Saturday, June 30, 2007

baptist press with a log in its eye...

i have posted several times about the large contrast between the southern baptist convention's reported membership of over 16 million, and the actual reported attendance of just over 6 million. [see here] and here]

the past two years at the annual sbc meeting, the executive committee has decided *not* to allow a vote calling the churches to integrity in church membership.

if almost 2/3 of our "members" on the rolls do not attend, why do we count them as members?

yet when mentioned in national media reports the SBC, is always described with the "16 million member" designation.

for an example, see this article written june 16 of this month, note the "16.3 million-strong" designation in the second paragraph.

16.3 million strong? how is it "strong" when over 10 million out of 16 do not go to church?

where do these media outlets get this number?

from the SBC.

with this in mind, i find it interesting that the SBC's own media outlet, baptist press, chose to run an article on the lack of honesty in the reporting of numbers in another baptist denomination [read story here]

hello, pot?
meet kettle.

when i read this article, i couldn't help but think of jesus' words in matthew 7:2-5 :

For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by
your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.
Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother's eye,
but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how
can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of
your eye,' and behold, the log is in your own eye? You
hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then
you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye.

may the lord grant our denomination the integrity to be honest about our own numbers, and humility when seeing the same lack of in others.

[HT: tom ascol/founder's blog]

Monday, June 25, 2007

exposed in public

what if we all had to wear signs listing our sins?

A Tennessee mother fed up with her daughter's misbehavior
took an unusual tack in for latest punishment, making her
stand on a busy street corner with an attention-getting sign.
Tashara Wilkins, 13, held a sign Sunday reading, "I don't obey
my parents, I'm a liar. I steal from my mom. I
have a bad attitude.",2933,286676,00.html

those who have grown up in church have heard it said a million times that god sees everything, even what we do in private.

but why is it that we cringe at the thought of publicly displaying our sins but knowing that the lord sees all doesnt phase us?
we go through our day so care free when no one else knows of the hatred, resentment, jealousy, lust, in our hearts. how do we get through our day without feeling mortified?
we shudder and feel sick at the shame we would feel if anyone knew *everything* we have done, still do, think and feel.

yet someone does know.

why do *i* do these things?

it is because we fear what other finite people think of us. we want to protect our reputation. we want to be liked. we want to be thought well of. and as long as we can keep these things secret, we can have them.

its not the shame of the actions, attitude, or thought.. its the shame of being caught. as long as we can keep them hidden, we are ok with doing these things.

so what does that say about how much we value god ?

do we fear god because of his holiness or are we simply scared of being caught and being punished?

do we hate sin because it makes us feel guilty, or because god calls us to be holy and sin keeps us from that?

o that the lord (who sees what is done in secret [matt.6]) would grant me a hatred for sin, and that i would be more humiliated for sinning once against my god than a thousand evil deeds exposed before men.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

kirk cameron and the sbc's "growing pains"

the following was a video taped message to pastors at a booth during last week's annual meeting of the southern baptist convention:

Can I speak to you from my heart for a moment?
I realize that, theologically, I’m not worthy to wash
your socks. But imagine this scenario with me, if you will:

Imagine I’m a “seeker”- I’m a non-Christian, sitting in
your church week after week after week listening to you.
Am I ever going to hear the message that will save my
soul from Hell? Will you ever tell me the truth clearly
enough so that I realize that my sin has made me an
enemy of God: that I am currently on the path that leads
to destruction, with the wrath of God dwelling upon me,
and that unless I repent and put my faith in the Savior,
I will perish?

Or have you decided that it’s better to simply entertain
and on Sundays I can come to have my “felt needs”
met with
good music and good advice? Pastor, while I
would appreciate
that, it’s the ultimate betrayal of my
trust in you if you don’t
tell me the truth. Will I ever hear
the words “repent,”
“surrender,” “turn to the Savior,”
“be born again”?

If you don’t tell me those things, how will I ever know
to do it?

Please don’t leave it up to the Wednesday night
small-group leader.
They’re taking their cues from you.
You’re leading the flock.

And now I speak to you as a Christian.
If you and I fail to teach the whole counsel of God,

and we don’t warn sinners to flee from the wrath to come,
and run to the love of Christ on the Cross to save their soul,
we make a terrible mistake. It doesn’t matter how happy a
person is- how much a sinner is enjoying the pleasures of sin
for a season- without the righteousness of Christ, he’ll perish on
the Day of Judgment. The Bible says, “Riches profit not on the
Day of Wrath, but righteousness delivers from death.”

