The Silent Majority (Independent Baptist Truth Revolution #13)

With twelve posts out now in this Truth Revolution, it is time to reflect on the bigger picture. In spite of all the negative issues that demand discussion, there is some really good news that needs publicity. The ugliest things in the Independent Baptist world, as embarrassing as they are, simply do not describe a larger than expected number out there.

It was reinforced in my mind over this past weekend. My family had a chance to minister at Beacon Baptist Church in Jupiter, Florida. Our only connection to that work was that my wife has a good friend from college days who is the assistant pastor’s wife. We knew nothing else of the church before we went. What did we find? A pastor who passionately preached God’s Word! He drew a great sermon from the text that really was a help to people. He was a humble, dedicated shepherd, loved by staff and people. Then we met some dedicated couples and spent enough time with them to see a real zeal to serve the Lord. They were in their 30s, a few on staff, but most not, and they were all a breath of fresh air. The music was awesome, the unity of the people obvious, and absolutely nothing was weird. There was no trace of anything I have written about in this series!

I think of Faith Baptist Tabernacle in Jamestown, Tennessee, pastored by Fred Allred, where we have attended in our transition time, and the love of Christ is so real there. Again, nothing weird, and nothing that I have written of here. This year we have been in other churches in Tennessee, Ohio, Illinois, and Kentucky, all pastored by dedicated shepherds who took seriously preaching God’s Word in context. These churches would be a blessing to any person or family, all without any embarrassing elements to explain away.

Why do we hear so little about these churches:
1. Good news rarely makes the news.
2. These pastors are too humble to always be tooting their own horns.
3. They understand it is Christ and not themselves anyway.

The good news extends beyond churches and pastors. We have learned this with private information. Since my Alicia and I have started blogging, you would be shocked by all the private emails and Facebook messages that we have received. What did we learn? We found an overwhelmingly positive response. They want things to change. They want the Bible to be returned to its rightful place by being preached in context. They want the opinion of man thrown out in preaching. They want pastoral abuse to stop. They want the great Baptist principle of soul liberty brought back.

We haven’t heard much from the older generation, but we have had so many responses from those in their 20s, 30s, and 40s and they run about 95 % that we need these issues to change. Think of this age group. Most assistant pastors come from this age group and several pastors do too. Many soon-to-be pastors are coming from this group as well. I have heard from many dedicated laymen who are becoming the backbone of churches around the country and they agree just as much. I find hope here!

They are quiet. Their messages were private. I think they should be called, with apologies to Richard Nixon, the silent majority. Their influence is coming and will be felt like it or not. I, for one, like it.

Please read next week when I will make an appeal to this silent majority!

Please read all articles in the series here.

Life In Christ by Jeremy Walker

What is the most essential item in our Christian life? Surely our life in Christ, though neglected in many circles, is the right answer. Christianity, as it has been said, is Christ, and our relationship to Him is vital at every point. To help us think clearly here enter Life In Christ by Jeremy Walker to spur our thoughts in a proper direction. As the subtitle says, we get help on “becoming and being a disciple of The Lord Jesus Christ.”

I suspect this volume began as a series of sermons, but they flow wonderfully to give us more than a mere book of sermons. The first chapter begins with a frank discussion of looking to Jesus as the key to salvation. That is the right starting point. We have nothing to discuss until we are in Christ! I loved Mr. Walker’s description of the glory of the statement : “if anyone is in Christ” (pg. 22). There is no distinction in any of us who are in Christ! From here he goes on to proclaim “the unsearchable riches of Christ.”

There are other great chapters. “The Jewel of Assurance” is especially good. He tries to strike the right balance when he reminds us that we are a “work in progress.” Mr. Walker is a Calvinist, but there really are only a few places where you couldn’t agree as one who isn’t a Calvinist. You will be helped to get your thinking straight and focus on being Christ’s disciple.

