Discoveries in Faith

Short, uplifting Bible lessons designed to build faith and inspire obedience. 

One and Done

The expression "one and done" sometimes refers to young basketball players who finish high school and go play basketball in college. But instead of staying and completing their education, they only stay one year in college and then enter the NBA draft. Because they are so good at basketball they are "one and done." But athletics is not what's on my heart today.

When I use the expression "one and done" I am thinking of young ministers who become a pastor of a church. But their experience is so bad, they leave their first pastorate never to return to pastoral ministry again. They are "one and done."

The names and faces change but the drama of these ministerial casualties is always the same. It begins with an enthused young pastor who normally has a wife and children. They go full of anticipation and hope to their first church. Their honeymoon with the church is often short-lived. They collide with stubborn traditions and entrenched power-brokers.  As the old saying goes, "Old age and treachery always beats youth and exuberance." But in church life everybody losses. The young pastor is wounded, carnality in the church is emboldened, and the kingdom of God fails to advance.

To be sure, it is not always the congregation's fault. Often young pastors make mistakes and must be challenged. But does it have to be a career ending stoppage?

What can be done to protect both churches and young ministers? How can we have fewer "one and done" preachers? 

  1. We should talk frankly to young pastors about power structures and the wisdom of implementing change gradually not abruptly.
  2. We should talk to congregations about the need for innovation. Failure to change always brings death. Help them value young leaders and the fresh ideas they bring.
  3. We should train church leaders in conflict resolution. How do Christians "fight fair?" How can Christians discuss ideas without attacking one another?
  4. We should always model love, humility, and forgiveness.

I am thankful for the patience of my first church. To be sure, I was young and stupid. I wonder, where would I be now if I had been terminated from my first church? 

My heart aches for similar young ministers today. Unfortunately, their first experience is not as forgiving. As they leave the church, will they leave Christianity? In their hurt will they be eaten up by bitterness? 

And what about the churches? Are they learning that if they disagree with their pastor they can just run him off? 

There are some in college basketball that don't approve of the "one and done" phenomena. They firmly believe young men need more nurturing and growth before going out into the cold hard world. I certainly agree with that, not just for basketball players but also for young pastors. 

 

Turning Criticisms into Lessons

Paul used the criticisms of his enemies as an opportunity to learn, articulate, and teach the following:

  1. The benefits of suffering
  2. The schemes of Satan
  3. How to identify false teachers 
  4. The sufficiency of God 
  5. The folly of ministerial boasting
  6. The judgment of believers by Jesus Christ
  7. The joy of generosity
  8. Persevering in Christian service.

2 Corinthians is a wonderful epistle and it shows that a bad situation can be a good learning opportunity.

What difficulties are you going through today? And what lessons is God trying to teach you?

How to Spot a False Prophet

After Paul's initial visit to Corinth false teachers crept into the young congregation. They did their best to discredit the Apostle Paul with all manner of criticisms. In 2 Corinthians Paul answered their complaints and contrasts himself with false prophets. 

  • True ministers focus on the eternal. False prophets focus on the external. 
  • True ministers seek to give riches. False prophets seek to gain riches. 
  • True ministers are wise to Satan. False prophets are deceived by Satan. 
  • True ministers (if pushed) boast of their sufferings. False prophets boast about themselves. 

 

An Ancient Modern Story

In Acts 18 Luke tells the story of Paul starting the church in Corinth. It is an ancient modern story familiar in so many ways.

  1. ALL NEW TESTAMENT CHURCHES SHARE A SIMILAR MESSAGE (repent and believe)
  2. ALL NEW TESTAMENT CHURCHES FACE SIMILAR OPPOSITION (external and internal resistance)
  3. ALL NEW TESTAMENT CHURCHES ENJOY SIMILAR COMFORT (saints and scriptures).

The struggles we face today are nothing new. Like our spiritual forefathers, we are still proclaiming Jesus to a hostile world, and still receiving divine strength to carry on.

