Category: Christian Living

Town Hall Meeting – Notes

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November 23, 2014

Attended by:  Sally Bishop, Tom, Mimi and Caleb Bach, Tim Bach, Stephen and Nicole Hay,  George and Ida Mae Waters, Lisa Johnston, Phil Sheppard,  Don and Jean Potter,  Dawn and Jeff Monroe,  Rob Reisman,  Ken and Sherrie Twist, Keith and Laura Schessl.  Randy and Kim McNally, Matt and Amanda Vail,  Doug and Lois Farley,  Steve Ornella,  Jack Hanna,  Chris and Sandy Scrufari, Matt Johnson.

The meeting was opened by Stephen Hay who explained the proposed agenda followed by a corporate time of prayer.

Questions, comments and responses;

Lisa Johnston expressed concern about Pulse and the ages that are currently being served on Friday nights…She stated that we are losing some of the older students who are basically the core of strong believers due to the immaturity of the 8th grade students.  Lisa stated that she has heard the students discuss this issue and has also talked with them about it.  Her suggestion was to possibly have 2 rooms segregated by ages.

Rob Reisman then asked as a point of order…if there were notes being taken as per the Constitution.  Though the Church Clerk was not present, Lois Farley stated she was taking notes and would provide them for record.

Jean Potter stated that the Eldership process is in its second year and when it was begun, it was stated that an Evaluation would be part of the process. She then asked, “What is being worked on and when is that going to be shared?” As well as “Is this a tool that the Congregation would have to evaluate the Elders?”

Stephen responded, that indeed there is a tool, it is in its second draft, and the goal is to get this done sooner rather than later.  Stephen also pointed out that the Elders are open to evaluation at any time and that members of the congregation should contact them.  Currently, there are two forms of communication, those being (1) email to the Elders or via the website: wilsonfbc.com,  or (2) write a letter and put it in the box that says Elders upstairs in the sanctuary.  Phone numbers are also listed in the bulletin for each Elder.

Keith Schessl stated he and Laura have been members for 14 years and they love this church and like seeing the ministry grow particularly to youth and community.

  • He stated that he feels that the church is being Elder ruled and not Elder led. Keith listed the scriptural duties of the Elders: settling church disputes, praying for the sick, leading by example, spending time in prayer and teaching the word, leading the church in worship and prayer.  Keith stated that he did not understand the role of the Elder to be so hands on with daily running of the church.  Keith gave examples of issues between himself and Doug Rohring and the Elders in regards to their position as co-chairs of the Maintenance Ministry.
  • The church building itself considering the age of the building and the repairs they have designated such as the cement and bell tower work.
  • As well the parsonage and the work being done and there the bids, concerning specifications, scope, correct licensure, and insurance validation.
  • Also the property recently purchased:  obtaining bids then being told to hold off, the safety issues that Keith has concerning possible injury and vandalism. He feels the area needs to be fenced and posted as soon as possible, if it is not going to be torn down.
  • Keith also listed parking issues, the need for a temporary or permanent lot and how this affects attendance.
  • Keith stated that he does not trust nor have faith in the Eldership.  He brought up the issue of Tim and how the decision made last year was changed after an outcry from the congregation, but the understanding was that they would have 100% agreement yet Tim was leaving and he is the only qualified Elder on board.
  • Keith asked that the Elders search their hearts and meet this week with him and other concerned members to discuss more concerns.

Stephen’s response: Elder Rule versus Elder Led…Stephen stated that the  Elders have recently begun discussing this exact issue…that there is no reference whatsoever to Senior Pastor in Scripture and the desire was for a Scripture based structure of the church.  When the current Elders started the course 3 years ago they thought that the model they were taught was Scriptural and realized within the past 4 months the model is not practical or Scriptural and the Elders have begun discussions as to rectify the discrepancies of the model being used.

One issue they have discussed was George and Tom looking at the Constitution that was put in place with the Eldership program and how it is a key piece to moving the structure from Elder Rule to an Elder Led model.  As well as putting the call out for Godly men to come along side and  work as God leads to Elder Led.

Stephen also responded about the issues Keith had mentioned concerning the Parsonage asking Keith what work he referred to.  Stephen explained that the sign for Kevin Wise was simply some advertising done for Nicole’s brother and the work he did for them was personal; he built a desk for them, which was for them personally.  Stephen stated that the only other work done was a dishwasher was installed and Doug Rohring has been contacted with any changes happening at the parsonage.

Sally Bishop asked for clarification of what was meant by Elder Rule (or Run) versus Elder Led.  Stephen explained that Elder Rule was like a dictatorship with no input or voting from the Congregation that the Elders made all decisions…and the Elder Led model means the church is shepherded, nurtured, guided and decisions are made with the consent of the Congregation.

Stephen stated that one of the issues is how do we engage more of the Congregation in communication.  This forum (the town meeting) was done because it appears the perception is that the Elders were not/are not being transparent and sharing all the information with the Congregation and that to some degree this may be a reality in certain areas.

Tim reiterated, “This is why we are having this meeting,” and that the Congregation is learning as the Elders are learning and the hearts of the Elders is that they lead and not rule.

Nicole brought up the property issue with it being put on hold. Doug and Ken both responded to this.  Ken stated that this may be partly due to his leave from the Elders starting about that time period.  Ken stated that a lack of communication may be at the heart of that issue and Doug stated that with what demolition was going to cost at that time there would not have been enough money to pay for demo and pay current bills. The demolition work was not budgeted so an appeal went out to the church to provide building fund donations to get the demolition done.

