Sunday, August 23, 2009

Beautiful Reminder or Death Sentence?

This morning I got up a little extra early, had my coffee outside in the cool of the morning air to a choir of birds, the crackhead squirrels in our backyard, and the peace and quiet that comes just after the sun rises. Usually on Sunday mornings I'll watch the religious programming, not because I believe a single word they say, but because I really need to be reminded of all the junk that's out there and have a craving for the Truth of the Word of God.

This morning I came across the "Hour of Power" because today is "Driscoll Day" which I have anxiously awaited and was really hoping he would refer to the whole thing as a sham. Earlier they were selling (well, giving away but you must donate to them) a cross necklace. They described it as a beautiful reminder of God's love, and that by putting on said cross necklace, you can get uplifted and feel better. Now, I'm not saying that is necessarily in itself wrong. But, I will quote my wife on this: "That's like saying now that you want to wear an electric chair around your neck. Who would do that?"

The cross is beautiful in its shame, misery, pain, and suffering. It is beautiful because it was on the cross that True Love did die, and that death was in our place. It is beautiful because the stripes and wounds on Jesus' back set us free. It is beautiful because it is now empty, the death of Christ was sufficient. It is not beautiful because it looks pretty around our necks or on our walls or on our bumper stickers. It is hideous when we truly consider what it means. I will discuss what Carrie said. The cross was a death sentence in its time. It was a sign of suffering, hardship, and ultimately execution. When Jesus said "Take up your cross" He wasn't meaning for us to feel better about ourselves and have higher self esteem. He was meaning that when we take up our cross we are willing to go to the same cross.

Wear a cross necklace if you will, but wear it not as a sign of beauty. Wear it because your devotion to Christ is something you're willing to go to said cross for. Our faith is so trivial in America, based on our accessories and t-shirts. Let's make it something more.

PS - Just heard Schuller ask "how did you get through theological education and keep your faith?" Maybe... just maybe... Some theological education would have been good for Schuller, then maybe his ministry wouldn't be built on lousy doctrine. And I just heard the word "SIN" from the first time I can remember from the HoP pulpit. Keep preaching!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

What is wrong with this picture?

I must first put this disclaimer: I am a confessional Southern Baptist. I believe in the strength of the Cooperative Program as an efficient means of distributing resources and personnel for the sake of Christ. I believe it works, and I believe it can continue to work. I also believe that it is a very ill program, and is in need of desperate attention.

After reading a post on cooperation between SBC churches and the Acts29 Church Planting Network, which was very unbiased and fair in its approach (as much as MSNBC is non-partisan in its approach), which you can read here. I then read the Missions Goals from the KBC (for the record, I support and endorse the KBC as a great missions/ministry organization) and I found myself both deeply troubled and very understanding of why we so desperately need the GCR and why we see so many young pastors in joint partnership with the SBC and other agencies.

Here is why I am so concerned. We give our money as Southern Baptists under the assumption it will be used around the world for God's Kingdom. We give under the assumption it will be used well, and those to whom we give will be good stewards of it. How can we possibly say we are being good stewards of our money when the state of Kentucky receives $27 million (roughly $6.50 per person in the state) while the IMB gets $4.5 million. That sounds like a lot of money, and it is and praise God for the generosity of Kentucky Baptists. But, that equals less than a penny per person in the world (.075 cents actually). How can we sleep at night knowing all that money is staying right here to fund as I call it "Crayon Clown Ministries" when churches MUST be planted around the world and we MUST send missionaries. It isn't that Acts 29 is stealing from the CP, it's the CP and its poor stewardship robbing from itself.

I heard it said once before that if the average church member knew how their money was being spent, they would throw a revolt. Well, here it is, based off some very rough calculations/estimates:
Median household income for Kentucky - $37,046
Tithe (should do the 2% that is average, but I'll pretend for this) - $3,705
Assume church gives 10% to CP - $371
KBC passes 16.67% on to IMB - $61.83
KBC keeps in state 62.68% - $232.54

Of the hard-earned money that you give to your local church, less than 2% of that will ever go on the international mission field under the current model of fund allocation. Take 2 pennies out of your wallet, and that is your annual contribution to God's mission to redeem the Maasai people of Africa, the Nepalese in Asia, the Slavs in Europe, and the countless others who are waiting for us to send missionaries to them.