 

 

Staying Focused on Jesus

The Gospel writer Matthew left his tax collecting business to follow Jesus (Matthew 9:9). It was the best decision he ever made. Other people also had the opportunity to follow Jesus, but chose not to. It was the worst mistake they ever made. Why do some people follow the Lord and others don't? It is a matter of perspective.

Jesus told Matthew, "Follow Me." Notice the singularity of focus. We are to follow Jesus, not religion. In essence, Jesus told Matthew, "Keep your eyes on Me and let's go!" Jesus is lovely, powerful, wise and very much worth following. 

But the other people got distracted and took their eyes off Jesus. From their mistakes we learn two lessons.

  • DON'T LET STRANGE PEOPLE DISTRACT YOU FROM JESUS

Matthew had been a despised tax collector and he no doubt invited his friends to meet Jesus. When the religious good people saw these sinners, they were offended and didn't want anything to do with Jesus (Matthew 9:10-11). Light attracts bugs and Jesus the Light of the world attracts needy people. When you go to church, keep your eyes on the Lord, not the other worshippers. 

  • DON'T LET STRANGE PRACTICES DISTRACT YOU FROM JESUS

The good people had customs about fasting. It was part of their comfortable religious ritual. When they noticed that Jesus and His followers didn't observe these traditions they were troubled (Matthew 9:14). Just because someone doesn't worship the way you've always done it, don't stumble over them. When you go to church, again, keep your eyes on Jesus, don't get distracted by the various customs. 

To stay focused on Jesus maybe we need blinders like race horses. The writer of Hebrews says we should keep our eyes on Jesus the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). Be careful not to allow strange people or stange practices distract you from following Jesus!


How to Reach a Region

In my opinion the greatest church mentioned in the New Testament is the church at Ephesus. This one congregation started over a dozen new churches.

  1. Smyrna
  2. Pergamos
  3. Thyatira
  4. Sardis
  5. Philadelphia
  6. Miletus
  7. Laodicea
  8. Colossae
  9. Hierapolis
  10. Troas
  11. Church in the house of Nymphas
  12. Church in the house of Philemon
  13. Church in the house of Aquilla and Priscilla

Through multiplication "all who dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus" (Acts 19:10).

Consider these facts:

  • Multiplication is always stronger than addition. 
  • Healthy organisms reproduce.
  • God is glorified when we bear fruit (John 15:8).

How long has it been since your church planted or helped to plant another church?

What is Church Revitalization?

This is a hot topic right now, people are talking and writing about church revitalization. Let me add this thought. As we know, churches are not buildings or organizations. Churches are comprised of people. So if you want a revitalized church you must have a revitalized people.

And what (or who) revitalizes people? Surely, by now, you understand that programs, campaigns, and sermons to do not revitalize people. Jesus is the only One who changes and improves people.

So the way to have a revitalized church is to have Jesus revitalize its people.

To aid you in your faith let me highlight a few thoughts from Matthew 9 on how Jesus revitalizes people. Perhaps you've got some people like this in your church who Jesus can revive.

  • Members who won't serve. Jesus is able to get them out of bed (Matthew 9:1-8).
  • Members who don't give. Jesus is able to change their heart (Matthew 9:9).
  • Members with family problems. Jesus can resolve even the worst home environment (Matthew 9:18-19, 23-26).
  • Members who are tired. The woman with a hemorrage was certainly anemic and exhausted. Jesus can make fatigued people full of energy again. (Matthew 9:20-22).
  • Members who don't see the possibilities. Jesus can open people's eyes (Matthew 9:27-31).
  • Members who never witness for Christ. Jesus can open their mouths and help them pour forth the praises of God (Matthew 9:32-33).

According to Revelation 3, Jesus is knocking at the door of the church. He wants to come into your church and revive the people.

Suggested Prayer: "Lord please come into our church powerfully and do what only You can do. Put new life into these old bones and put a song back in our hearts."

A House of Worship

Recently my wife and I visited New Song Baptist Church in Memphis (see picture below). I spoke to about 15 people who met in the front room. My wife played the piano for them.