Jack Hanna stated there has been a recent rash of break ins in the area and that he felt a swift demo would be warranted, rather than investing money to secure a building that is going to be demolished.

Doug responded that the finances are back in an upswing because of the cycle of church giving and this could be considered, but little or no building fund income has been received yet.

Doug Rohring was not in attendance and Doug Farley stated that he did not speak with Doug Rohring about the demolition and that if he had he would have communicated the financial point.

Stephen spoke at this point about Elder versus Deacon role and the desire to have more men rise up to take active roles in the Ministries. He stated within the last year the Elders have gotten into the bad habit of picking up all the things that need to be done instead of turning it over to particular ministry leaders. He stated that the goal/vision was to raise up Deacons who handle the hands-on daily tasks.

At this point Chris Scrufari suggested a time check to see how many others had issues they wanted to raise and maybe not give answers right now. After a show of hands it was decided to continue in same format.

Tom Bach brought up the issue of the Constitution, wanting to clarify Elders and when they do what they want.

Stephen stated that the goal is not to split and divide but to seek unity.  The Elder’s intention is not to make decisions but come to the Congregation and if they disagree with the Elders recommendations that they would go back to God and continue to pray until a decision could be made in unity.

Nicole stated that with the trust and skepticism issues that it will take time to trust decisions of any leadership.

Lisa brought up the subject of questionnaires’ used in the past to help screen volunteers for youth workers as far as background checks and wanted to know if they are still being used.

Stephen stated that he has spoken with Tammy Rohring about them but they are not widely used right now for any of the youth programs.

George Waters stated that he meets monthly with the current Deacons who are taking care of the ministry to the shut-ins, planning Communion and with flowers and gifts throughout the year.

Rob stated that it is not Biblical to make everyone who serves in a ministry be a Deacon, and that there is only one or two verses that would indicate a difference between Deacon and Elder.  He is concerned with the financial end of things and feels that it is a Deacon responsibility and would take the pressure off the Elders- there should be Deacon run finances. This would leave the Elders to take on spiritual issues inside and outside of the building.

Concerning the Constitution, Rob stated he needed to be ask for forgiveness for not reading the Constitution when he became a member…mentioned that the Constitution does contain a lot of  Scripture references, but felt it was an Elder Rule not Elder-Led.  Rob read the responsibilities of the membership. Rob stated that he has read many Constitutions and there are many on line that could be examined and the fact that the Constitution needs to be rewritten.

As far as the Youth/ Worship Pastor should we bring someone into this disunity and the search should be put on hold because it would not be fair to a candidate or the church.  Rob stated that we already have the most qualified Worship/Youth Leader who knows the youth and is the most Biblically educated pastor.  Rob recommended a solution of putting the search on hold for 6 months.

Rob also shared that he had felt that he was not called to serve as an Elder because he was to serve in this own community but has realized that many of his community, about 30 -35 in number, are presently coming to Wilson FBC.  He is willing to help in the spirit of truly  Elder- Led and not Rule.  He has had experience in getting out from under the brutality of a Constitution.

Tim Bach responded asking,”Is it fair to bring someone into this disunity?”  He cannot answer. Tim stated he has been praying to the Lord for a new staff member – since the Lord has put a huge call to music and eventually to the Philippines.  Tim feels we need prayer and asked if it was disunity or a learning and growing process.

Chris stated that everything that was spoken tonight was a sign of God’s grace.  Also this is an opportunity for the Elders so that we can grow and create unity.

Sally asked how we could pay a salary for new staff with family.

Stephen stated this is certainly not an ideal situation, but that he felt it unwise to go back to a one person staffed church and that Lord has clearly blessed the 2 staff format.   Stephen shared the statistic that regardless of the size of the church-only about 30% of people volunteer in a church but that 15% is a more realistic.  We have to be aware of the calling on Tim’s life and that it would be foolish for us to try to stall God’s call and the timing He has in mind for Tim’s ministry.  He stated that a lot of people are talking and asked that they talk to the Elders.   The Elders are trying to be transparent.  He stated that it was God who opened the church and it is His business to close it.  He stated that there is pain in the birthing or creating process- that we all need grace for the process.

Chris stated that Tim agreed to stay on in an interim basis, so we need to ask God for more provision or ask God to release Tim to stay longer.

George stated that God had given the vision to the church to start the youth program and bring Stephen here and He has continued to confirm this. George also spoke to the property purchase and the funds being there when needed and having faith that God would continue to provide – God pays for what He wants.

Jack Hanna stated concerning the Constitution- that he hoped we would put a committee together to revisit the constitution to be more palatable and Godly. Jack asked the Elder candidates to look in their hearts to examine for prideful debt …that debt can become a god to you if the church is not financially set.

Mimi Bach spoke to the process of the hiring and looking for a new youth pastor and wanted to know who else was included in the process. Her concern is that she wants to be sure that a youth pastor background needs to be looked into- look into everything from their past. Mimi spoke about including some parents of current youth in the search for youth pastor…feeling they would have a better grasp of youth today and the qualities we need in a candidate more so than the Elders on the board.

Don Potter stated the budget was in place before air conditioning was installed and the final cost not being in budget.  He asked if the units need to be covered and also expressed concern about snow plows. Don also wanted to know if he gave money what it would be going toward.

Doug responded the first thing would be the demolition and once costs are estimates are for work on the parsonage and any church work would come to the congregation for approval.

Keith (and Chris) stated that this was the time of year that those who will be graduating from Bible College would be looking for positions and the job posting should go out to college sites.