Don’t think that this volume could only help a new Christian. The truths here are of the type that we can never be reminded of enough. In addition, this volume covers this key ground with verve. I recommend it.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Video Interviews on this volume:
Janet Mefford Show
Confessing Baptist Podcast

20140123-171610.jpg

Letting Go (Independent Baptist Truth Revolution #12)

This one is difficult to write. The issue is not as widespread as some I have written of lately, but for some it is the most intense. Without further suspense, I speak of adult children, often times parents themselves, of parents in the Independent Baptist world. Again, this is not unique to us as if springs from a temptation for every parent–not letting go.

There is the more visible manifestation of this problem in one of the smaller segments of the Independent Baptist world. You will see a family that lives in a way similar to the Amish or Mennonites. They will often dress that way and live cloistered from the world. I am not criticizing them for that lifestyle because if they feel they should live that way to honor the Lord, it isn’t my place to say it is wrong even if I feel that the Lord is not asking that of me. I know some of them love the Lord as much as I do.

What is an issue is how at times the family is handled. The man is rigidly in charge and makes every decision to the smallest detail. I have seen some of the mothers in this environment who seem to often be looking downcast and unhappy, but that is a discussion for another day. Then there are the children. Becoming a legal adult changes nothing. I have seen several men and women in their mid-20s who couldn’t go even to town without parental permission. To decide on a life course or whom to marry is out of the question. The parents will decide, require long courtships, and have endless hoops for their grown children to jump through. My first thought is that if your child is incapable to make good decisions on their own by 25, you should make a public confession that you have already failed. By then, you have missed your chance. If these young folks ever get the courage to go their own way, the greatest pressure is often brought to bear. It kind of reminds the of Amish and their shunning. The parents are the patriarch and matriarch and naturally are the spiritual gurus for the whole family. Perhaps you shake your head and say this is ridiculous.

Much more surprising, and not as obvious, is another segment that in no way look like the Amish but demand a role in their adult children’s lives that robs them of standing on their own in life and before the Lord. Often times they are the ones with the higher standards and feel those standards are some of the most critical things of the Christian life. I have no criticism of anyone’s standards as long as they realize that it is not their place to impose them on everyone else.

A real problem arises when those adult children go through a process that all believers must go through–feeling a necessity to know what the Lord wants for themselves and then making that the way they live their lives. All too often that may mean a few differences in detail than what their parents followed. Of course I would like my children to reach my same conclusion on everything, but I am not naive enough to think it will happen. For that matter, I really, when my head is on straight, want them to follow Christ instead of me anyway!

Then comes the crisis. There is the parents who they love on the one hand, and the Lord they love even more on the other. The parents feel rejected, dishonored, and unloved if they follow the Lord, or there is the guilt of not giving the Lord the first place if they follow the parents to keep the peace. It is pretty much a rotten ordeal either way, though there is really only one option to a Christian. Some withdraw from their children and practically break fellowship with them!

In addition to knowing several people personally in different families going through this situation, we have several more write either my wife or I since we have been blogging telling us of going through this problem. The names are different, the issues may be different (dress standards, church of choice, or some other standard), but the pain is the same. Relations are strained, holidays are awkward, and a rift grows. And it simply should not be.

Points For These Parents Of Adult Children To Consider:

1. Does the Lord deal with us in this way?
2. Even if you are sure your adult children are making a mistake, did the Prodical’s Father treat the Prodical Son in that way?
3. Where is your Scriptural permission to act in such a way?
4. Is it worth losing your grandchildren too?
5. Are your motives 100% pure? Is part of the your disappointment that you have made a big point out of the standard in question and it embarrasses you when others see that one of your adult children is not following what you have made a key point of your life? (A few of the cases I know about personally had one of the parents say to their adult child, “you are damaging my ministry by your change”).
6. Is it working? Are your methods yielding the results you want?

I appeal to you to let go. Your time to mold them is over. You only have influence now and you surely don’t want to throw it away because you can’t have a control you have no right to anyway.

Points For Adult Children Who Have These Issues With Their Parents:

1. Remember you are not alone.
2. You may not be able to take the unpleasantness away.
3. Love your parents.
4. But follow Christ. As you well know, He is worthy of first place. This point is non-negotiable.
5. Remember that in a few short years you will face the same problem with your children.
6. Raise your children where your control decreases and their personal decision making increases so that when they reach the steps of adulthood they can go on making their own way as we all must. You have about 18 or so years per child to get the job done. May our Lord help us as we go bumbling along the road of parenthood.
7. Don’t repeat the mistake later that causes you pain now.