You see, that’s how Kirk Cameron realized he needed a
I had riches, but I knew that it was the righteousness
of God that
I needed in order to be saved from my sin.

ill admit it. if i see a "growing pains" marathon on t.v., i will be glued to it until it is over. i watched it faithfully when it was on prime time. so years later when i heard that kirk cameron had become a very outspoken christian i was glad to hear it.

[i choose to pretend that those awful "left behind" movies never happened, and i do not hold them against kirk.]

his work that i have been pleasantly surprised about is his work with "the way of the master" evangelistic ministries. i don't know a tremendous amount about them,(and because of my lack of in depth research i am not endorsing the ministry, per se) but what i have seen and read is encouraging. their approach to evangelism is a much needed break from the "how jesus can make you healthier, wealthier and have a better quality of life" approach that is so prevalent.

cameron's point is well made if it isn't missed. i do **not** think he is saying that every sermon should be delivered as if everyone were a non believer and has never heard teh gospel. what i think he means is that the content of the sermons preached each week need to show us our need for christ. we don't just need a series on the gospel, the whole bible is about the gospel!
from cover to cover we read about the holiness of god, the sinfulness of man, the punishment for sin and disobedience, and the possibility of forgiveness and atonement.

so whether the sunday morning sermon is from one of teh gospels or from leviticus, we should come away knowing that we are people in need of a great savior, and even as christians we need him every day.

we need pastors who faithfully preach the word of god, not straining their minds trying to have the most culturally relevant sermon with the best jokes and wittiest one liners.

we need preachers who are willing to set aside what we want and give us what we need.

it looks like mike seaver finally got it right.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

dont cry persecution just yet...

some of you may have heard about the bills running through congress right now, HR1592 and S. 1105. and may have seen the websites like this and this that predict the near future full of pastors being put in prison for preaching about things such as homosexuality.

i have had my eye on this for several months since i first heard about it, but my friend brandon emailed me about it, so i figured now was as good of a time as any to discuss it.

i understand the concern, and as a pastor am sympathetic to it. but we must be careful to not over exaggerate the actual wording to gain an emotional appeal . unfortunately, the right wing media has this down to a science. it seems that they believe if enough panic can be created with as few facts as possible, then there might be some change.

we don't want change if we have to misrepresent the truth to get it.

the wording in the two separate bills are referencing acts of physical violence. there is nothing that restricts the right to speak against what is found to be contrary to one's religious beliefs.

in fact, the HR 1952 bill includes the following:

"Nothing in this Act, or the amendments made by this Act,
shall be construed to prohibit any expressive conduct protected
from legal prohibition by or any activities protected by the
free speech or free exercise clauses of, the First Amendment
to the Constitution."

and the senate bill concludes with:

"any provision of this Act, an amendment made by this Act,
or the application of such provision or amendment to any
person or circumstance is held to be unconstitutional, the
remainder of this Act, the amendments made by this Act,
and the application of the provisions of such to any person
or circumstance shall not be affected thereby."

we do well to keep our eye on these things. we never know when there may be a day when there may be persecution for speaking teh truths of scripture. may we fight that with all of our abilities as provided by our current legal system.

but let us remember that even if our government fails, we do not need permission from anyone to speak the truths of god's word. and let us not act as if having our perceived "rights" revoked is the end of the world. people have been and are being beaten, killed, their families raped, tortured and killed for spreading the gospel. let us be wary of having a martyr complex over what we may be fined or put in a jail for saying.

may we remember that whether or not the country in which we lives grants us "freedom" of speech, we will always be free to spread the gospel. the apostles, early believers, and current believers in other countries did not and do not let any government keep them from obeying their god, who is the only bestower of "rights".

Friday, June 15, 2007

caught in the act...

here is a link to the video of the discussion and rejection of the resolution mentioned in my previous post
HT: sbc voices

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

lying to ourselves and the world...but that's ok

a resolution was submitted for this years southern baptist convention annual meeting calling for churches and the convention as a whole to be honest about our membership numbers, as well as calling our churches to return to the biblical model for church membership- namely, that only genuine believers (as evidenced by profession of faith, baptism, and visible signs of regeneration - bearing fruit) be counted as members. (read the full resolution here)

why this need?

in 2006, the southern baptist convention reported its membership of all southern baptist churches at 16,306,246.

actual attendance at these same churches with nearly 16 and a half million?

of over 16 million reported members, only 6 million are actually coming. thats only 37% of the "members" who actually come to even one service per week.

if more than ten million of our reported members don't even bother to show up, what does that say about our standard for membership?

quite honestly, it appears that the sbc doesn't care what scripture says about church membership. as long as we get a card signed and someone walks an aisle, we will count them as a member, even if they never walk through the doors again.