Sandy asked for Scriptural reference as to how do we faith budget.  God does not go on credit.  She felt the church should budget for what they could afford.

Doug stated that in actuality the entire church budget is a faith budget we have no other income than people’s tithes and offerings, there is no guarantee of meeting a budget…we have to have faith.

Phil Sheppard shared about tithing and stated that we need to use wisdom and discernment in budgeting but have faith.  Phil also stated that it sounds like the engine was sputtering but it is in need of a tune up in regards to the church leadership process.

Rob asked that the Elders have a timeline -a timeframe for the Constitution and that a solution to the parking issue is an important issue since it is one of the top items people look at in a church.

The meeting closed with a time of corporate prayer.

(These are certainly not all the comments and not word for word,   I tried to write key phrases and ideas discussed and I am not a secretary so I ask for grace if you made a comment that was missed in my notes.   Notes were written in the order that the comments were made.)

Respectfully,
Lois Farley


Ten simple ways to love your church

The Bible teaches that for Christians, God is our Father, other Christians are our brothers and sisters, and the church is like a family.

Like every family, the church is made up of imperfect people who need to ask for forgiveness, receive grace, and grow in their love for the other members of the family. With that in mind, I would like to share with you ten practical, simple ways that we as a church family can love one another. This list is by no means comprehensive, but just a “top ten” list that God has put on my heart recently.

1. Pray

One of the most loving things that we can do for each other as a church family is to pray for one another. Great love can be shown not by merely saying “I’ll pray for you,” but by putting a hand on someone’s shoulder right then and there and lifting up the need in prayer.

“Brothers, pray for us.” —1 Thessalonians 5:25

2. Gather

In this age of technology and digital “friendships,” one of the most loving things we can do is gather together in person to worship our King Jesus. When the church gathers together, I like to think of the analogy of the family sitting down for a meal together. The band provides the soundtrack for the party, the preacher is like the cook who serves the meal, the volunteers help set the table, and all the adopted children of God gather around the table to spend time with their Father.

“Not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some.” —Hebrews 10:25

3. Community

There are approximately 90 “one another” verses in the Bible: greet one another, comfort one another, seek good for one another. It is pretty hard to live out these commands when you don’t actually spend time together. We should want for our Community Groups to be places where these “one another” verses can be lived out in love.

“Live in harmony with one another.” —Romans 12:16

4. Serve together

Serving the church is both corporate and individual, both in large groups and small. We can serve by showing up early on Sunday and helping make the church building welcoming. We can serve by giving money to a friend in need. We can serve by leading a community group. This service is a practical, tangible way to show others the love that God has already shown us.

“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil.” —Ecclesiastes 4:9

5. Show honor

In many cultures, honor and respect are huge. American culture is not one of those cultures. In fact, a good argument could be made that our culture actually encourages dishonor and disrespect. God’s children can show love by speaking words of honor where honor is due: for a job well done, for a particular servant-hearted act, for longevity in the faith, etc.

“Outdo one another in showing honor.” —Romans 12:10

6. Encourage

I recently heard from a brother in Christ, how a simple phone call of encouragement meant so much to him and his wife as they faced some challenging circumstances. In this fallen world, trials and hardships are all too frequent. God has put us together as a church family so that we can encourage each other as we face these difficulties.

“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” —1 Thessalonians 5:11

7. Forgive

People who are looking for a conflict-free life will not find it in following Christ. In fact, there are many verses warning us to expect bumps and bruises as we live out this life together. However, the one thing we cannot do is bail on each other just because we fight. The family of God can love each other by hanging tough even when we disagree.

“Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” —Colossians 3:13

8. Play

A godly family is one that also knows how to enjoy each other. I think that sometimes we forget that joy is one of the attributes of God. Jesus’ first miracle was at a wedding. He was known for going to parties, so much so that he was accused of being a drunkard. Kids loved spending time with Jesus, and if there’s one thing I know about kids, it’s that they love to play. As a family, we can love each other by simply having fun together.

“Everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man.” —Ecclesiastes 3:13

9. Speak truth

God is a truth-speaking God, and as his image bearers, one of the ways that we show love to each other is by following his example. Speaking truth includes, but is not limited to: doctrinal correction, calling to repentance, teaching the Bible, confessing sin, giving wise counsel, not lying or exaggerating or gossiping, and using our words to build up.

“Speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.” —Ephesians 4:15

10. Pursue godliness

Flee from sin, leave unrighteousness behind, and seek the Holy Spirit’s help to become more and more godly in your words, your thoughts, and your conduct.

“Make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.” —2 Peter 1:5–7

May God grow us in our love for one another as we seek to be the family that God wants us to be.

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Elder Moment – July 2014

On the 23rd of May myself and Steve met with Jim Kelsey the Executive Minister of New York for the American Baptist Church.  The goal of the meeting was to meet directly with the upper authority in the ABC to discuss ministry perspectives, specifically in regards to their stance on certain social issues and their leadership structure in general.

The meeting unfortunately went as expected with both ourselves and Jim being very clear and honest on where we stood.  The ABC has a leadership structure where they do not provide oversight or direction unless first asked by a congregation.  This leads to a very apathetic leadership structure and in my opinion frustratingly irresponsible on the shepherding side.  The ABC as a denomination has a fundamental root where they allow churches to interpret scripture how they choose and ABC will back them fully (except in areas of abuse noted Jim).  In the realm of social progressiveness this leads them, as Jim put it, “not to fight this battle anymore” but this is to ensure that they “don’t make their circle too small”.  Jim’s position is specifically designed to oversee and to intervene in matters that need to be resolved amidst churches so if there were a person that would be in the know, it would be him.