Can a church meet in a house?

Here are two biblical perspectives.

First, no where in the New Testament was there a formal church building erected solely for the purpose of Christian worship. Yes, there was the temple, but that was for Judaism, not Christianity. There were synagogues, but they too were for Judaism, not Christianity. In Ephesus Paul met in a rented building, but it was not constructed for worship, it was a school. 

Second, the New Testament contains numerous references to Christians meeting in homes. 

  • Romans 16:15, 1 Corinthians 16:19, "Aquila and Priscilla greet you heartily in the Lord, with the church that is in their house."
  • Colossians 4:15, "Greet the brethren who are in Laodicea, and Nymphas and the church that is in his house."
  • Philemon 2, "To Philemon our beloved friend and fellow laborer . . . and to the church in your house."
  • Acts 16:15 & 40 suggest that Lydia the seller of purple opened her house for the young church in Philippi.
  • Acts 20:20 says Paul taught "from house to house."

There are probably other references in the New Testament that tell of believers gathering in houses for worship, but these verses give you the gist. During the rise and rapid expansion of the first century church there were no formal church buildings, only people's homes. 

I am not saying that formal church buildings are wrong. I am saying that worshipping in houses is perfectly legitimate, as my wife and I can attest to from our wonderful worship experience with the beautiful believers who call themselves New Song. 

Courage and Wisdom

Young people tend to have courage. Older people should have greater wisdom. Put them together and you create a powerful team.

Isn't it sad though that there is so much segregation in the church? The young people do their thing while the senior adults go their way. I don't believe this is the way God intends.

If you want to grow as a Christian seek out someone from another generation. Team up with someone outside your demographic. You will enjoy a mutually beneficial relationship that will enable both of you to do more for the Lord. As the Africans say, "If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together." 

 

This pattern of older and younger is seen in scripture.

  • Moses and Joshua
  • Elijah and Elisha
  • Paul and Timothy

If you agree, go make a new friend today and discover what amazing things the Lord will do through your new partnership!

 

 

 

Seven Metrics of a Strong Church

How do you know if a church is strong? Some used to point to the three B's: buildings, budgets, and butts in the seat. Thankfully, today many realize a church may be big but not healthy.  So what is the proper scorecard for the church?

Here are seven metrics from the church in Antioch. The Antioch church is often considered the greatest church in the Bible, greater even than the church in Jerusalem. 

  1. Strong churches promote Jesus (Acts 11:20). How many times each week does your congregation share Jesus outside of worship? EVANGELISM
  2. Strong churches minister cross-culturally (Acts 11:19-20). How many people groups, other than the predominant culture, receive ministry on a regular basis from your church? MISSIONS
  3. Strong churches experience supernatural power (Acts 11:21). How many people got saved and baptized last month? PRAYER
  4. Strong churches work with others (Acts 11:23, 25, 27). How many times in the last six months did your church invite other leaders (apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, teachers) to minister to your people? LEADERSHIP
  5. Strong churches make disciples (Acts 11:26). How many new believers is your church currently taking through a process toward Christ-likeness? DISCIPLESHIP
  6. Strong churches give generously (Acts 11:29-30). Last month, how many dollars, volunteer hours, and leaders did your church give away? STEWARDSHIP
  7. Strong churches serve others (Acts 11:28-30). In the last three months, how many Spirit-led (out of the ordinary) plans did your church complete? MINISTRY

Christian Multiculturalism

Multiculturalism is vital for followers of Jesus, here's why:
1. God is multicultural. He created all the races and thus loves all people. Since all people are created in the image of God every culture reveals something about God (Acts 17:26).
2. The Great Commission is multicultural. Jesus commands us to make disciples of all ethnic groups (Matthew 28:19).
3. Heaven will be multicultural. There will be people from every tribe, tongue, and nation around the throne (Revelation 7:9-10).

Because of these realities there is absolutely no place for racism or prejudice in the life of a Christian.