so, such a motion probably passed right?

it actually wasn't even given a chance to be voted on. the executive committee refused to allow a vote for the second straight year.


the reason given was that the committee thought it inappropriate to bring the resolution for fear that it would infringe on the "autonomy of local churches."

to be quite honest, that is a ridiculous reason. the resolution didn't ask for anything to be forced on the churches. no sbc resolutions are binding. issues of abstaining from alcohol are easily passed. what is the difference? oh, and good thing we have a definitive stance on global warming now.

i am saddened by the sbc's willingness to ignore the bible's teachings in favor of cultural views or practices each year. but it doesnt end there. there is a lack of honesty that goes back home at the end of the convention.

if our seminaries are sincere about what they teach us is important to bring to the church (namely, teaching and practicing the word of god without compromise), then perhaps the leadership should speak up instead of becoming silent on these same issues when the spotlight is on the convention.
quite frankly, they are just as much to blame for waving the bible at us telling us to "preach the word" and "be courageous, die to self !" in our own chapel services, but when on a bigger stage, there is nothing but silence when such an opportunity for the teacher to model his own lesson is available.

this is double talk and political game playing and it is maddening. i cant hear what you are saying because i see what you are (not) doing.

either speak up on the grand stage and say the same things to the churches that you tell us to tell them, or stop grandstanding at home with a captive audience that agrees with you anyway.

how did we get to the point where we publicly acknowledge that our reported membership numbers are a lie, but we wont even allow a vote on a resolution encouraging churches to be honest and biblical about the matter?

when did it get to the point that today's teachers teach tomorrow's leaders to stand for things that they wont speak out for themselves when it might cost them a position, a job, or a title?

praise god that our hope lies in him and not ourselves.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

worthless gospel

i try not to post back to back within minutes of eachother, but i just found this and was stunned.

may you be as well....

separation of church and state

the following motion was made at the meeting of the southern baptist convention today...

[B. Smith] of Colfax Baptist Church in Colfax, N.C., made a
motion that the annual meeting, “after the call to order by
the president, present the American Flag by an honor guard,
composed by the five armed forces.”

my question is...why?

why do we have to have the american flag and an honor guard at a meeting of messengers to discuss the church of our lord?

i often wonder how many people will be shocked when they get to heaven and see that there is no american flag and english is not the "national" language of the new heavens and teh new earth.

we must be very careful that we do not confuse patriotism to our country with our faith.
i am thankful for our country. i am very appreciative of those who are and have served in our military. a good rendition of the national anthem will get me a bit misty. but i do not believe we are a christian nation, or that we are favored by god. i don't believe there is any evidence to prove otherwise.

god loves believers from other countries just as much, and certainly not any less than he loves american believers.

america is *not* god's favorite country and we are not his favorite believers.

we are blessed to live in a country with such religious freedom (relatively speaking), but if america were to fall (as all other great nations throughout history have) would our response demonstrate that we are more patriotic to "old glory" than we are to the king of kings?

Thursday, June 07, 2007

amazing grace and paris hilton

i tried. i made promises that i would not post anything about this.

but upon hearing the news that paris hilton was released from prison after only 3 days of her jail sentence that was originally over 40 days, i cant not say anything anymore.

but i am not going to talk about how her celebrity status may or may not have given her special treatment

i am not going to talk about how she may or may not think she is above the law.

i am not going to talk about how fair or unfair it is that she is released from prison based upon undefined "medical reasons" when she was healthy going in.

i am not going to talk about these things.

what i do want to point out is how this latest paris moment is a type (i said *type*) of picture of the gospel.

paris was found guilty and given a sentence. yet today she walked out of prison, relatively free. (she is under house arrest for about a month)

my initial reaction was frustration, bordering on a small scale outrage. she was found to be guilty and the punish for guilt for her crimes was forty days in prison. she had already gotten her sentence reduced and was given a private cell out of the community of other inmates. yet she still gets out after three days.

how is this fair?

well, its not. but consider this.

you and i are sinners. the sentence for being a sinner is eternal separation from god, enduring his wrath for eternity in hell.

yet anyone who places their faith in christ not only has their sentence reduced, but has it thrown out and instead is given "...every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places" (eph. 1)

jesus christ, the only completely innocent party in all eternity has taken on the sentence of death for all who place their faith in him.

how is this fair?

well, its not. it is the amazing grace of god.

is paris' situation a display of grace or a manipulation of the system? we may never get an honest answer, but i have my assumptions.

but with this being such a hot news topic, what if when we find ourselves in a situation where it is being discussed, we use paris hilton as a starting point to talk about the gospel of jesus christ?