At the end of the meeting both Steve and myself left understanding that prayer as a body needs to be sought.  The ABC has a lackluster structure that they are very content in and it is apparent that they are not ones to stand on Biblical Truth for the fear of dying on the mole hill of some social issues.  As elders we would as that as a family we pray through our association with ABC together.  Jim proudly stated in our meeting that he has been in many other denominations and “is American Baptist through and through”, so may we pray and seek what the fruit of having ties with this denomination are and if we can confidently and biblically stand with them.

With Love,
Pastor Tim


Lessons in Fatherhood 4

Ten years ago I was in my third year of graduate school, and my wife was getting up each morning at 5:30 so she could drive 45 minutes to teach 7th grade science. Both of us were not particularly happy in our professional lives, yet we pushed forward, grinding away at life so that some day we would be where we wanted to be. Although I remember being frustrated during those years, my general attitude was that I could handle it. I was in control of my circumstances and was living decently. I would have defined myself as being patient in the midst of imperfect times; I had been peacefully married for a few years and never became angry with the people in my life. My wife and I used to take walks, which allowed us to talk about and resolve many of the challenges we faced in the day. We could figure things out. We could work hard. We were in in control. We also had no kids.

A few months ago I found myself walking the dog in ten-degree weather praying for my children and admitting my relative helplessness in the face of a seemingly endless steam of challenges. The short list of kid-related problems included: late potty training problems, anxiety about kindergarten, refusals to eat at dinner, temper tantrums, not listening, and so on. Moreover, I have learned that I am more selfish and less patient than I previously assumed. The temptation to avoid parental responsibilities or to respond to problems with frustration/anger is strong. Even the inevitable small parenting failures feel like a burden that I cannot support. Children are precious, and they are subject to my imperfection. That realization scares me.

My old mindset of hard work and solving problems is not particularly helpful. My children are not projects that I can fix by discovering the “child raising formula” or by reading the latest self-help book for Christian parenting. That mindset often causes me to go to bed at night thinking about my daily failures. “I need to try this approach to my childrens’ problems, or I need to work harder at being patient and unselfish.” This, of course, only leads to future frustrations. Living under my own power produces a continual cycle of failure (Romans 7:14-25). As life continues, I am slowly learning that I cannot work hard to solve all problems or reason my way through every challenge. I cannot depend on myself. Being a father has humbled me.

Pride comes in multiple forms. The pride of self-reliance is a subtle yet common form that can be very dangerous in even the most well meaning Christian’s life. It involves the general attitude of “I can do this because I am competent, wise, intelligent, hard working, etc.” This form of pride places self over God in a profoundly foolish way. It is the pride that led to the fall of man in the garden, repeatedly led to demise of Israel in the Old Testament, permeated the spiritual lives of the Pharisees, and even tempted Christ in the desert.

Although pride often causes people to disregard God’s instructions for living, it can also cause a person to pursue good things through the improper means of self-reliance. It convinces me that I can rely on myself to be loving, patient, kind, good, faithful, self-controlled, peaceful, and joyful in the midst of life’s frustrations. I can persevere on my own strength. Yet such an approach, though well meaning, only produces frustration and failure. We can only truly love those around us when we surrender to God, rest in Christ, and allow the Holy Spirit to produce fruit (love, joy peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control) (Galatians 5).

Parenting has forced me to my knees in prayer more than anything else that I’ve encountered. The stakes are enormous. The relationships are intimate. The challenges are unceasing. I don’t really know what I am doing. Yet parenting is not the only thing in life that can force us to face our limitations. What are you struggling with? What are you attempting to solve or accomplish through your own strength that produces consistent frustration, worry, anxiety, and a sense of failure? We have access to the Holy God of the universe who has humbled himself in the form of Christ and empowered us with the Holy Spirit. He loves us personally and graciously allows us to talk to him. We can also know him through scripture. Why do we resist him and depend on ourselves?

 

 

 


Three Things We can Learn from Fallon

Ever since Johnny Carson, “The Tonight Show” has been a staple of late night television. Our grandparents invited Carson into their homes, our parents invited Leno, and now we welcome Jimmy Fallon every evening to commentate, interview and entertain.

Fallon has taken over “The Tonight Show” and is cranking out viral videos every week. Whether he is tag-teaming with Justin Timberlake, impersonating Neil Young or lip syncing with a celebrity guest, one thing is clear: people love being on and watching “The Tonight Show” with Jimmy Fallon.

Why is Fallon so appealing? What makes his show a joy to watch? Why is he a great host? I think Fallon’s success can be traced to three key practices: He doesn’t take himself seriously, he puts the spotlight on others and he speaks through culture. I believe Christians can actually learn from Fallon’s example as they attempt to demonstrate the love of Christ. Here’s how:

Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously

Fallon is not afraid to acknowledge his faults. He is quick to laugh at his quirks and cheerfully accepts teasing from his guests. Like all great hosts, Fallon demonstrates that people are attracted to those who are humble.

As believers, we are free to take the gospel seriously without necessarily placing ourselves in the same category. James 4:6 reminds the believer, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” We don’t have to present ourselves as perfect. In a culture where pride is pervasively praised, Fallon shows us that humility can be hilarious, endearing and attractive.

