Christ.

 
I pray this gives you some basis for a biblical church membership. Since membership does matter, what do we do with those who think their church membership does not matter? I am speaking of those within a church who at one time were active and for what ever reason they had a change of heart and now no longer participate. In part one of this series we laid out five minimums for acceptance into the church. Those same minimums should be maintained through out our time in the church. So let us now look into some areas where people may turn away from these basic tenants.

#1 Believe: In order to join one must be saved by believing in the Lord Jesus Christ. This is a matter of the heart and all that we can do is look for the fruits of faith and repentance. Suppose they recant their faith and say they will not believe in Christ any more, what should the church do? The church has one option if they will not repent: removal. Those who have no faith in Christ are not members. If someone claims to be saved but shows no fruit we should remain gracious to them encouraging their growth and honoring their profession.
#2 Baptized: The candidate must be properly baptized. This would come into question if someone who claimed to be saved in the past came to the realization of their true lost condition and was saved after becoming a member. In this case the church rejoices and administers baptism. If a member our church is baptized another church, we remove them and recognize their wishes to join that church.
#3 Agree With Our Doctrine: To be a member one must agree with what the church teaches. There are two directions a person can go from the established doctrine of the church: add to or take away. In every church there will be some minor differences in how one views the Scripture. If a member changes the view he once held Titus 3:10-11 is very clear “A man that is an heretic after the first and second admonition reject; Knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself.” The church must try to correct him. If this fails, he must be removed for the protection of the body.
#4 Accept The Leadership: Why would someone’s feeling about the leadership change. If he is doctrinally sound, this change can usually be narrowed down to hurt feelings or rebellion. Hurt feeling arise out of misunderstandings and personality clashes. This can be solved by both parties adhering to Eph 4:2-3 “With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” As for our second cause, rebellion, this should never be tolerated. The process of Mat 18:15-17 should be prayerfully followed.
#5 Attend: Lets put this into two categories: slacking and stopping. In either case the church should seek to resolve the situation. If they are slacking off then encouragement is needed. If they stop seek their return. If they refuse to return after a period of time they will have to be removed from the membership of the church. This obviously excludes the elderly, sick and some military personnel. Patience is the key here.

 
Why enforce these things you ask? God designed it this way. The image of Christ is at stake. This will promote holiness in the body. It unites the church to glorify God. It encourages spiritual growth. It reduces the common hypocrisy associated with the modern church. It ensures that the church remains faithful in her responsibility to equip, educate and encourage her members.

Membership Minimums

I want to begin a three part series on Church Membership. These are the notes from our Wednesday night Bible study here at Lee Creek Baptist Church. These messages were preached Jan 18-Feb 1 2012 and can be heard on our website. The need for this teaching is great among Southern Baptist especially, because many churches have a membership that is often four to five time as large as the attendance. Some as high as ten fold the attendance. The issue begins with who is allowed to join a church. Often times our membership is out of control because the people we have put on our roles never intended to stay in the church. They had a religious experience and when it wore off they left, never to be seen again. Many were never truly converted. So what do we do?

 

In order to properly teach on this subject we must establish what the Bible requires of a member of a New Testament Church. So we will begin with five minimums for acceptance in to the church’s role. These are the minimums, not maximums. We should expect to see some spiritual growth in love, knowledge and service after they join and continue under biblical teaching. So what does the Bible say is required of us to join the church?

 

Believe This may seem obvious to some of you but many people have joined their church as a baby, when a priest baptized them. John 1:12-13 tells us the “power to become the sons of God” only belongs to them who “believe on his name.” That is, the ones who have saving faith in Jesus Christ. They make up the “Church” that Jesus said He would build in Matthew 16:18. People who have not been regenerated and indwelt by the Holy Spirit can not function in the church. Simply put, they follow a different leader and their heart longs for worldly thing and not spiritual things. When a church is is full of lost members it can not fulfill the office God intended it to hold. “Ye must be born again” is still the step in church membership.

 

Baptism Only the believer is a proper candidate for baptism (Acts 2:41). No babies where ever baptized in the New Testament. When an entire household was baptized in the Bible you have to make the assumption that they were a young family with babies every time in order to believe that. Acts 8:36-39 give us the story of Phillip and the Ethiopian eunuch who, after he had heard the Word, wanted to be baptized. Phillip said “If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest.” Notice how they both went down into the water and both came up out of it. This was not a sprinkling. The only baptism that is acceptable before God is done by immersion, by a fellow believer, upon their profession of faith. This is the first act of obedience that every Christian should want to take. If a person can’t follow Christ this far, they are not a candidate for membership.

 

Agree Doctrinally   Acts 2:42 tells us the early church “continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine.” Pastors are commanded to teach sound doctrine: I Tim 4:13, 16. We live in a day when there is a different kind of church on every corner. All of these verious beliefs have sprang up over differing doctrinal views. Odds are, there is a group that already preaches the Bible “your way.” The church and her pastor are commanded to gaurd these doctrines I Tim 1:3. In Romans 16:16-18 Paul instructs the church to “mark them that cause divisions and offences contrary to doctrine… and avoid them”. Often times this treatment could be avoided if the church and the prospect were honest on the front end. If the doctrine of the church can not be accepted, membership is not an option.

 

 Attend The Services  Heb 10:24-25 are pretty cut and dried. Verse 24 tells us “to provoke unto love and good works.” How can you help others in this task if you don’t want to be with them? Church requires Christians, and the Christian requires church. v25 “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together” To not go to church is to disobey a direct command from holy Scripture. We have every right to take a vacation, work an extra day or stay home sick when necessary. Even if we are to old and feeble to attend church, that is understandable. But, If someone is “forsaking” the church and has no plans of returning, they are out of fellowship. Let us be reminded that true Christians can not stay in this condition. I John 2:19-20 is clear “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us…” The believer may from time to time become disgruntled with the church or it’s leadership, but he can not stay that way. v20 “..ye have the Holy One..” The Holy Spirit comes and corrects our heart. The Great Shepherd takes care of His sheep. If there are no plans of staying, there should be no plans of membership.

 

Accept The Leadership God appoints the leaders in the church. In the Bible they are called Pastors, Elders or Bishops. What ever you call them the Bible is clear, God has put them there to “under shepherd” His flock. Many passages of Scripture support this. For example Heb 13:7, 17 show the responsibility of both the pastor and the pew. The pastor is to lead, and he must give an account, of both of himself and those whom he pastors. In I Pet 5:1-4 Peter tells how true pastors are to conduct themselves. We have the criteria for a qualified pastor in I Tim 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9. Pastors meeting those standards are to be prayed for, not opposed to. If a person can not accept the God given leadership in the church, they have no business seeking membership there.

 

May God be glorified in His Churches!