I sincerely pray that many families can turn the corner on this perplexing issue.

Find all articles in the series here:

20140116-130627.jpg

New Library of Pastoral Care On Logos Bible Software

When I was approached to review an electronic book product, I at first didn’t know what to think. I am a book lover. I will never get past wanting a physical book in my hands. Still, it is the wave of the future, maybe even the present, and electronic books are here to stay. Among such products there is no doubt that Logos Bible Software is the preeminent place for all kinds of scholarly and pastoral books.

I had the 10 volumes of the New Library of Pastoral Care made available to me for this review. Of course I couldn’t read all 10 volumes in this short time, but there is a wide variety of topics covered in this set. Topics like counseling, caring for the dying and bereaved, helping those with mental illness, developing listening skills, and even being a theologian as a pastor are some of the best discussed. As its title implies, this set is a virtual library in pastoral issues. I recommend it. Check it out here.

A valuable feature is that you can get a copy of the Bible to incorporate as you study. Check it out here. This greatly increases the value of this product.

The beauty of Logos is that it can be used on any “smart” device. It worked well on my iPad, and it of course works on regular PCs. There is a simple link to download any needed apps.

I feel YouTube videos will make more sense than me trying to explain uses in words. Check out this video for ideas for using in sermon preparation, or actually writing out a sermon. Here is another video with an impressive clause search feature.

I am still sticking to books, but I am glad to have this opportunity to use a product that is so widely used by preachers and Bible students every where. If I can take a plunge, anyone can!

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

20140115-223725.jpg

The Missing Ingredient (Independent Baptist Truth Revolution #11)

Do you ever get the sense that something is missing? Do you ever in the Independent Baptist world amidst the claims of our being the closest thing to New Testament Christianity feel that something is off kilter? Do you read the Gospels and think something about what Jesus did in sharing the Gospel with others is lacking in our efforts? Could it be that while many elements are present we have one major lacking component?

Love. We at times see the depths of the problem by the intensity of the cringing when we mention the need of love. Some are instantly offended when the word love is offered up as important. Sometimes the charge of “O no, you are one of those love-love-love people” starts flying. Well, that is a strange criticism to get. All in all, I don’t think I would be too devastated to be labeled as a Christian who is infected with love. Following a God Who Himself said He is love might make that criticism a badge of honor!

Still, some of our fellow Independent Baptists would be horrified to have the love label attached to them. Love, a theme that finds its way from the beginning pages of the Bible, intensifies in the New Testament, and finds its highest expression on the lips of Jesus in the Gospels, is thought by some to be a sure sign of weakness. Some feel it weakens the body of truth that is Christianity while, strangely enough, the Bible says it defines it and undergirds the whole.

I think they have the explaining to do. Love, for them, is really an umbrella term for a set of words and even some Scriptures that will put you on the suspicious list. Grace–that word that is a love springing forth raises some eyebrows. An appeal to love enough to not judge is a real blood-pressure raiser. To even quote Matthew 7:1 (“Judge not, that ye be not judged.”) is a sure-fire way to make them think you don’t even believe the Bible even though you just quoted it. Liberty, or the freedom purchased by love, is another no-no. “Love your neighbor” may be in the Bible, but surely neighbor is an extinct species. You get the point. The things criticized here make up a grand portion of the New Testament and it is, therefore, absurd to criticize where the Bible commends for one claiming to follow that Word.

This gets even uglier. We give token acknowledgment to love and then revel in a harsh, militant view of the truth. How could we have truth without love if love is part of that truth? We are hard where Jesus was kind. We say we love, but no one believes us. We scream and get angry and lament that no one listens. Would you listen?

Love is never proved by words, only action. The test is simple: do others feel it? Before you trash the test remember the ones who met Jesus in the Gospels would have answered yes.