Give the Spotlight Away

I don’t know if Fallon has ever read Romans 12:10, “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor,” but his show is a great example of how to consistently give the spotlight away. For example, most late night shows have a house band; Fallon has The Roots, one of the most celebrated and sophisticated hip-hop groups of the last decade. On most late night shows, the band plays background music and gets the occasional nod from the host. Instead of following this model, Fallon has made The Roots a huge part of his show, offering sketches, punch lines and applause breaks to the band.

Whether at work, home, church or the golf course, we generally want the attention to be on us. We want people to see and celebrate our needs, our gifts, our property and our persons. It has been said that people rarely care how interesting you are, but always care how interested you are. How interested are you in the lives and gifts of those around you? Fallon shows us that making others the focus is not only wise, but enjoyable.

Learn How to Speak Through Culture

Fallon has learned how to listen to culture and make us laugh by using words, analogies and stories that are familiar to our 21st-century ears. Every time Fallon, a musical guest and The Roots collaborate to do one of their infamous songs using classroom instruments, we all share, tweet and like the video because it does three things: It makes us feel nostalgic for elementary school choir, it connects that nostalgia with a current pop hit we can’t get out of our head and it does these things while making us laugh.

Even the Apostle Paul saw value in using the cultural works of the day to speak to the hearts and minds of his audience. When Paul preaches from the Areopagus, he references an idol to an unknown god and quotes a pagan poet to draw Athenian minds to the superiority of the one true God over the false works of metal and wood they called gods (Acts 17:22-34). Believers should feel free, though not obligated, to use various cultural works (i.e. movies, songs, books, etc.) to point back to Christ. Everything that is Truth will be rooted in the One who gives all good gifts (Jas. 1:17).

So, the next time you tune in to watch “The Tonight Show,” consider these questions: Do I take myself too seriously? Do I outdo those around me in showing honor? Have I learned how to speak through culture by using words, analogies and stories that will make sense? We as Christians have the opportunity to communicate a message that is far more captivating than that of any guest on “The Tonight Show.” The question is, will we be known for communicating this story in a captivating way?

 

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Christians, don’t you realize that we’ve been waiting for this opportunity?

For months the movie Noah has come under immense amounts of scrutiny from local churches around America, due to it’s lack of Biblical accuracy. Pastors and church critics have even gone to the extreme of announcing to their congregations from the pulpit that this isn’t a movie that they should be watching, or letting their children watch.

The only question that has been running through my mind during this time is; What in the world are you doing? Don’t you realize that we have been waiting for this opportunity?

 

Evangelism is hard

The harsh truth is that the majority of Christians in North America are very ineffective at reaching people with the message of Jesus.

Non-Chrisitians aren’t interested in the Bible, they don’t want to know what it says. Every time I bring something up in conversation, they switch off or change the subject. It’s too hard for me to push past that barrier, I don’t want them to get mad at me.

These are just some of the excuses that Christians are using today, and if I am honest, they are extremely valid. The truth is that non-Christians aren’t typically interested in the Bible. Therefore, trying to break through that barrier is extremely difficult. It can be exhausting at times, so I can definitely relate!

However, I want you to think for a second… what would be the perfect evangelism scenario for a Christian? What would make your job as a Christian a lot easier? Think about it… It would be if the non-believer approached you, right? It would be if they brought up the stories in the Bible, it would be if they gave you an opportunity to talk about it with them.

Christians, don’t you see that we have been given a unique window, a very rare opportunity? We have a secular world making movies about the Book that we claim to love and follow. We have non-believers breaking down their own walls and giving us free opportunities to bring up the Bible and venture into conversation about faith, Jesus and Christianity with them.

But all we can do is theologically pick it apart, call it heretical, and miss every opportunity to give them Jesus. Opportunities that they are freely giving us.

 

Unfair Expectations

I struggle to understand how any Christian can validate waisting time to theologically pick apart this movie. Why are we placing a level of expectation concerning Biblical accuracy on Hollywood? Let me say this plainly, they are not out to be Biblically accurate, they are out to make money, and they did, over $44m on opening night.

Why are you placing Christian expectations and standards on non-Christians?

Don’t get me wrong, I  understand that it is wise to protect and shepherd the Christians in our lives so that they know what is true and what has been embellished, concerning movies like this. But do we really need to be taking it to the extend that we are?

Wouldn’t it’ make more sense to stop waisting time pointing out everything that is wrong with this movie, ultimately rejecting it, and instead use that time to recognize what elements in this movie can be redeemed? This movie clearly communicates the doctrine of sin and it’s offenses to a holy God, human depravity & the Wrath of God. Even these three elements alone, offer bridges over water we would normally have to try and swim across.

 

Don’t miss it

Don’t you see that we have been given an incredibly unique opportunity, one that past generations were not. But instead of taking advantage of it, the non-Christian world gets to sit back and watch us emotionally vomit our hateful, judgmental opinions on them. They get to watch us completely reject the free pass that they are giving us.

I am suggesting that before we cast judgement so quickly, we prayerfully discern the opportunities we have been given in the middle of a fallen and sinful world.

Are you rejecting something that could actually be redeemed for the glory of God?


Unity in Diversity

If you’ve ever experienced disunity in a church, you know how upsetting it can be. Not many of us enjoy conflict in general, so the thought of conflict within the body of believers is particularly uncomfortable. But conflict happens, just as it does in any committed relationship. Christians are exhorted to be known by their unity even in their diversity, but does that mean we never raise a concern? How can we know if an issue is worth fighting for? Is there ever a time to break unity for the sake of integrity?

Every member of the body of believers possesses a set of beliefs that can be divided into three categories: essentialsconvictions and preferences. Understanding how these relate to unity can help us know whether to speak up or to remain silent, whether to break fellowship or to stay put.