Stop pointing the finger at groups like Acts29 and other Christian organizations, they are not stealing from us. We have given to them because they are showing themselves to be much better stewards of God's money than we are. God's heart is for the nations, and we are allocating HIS money in an overwhelming percentage to keep our coffers full and to keep our pet projects going. Shame on us in the American church for this.

As always, a Southern Baptist who stands behind the historic witness and purpose of our voluntary affiliation with various Baptist bodies, but also as one who says that change and refocus is necessary.

Soli Deo Gloria
Scott Douglas

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Preach the Gospel to the Church

The title may be a bit unusual, but I think this is something we as spiritual leaders have to be very aware of. We stand and preach the Gospel in the hopes that those outside the walls of the church would come and be reconciled to God. This is a good work, and pointing people to Christ should be at the heart of every message that a pastor delivers. We stand as the mouthpieces of God and must declare His mercy and forgiveness to as many as we possibly can.

But in the midst of this a large number of people are neglected, those within the church. It doesn't take a rocket scientist (or in this case an expert theologian) to determine that the church is packed with lost people. If you ever need proof that there are unregenerate churchmen, go to a business meeting or listen to people discuss the budget, worship style, carpet color, "those people" etc. What I'm saying is we have a widespread problem in our churches, that many who sit in the pews and sing in the choirs and dare I say preach the sermons are in fact lost. This is not gossip fodder, I am not speaking of anyone in particular but am making an observation based on observations.

Derek Webb talks about preaching the Gospel to one another in his album The House Show, and he even admits the complexity and seeming contradiction in this - that the Church must preach the Gospel to its own members? I believe it is something we must do, if nothing else for the fact that many we speak to on Sundays will not be part of the Wedding Supper in Heaven. We do this out of love for our friends and neighbors, we do this because we are compelled to by Christ Himself. It is not to preach down our noses at those we are near, but to draw them to Christ.

It is hard work to preach the Gospel to people who have been churchmen for many years, but until our churches are able to present the Good News (even when it is difficult) in all circumstances to all men in all places, we are going to continue to see churches plagued with issues and divisions that do nothing but cripple the ministry of the Bride. Our love for our fellow man should motivate us to share.

I hope on Sunday God gives me the courage to proclaim to a room full of people who have labored for Christ longer than I have been alive that we must be a Gospel-centered people as the Church and that the Gospel does not stop at the moment of conversion. Our conversations, our work ethic, our business dealings, our family time, our recreation, our giving, etc. should be grounded in the mystery and beauty of the Gospel.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Putting things on Facebook

This past Sunday our pastor challenged us in our use of things like Facebook (and by implication Twitter, MySpace, and other social networking services). His challenge was for us to consider what we put on there, because we will ultimately stand before the Lord Jesus and have to give an account of what we put on there. The fact that we live in a completely different fast-paced world than we did 20, nay 5 years ago, enables us to more quickly spread information. Sadly, that pace has also allowed for unprecedented speed in things that are not healthy, not good for the church, and harmful to the Gospel.

I will be the first to admit I have had to eat crow on some things I have posted on mine. I have been lovingly confronted before and have had to do some serious thinking about what I use mine for. For those who did so and I responded in anger, that was pride. I am sorry, please forgive me. Thank you for pointing out that perception means as much as intent.

That said, I am increasingly grieved by what I see when I click on pages that belong to "Christians." I am grieved because I see things that are ungodly, whether words or pictures. I have been saddened to see "Christian" girls putting provocative pictures of themselves, and for guys putting things like "what is your porn star name?" on their pages. Like I read to you all on a Wednesday night, the quote by Brennan Manning is so compelling "The greatest single cause of atheism today is Christians, who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable."

Brothers and sisters in Christ both young and adult, I implore you, on behalf of Jesus Christ and for the sake of His Church and His Gospel, please.... Take the junk down. Remove it from your page. You are doing more harm to the cause of Christ than you could ever imagine. God has given us these things to be used for good, and I am begging of you to please use yours for such. Use your Facebook page to share the Gospel, put pictures up that are glorifying to God (or at the very least, where you're fully clothed). Talk about what's going on at your church, promote your ministries. Use Facebook to invite people to come to church, to invite them to Jesus, to encourage each other. Don't let something God has given that is so good be used for such destructive purposes.

The first one to do some major repenting here is me, and I do so for your sake. I repent of the ways I have not used my Facebook for the glory of God. I repent of how I have caused others to stumble intentionally or not by my use of it. I repent of not being fully obedient to Christ.