To have Christianity without love is like having chocolate chip cookies without chocolate! If you make those cookies and realize you left out the chocolate you know you bombed! Go back to the kitchen and put in the chocolate or you will never have chocolate chip cookies. Without love you will never have Bible Christianity either! This ingredient is missing, but it isn’t lost. We know where it is. In fact, the cupboard is full of love for one who knows Jesus Christ. I suggest we go to that cupboard, get it, and put it back in.

Find all articles in the series here.

20140113-211530.jpg

Staffs Under The Gun (Independent Baptist Truth Revolution #10)

They suffer silently. They have to because speaking up is labeled treasonous. Even if they are treated treacherously, they are held to a standard of grin and bear it. They can be held to account and then some, but their tormentors must not be. Who am I speaking of? Some assistant pastors and other staff members in the Independent Baptist world. While there are some wonderfully happy staffs out there where pastor and staff love each other, there is a must more widespread problem than many would want to admit.

Over the last 15 years I have heard the story time and again. A pastor rides roughshod over assistants. He belittles, abuses, criticizes, over works, and treats as second-class servants the very ones the Lord has sent as a gift to help Him. The story goes that they are told they are incompetent and have everything they do over analyzed, second guessed, and often redone. Though there can be poor assistants, of course, I know men that are some of the most faithful, dedicated men I have ever known and have proved it in later ministries, and they suffered immensely in this very scenario. In some cases the wounds linger a long time and a loss of confidence must be worked through. Besides hearing this from many, and even being requested to write on this in this series, three men I know very well shared with me in great detail their horror stories. Each of them were of such character that they have never tried to retaliate by lashing out or going on a crusade against their abusers. Still, it was unjust that they should have suffered so at the hands of a pastor.

This is not the same thing as a pastor taking “the oversight thereof”, or providing leadership or vision, even if the abusers loudly want to couch the issue in those terms. As one who holds the office of pastor in the highest possible regard, I will label it for you in one word –hireling. It is one who is called to be a shepherd and give himself for the sheep using others for his own ends. He is taking when he should be giving. It was supposed to be about them and it ends up only being about self. It divests the word “pastor” of its true meaning.

Why does this happen? If you listen really closely, you will find traces of jealousy. Remember King Saul with David? It is as if these pastors must be the center of the universe, so much so than any other staff is not allowed to be loved or respected. This, of course, sets them up for failure as when they reach that grotesque of a prideful level it becomes hard to get real love or respect. Then comes the lowly assistant and everyone can’t help rooting for him. The pastor then gets more paranoid and amps up his preposterous treatment. In some cases, though the assistant has moved many miles to come their way, these pastors fire them like the most secular of companies and nothing like a church. To be sure, that becomes a source of shame to the cause of Christ.

Things Every Pastor Must Never Forget In Regards To Staff:

1. You have a shepherding responsibility to every staff member.

You are as much the pastor of every assistant and staff member as anyone in the church. What evidence could you produce to categorize them any other way? You will give an account for their souls too.

2. You pastor a church, not run a business.

A church can’t be run in the same cold fashion some businesses are. If some staff member doesn’t “produce” enough, you can’t just throw them under the bus. The reality some are missing is that a real Christian approach is the best way to run a business, not the other way around. The very best companies figured this out and make a happy, secure workforce a key component of heir business plan.

3. The church you pastor is all about Christ, and nothing about you.

You are a servant of Jesus Christ. He receives glory when local churches are what they should be, and he has placed you there to facilitate that goal. The moment you seek the glory for yourself you nullify your point of existence. What could be a greater failure?

4. Assistants are co-laborers, not inferior beings.

You just have different assignments. You work together in a great cause. They are as loved of God as you.

5. Staff members can be a place of great ministry.

What an opportunity to advance the ministry you have if you invest in them. You will never increase your influence by elevating yourself at the expense of those around you. In fact, that will render it valueless. On the other hand, the joy of old preachers is the others they have helped along the way. Mentoring, if heartfelt, is a powerful thing.

God bless the pastors who do it right. Let’s all join their number!

All other articles in this series here.

20140107-085658.jpg