Essentials, Convictions and Preferences

An essential is any truth which, if denied or misrepresented, nullifies the gospel. Examples of essentials would be belief in the deity of Christ, the Trinity, the virgin birth or the inspiration and authority of the Bible. Essentials do not require a seminary degree to understand. They are plainly revealed in Scripture and accessible to believers of all maturity levels. Essentials are what you find in the historic creeds of the church. They define orthodox belief.

conviction is any deeply held belief which, if believed in error will not nullify the gospel, but can harm spiritual growth. Examples of convictions would be views on baptism, the role of women in the church, eschatology, or the functioning of the charismatic gifts. Some convictions are more deeply held than others, depending on the church, and unlike essentials, not all convictions must carry the same weight. Some convictions, if held in error, have greater potential to harm than others. Disagreements surrounding convictions usually have to do with how we interpret Scripture.

preference is something I care about, but that is a matter of personal choice. I can readily acknowledge that there is more than one possible right answer while still feeling strongly that my answer is the best one. Examples of preferences would be whether I prefer contemporary worship or traditional worship, casual dress or dressy clothes, smoke machines or stained glass. Disagreements surrounding preferences usually have to do with how we apply Scripture.

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

So, how can we judge whether an issue merits division? Think in these terms:

  • Essentials are worth dying for.
  • Convictions are worth debating.
  • Preferences are worth discussing.

Unity must be broken if an essential is compromised or denied. If your church suddenly decides that Jesus is merely a man and not also God, you need to pack your bags.

Unity may be broken if a conviction is violated but must not necessarily be. It could be possible, for example, to remain a faithful member of a congregation that affirms believer’s baptism while still holding to belief in infant baptism.

Unity should not be broken if a preference is not shared. To leave your church because you dislike the worship style (assuming the worship style is not anything sacrilegious) or disagree with its ministry model is to hold in light esteem the beauty of having shared essentials and convictions. This doesn’t mean that preferences are unimportant. They are. And we should be able to dialogue about them with charity. They just aren’t deal-breakers.

Stay If at All Possible

Unfortunately, we often sacrifice unity on the slipshod altar of our preferences. Many a church split has happened over whether God loves the organ more than the electric guitar.

The book of Acts celebrates unity, and it stands as an exhortation to the Church throughout the ages to work hard to prize it. Never has such a diverse assembly of believers been reconciled to one another as in the days of the early church. Acts records the uniting of Jew and Gentile under one God, and the debates and discussions necessary to join these two groups as members of one body. It details the differences in ministry philosophy between Peter and Paul, two men united in the goal of spreading the gospel but divided as to how it should be done. Acts shows us that the tension of the interplay of essentials, convictions and preferences is a natural part of church life, and that unity is worth fighting for. But unity does not mean unanimity.

To be a member of a body of believers who affirm every essential and many of my convictions is a rare gift. I need not require that every conviction be held in unity, and I need not require that any preference be held in unity. A marriage is more likely to be easy and enjoyable when a couple shares the same convictions and preferences. So is church membership. It isn’t wrong to long for that kind of harmony, but it is wrong to break or withhold relationship over the lack of it. As with all relationships, our list of preferences should receive due consideration before we commit but far less consideration after.

The way we express our concerns matters, too. Just as no spouse benefits from being nagged or attacked about a conviction or preference by the other spouse, no church benefits from a nagging or attacking member. Far better for the member to hold a respectful debate or dialogue with someone in leadership than to complain publicly or privately to other members of the body. One approach demonstrates a love of unity. The other does not.

As we each soberly evaluate our essentials, convictions and preferences, we are well served to remember the watchword of the Lutheran theologian Meledenius: “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity.” May we meditate on the beauty of a church seeking unity in diversity, whose crowning virtue is love.

 

USEFUL RESOURCES

Essentials and Non-Essentials in a Nutshell – C. Michael Patton

In Essentials Unity, In Non-Essentials Liberty, In All Things Charity – Mark Ross

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A serious question about The Grammys

Two days ago one of the most prestigious music award ceremonies took place, The Grammys. As you probably know by now, it has been coined as the most controversial to date.

If you don’t know what happened, here is a link to bring you up to speed, click here.

In my opinion, the spectacle that was “The Grammys” this year, was definitely troubling for the average Christian. In fact, I have found that as I look back over the last several years, that these sort of ceremonies are becoming more and more controversial (Britney and Madonna’s kiss, Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction & not to mention Miley Cyrus’ twerking endeavor).

However, what I have also found as I thought over these events, perhaps troubled me more. That Christians are getting increasingly worse at responding to what happens. I have noticed that Christians are responding in one of two ways now.

Active Intolerance

This would be where the Christian is very vocal about their discontent. Often times that comes in the form of obnoxiously exploding over social media about the demise, and liberalization of the world. This explode is then usually met with a large response from other Christians that they associate themselves with, agreeing and thanking them for their obnoxiousness.

I personally find this response to be ineffective when considering Matthew 28. How can you intentionally reach and make disciples of a world that you are openly insulting and ungraciously pursuing?

Passive Intolerance

This would be the response that I have a tendency to fall into at times. The response where the Christian observes what has just taken place and then says something like, well this is just a sign that Jesus is coming back soon, and then goes on with the rest of their day without thinking twice about trying to biblically respond.

Usually the passive intolerant is easily frustrated by the active intolerant, and the active intolerant is increasingly convinced that the passive intolerant isn’t even saved. How can you just sit back and watch what happened and not say something? What about Romans 12:1-2?

As I think about both camps, I am struck with the sobering reality that they both actually produce the same outcome – an increasing distance from a world that needs Jesus, a world that needs the Gospel.

So, I am writing this blog not to give you a revolutionary answer as to what your response should be (there are too many Christian bloggers trying to do that). But rather to confess to you, that as these spectacles worsen, I am scratching my head for an effective way to respond to them with the Gospel. I understand what both Matthew 28 & Romans 12 say, and I know that it can’t be one or the other, it has to be both and… but how?

I think Christians would be better equipped; they would have a stronger, more effective, testimony and outreach; and God would get more glory if they stopped being actively or passively intolerant – and starting an honest discussion with each other about ways that they can be reaching an ever changing culture for Jesus.

Perhaps the world would see that dialogue and be amazed at the love they have for one another (John 13:35) and concern they have for reaching the world that needs Jesus… just a thought.

So here’s the question I would like to encourage you to have an open discussion about:

How should we & how can we, as Christians
actively & effective respond to the Grammy world with Jesus?

My hope is that this discussion would strengthening Jesus’ church by better equipping them to reach the world for Him. What have you found works for you?


Top 5 Most Watched Sermons in 2013

Here are the top 5 most watched sermon by you in 2013, we are hoping that these are something that bless you once again. It is an honor and a privilege to be able to provide this free resource for everyone.

01 – Mosaic – Week 18 – Jesus’ Ministry

 

02 – Mosaic – Week 8 – A Judge vs. The Judge

 

03 – Multiply – Week 01 – What is a Disciple?

 

04 – Mosaic – Week 16 – The Implications of the Incarnation

 

05 – Mosaic – Week 26 – Our Legacy


Announcing PewView

This Sunday we are testing out something new and exciting.

Up until now, if you weren’t able to make it to church because you were under the weather,  you could head to wilsonfbc.com/live and listen to a live streamed audio feed of the sermon, which quite honestly, isn’t a bad option for a small church. However the Elders were made more aware that we have some members in our church family that find it difficult to venture out on a Sunday morning in the middle of a Buffalo winter, and so we wanted to provide a better alternative to a simple audio stream.

Obviously the natural step up from audio streaming is video streaming, however to do it well (offering a professional production, the way that mega-churches do it today), you’re talking a few thousand dollars worth of an investment. Which is honestly a great idea, but there is just one problem, we aren’t a mega-church and we can’t afford the large investment.

After several months researching possible cheaper alternative and having no luck, the Lord gifted us with the great idea that we are proud to call PewView. We have purchased a HD 1080p webcam from amazon.com (for $70) and we plan to stream that signal through Google Hangouts every Sunday. Naturally with the video signal coming from a webcam and not our Canon XF100, we don’t have the same versatility that the Canon offers. However, what it will do is provide a High Definition picture that will make you feel like you are watching the sermon from a pew in the church, hence the name PewView.

We will keep the accessibility of this resource just as easy as the audio stream. All you will need to do is visit wilsonfbc.com/live around 10am on any giving Sunday and you should be ready to watch.

PLEASE NOTE   This will not replace the weekly edited sermons that our creative team have ready for viewing by Tuesday, they are still dedicated to that process too.

Important information

Our hope is that this would not replace your commitment to the local church body. Our prayer is that you still see the biblical significance of being actively plugged into the life of the local church body. Jesus didn’t just save us from hell, he also adopted us into his family, one that we are called to actively be a part of. We are very grateful that this is a resource that that Lord has allowed us to offer, but we can’t stress enough the importance of remaining part of the body too.

We are praying that PewView is a resource that you will enjoy, and perhaps a system that other small churches can adopt too.


Announcing Confused Church

Today is the day that we launch our exciting new initiative for Christians and the non-churched, we’re calling it Confused Church.

One of the main frustrations for people not daring to darken the door of a church, or for plateauing Christians in our generation, is that they have questions that were never answered. Often times the non-churched will approach a Christian they know and love with their questions, in search of hope, love & answers, but only to be received by a nervous unappealing response because the Christians themselves are too embarrassed to acknowledge that they don’t know the answer either.

As a church we believe that our responsibility is two-fold. First, we are called to help equip Christians successfully reach a world with the Good News of Jesus, the Gospel. Second, it is also our calling to lead by example and extend the same grace that we received from Jesus, to the rest of the world. We are called to be accessible and ready to help them along life’s terrain, no matter how tough/rough it can be sometimes. Life can deal some pretty daunting blows, and Christianity can be pretty confusing, especially if you open up the bible in the Old Testament.

We want to make sure that you understand it’s never stupid to ask any questions about Jesus, the Bible or Christianity, in fact it’s important that you do, because a question unasked will always remain a question and all unanswered questions do is lead to frustration and defeat. We don’t believe that it is God’s intent for the world’s greatest news.

Confused Church

That is why we are introducing Confused Church. We hope that this page will provide a comfortable, risk free environment to ask the questions that you have always had about Christianity.

How will we answer the questions?

We plan to take the questions that you ask between now and March and compile them into a 20 weeks series that we are also titling, Confused Church (launching April 27 – the Sunday after Easter).

I know that we live in a world of instant results and ideally you would like a timely response in the space of a couple of seconds, however we want to make sure you understand that each question asked will be dealt with a great amount of respect and prayer and it would be unwise of us to rush a response back to you. So we would ask for your patience in the process and obviously extend a huge invitation to you and anyone you might know to ask those burning questions and then attend the 20 week series.

Goal for the future

It is our goal that in the future we would be able to provide more concrete and speedy responses to the continued questions that I know are going to fall on your doorstep as you journey through life, but that comes with a larger team than we currently have at Wilson FBC.

So it is our desire and prayer to, one day, have a team of Pastors, theologians, godly men and godly women all with a passion to equip the church and un-churched with real, raw, applicable answers & blogs to life’s tough questions.

We prayer that the people of Western NY would never feel that Jesus is unapproachable, because his church was.


5 THINGS WE CAN LEARN FROM OUR CHILDREN AT CHRISTMAS

There’s a reason Jesus tells us to come to him like children. Trust is at the heart of how children experience Christmas. Here are five ways we can learn this from our children.

One Christmas, quite a few years ago, my then 3-year-old daughter was into staging plays about the nativity. “I be Mary, mama, you be Jofess,” she would instruct, and off we would go through the house on a wintry morning on our own journey to Bethlehem.

One day, wanting to gauge her understanding of the whole story, I asked, “But where’s Jesus?” Seemingly surprised that I didn’t know, she pointed to a spot right next to me and stated confidently in her tiny voice, “He’s right there!”

And I had a moment. It was as if I suddenly realized he had been travelling around the house with us all along. It was so palpable, I had a sudden urge to turn to the space beside me and say, “Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t see you there!” The presence of Jesus standing next to me felt very real that day, through my daughter’s believing eyes.

With the trusting confidence of beloved children we learn to surrender ourselves to a loving Father and believe that what he says is true and good.

Jesus wants us to learn from kids

There’s a reason Jesus tells us to come to him like children. In their simple faith, kids have not yet learned to doubt the truth. Become like children, humble yourselves, and you will inherit the kingdom, Jesus tells the disciples (Matt. 18:1–4). Bring the children to me, says Jesus, because the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as them, and I want to pray for them (Matt. 19:13–15).

We too can learn to trust him, even though we do not see him. “Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” (1 Pet. 1:8–9).

There’s a reason Jesus tells us to come to him like children.

With the trusting confidence of beloved children we learn to surrender ourselves to a loving Father and believe that what he says is true and good, that he is for us, and as Emmanuel, he is God with us. We are not alone.

Though we cannot see him standing next to us, we trust in his presence and in the knowledge that he will not leave us. Trust is at the heart of how children experience Christmas. Here are five ways we can learn this from our children.

1. Expectant anticipation is good

As I talked with my teenage son, I learned what was meaningful to him about our Advent celebrations when he was a little guy. He told me the time we took to prepare slowly over days of lighting candles and reading stories allowed him to enjoy anticipating Christmas. He never doubted that Christmas would come, because every preparation we made indicated that it was, indeed, on its way.

When it did come, we took the time to open gifts slowly, savoring each one and allowing others their turn to increase the enjoyment of everyone. As we teach our kids to wait to open the presents they see under the tree, we learn to walk by faith and not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7).

2. We can trust our Father

Things are not always as they seem. As parents, we have perspective our children don’t, because we see the big picture. They become anxious when an activity is over, when the treats are gone, or when it’s time to go home from the party. Many a meltdown is the result of their limited knowledge.

We know that the desires of their hearts will be met again, many times, and we are confident in our ability to provide it again for their delight. There is so much more to be seen that they do not see.

As we teach our kids to wait to open the presents they see under the tree, we learn to walk by faith and not by sight.

Romans 8:24–25 says, “Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” Likewise, we can trust that what God says will come to pass, and anticipate the perfect working of his will with patience.

We are often the instruments that cultivate this good fruit of the Spirit in the lives of our children. Don’t freak out! Like a loving parent, God is faithful to reassure us that he will also meet our needs and desires in the best possible way.

3. It’s good to desire good gifts

Now that they’re older, I have to ask my kids for their Christmas lists every year. When they were little they needed no prompting and proclaimed their desires with confidence.

I’ve saved some of those carefully printed lists from the days of asking for doll accessories, computer games, cars, and candy. Who doesn’t want to see their children’s eyes grow wide as they finally get to unwrap what you’ve been up to for their good?

God’s generosity is overwhelming, unexpected, undeserved, and simply to be enjoyed and trusted as an outpouring of abundant love.

Our desire to give good gifts to our children, simply for the pleasure of watching their joyful response, is one of the ways we image God. Jesus said, “Which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:9–11).

Did you know that your generous Father delights in hearing you ask, and longs to fulfill the desires he has given you? (Psalm 37:4)

4. You can never have too much of a good thing

This may seem counterintuitive, and no one knows it better than a kid at Christmas, even if they have a tummy ache. However, applied as a spiritual principle, it’s true. God’s resources are unlimited and never-ending. It’s not a promise of material wealth, but of everything we truly need.

Our desire to give good gifts to our children, simply for the pleasure of watching their joyful response, is one of the ways we image God.

Ephesians 1:3 tells us that God has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing. How do we convey this generosity to our kids? One of our favorite family traditions in recent years is a trip to downtown Seattle to see the Christmas sights, do some shopping, and watch a movie. The first year, unable to decide which movie to see, we decided to see both. It was great fun to see the shock on our kids’ faces when Dad agreed to underwrite not one but two movies on the same evening! Now we look forward to repeating the experience yearly.

Similarly, there are times when God’s generosity is overwhelming, unexpected, undeserved, and simply to be enjoyed and trusted as an outpouring of abundant love.

5. Celebration is life-giving

Kids love a good party. A healthy child’s desire for celebration reminds us that we need to take time to recognize our benefits. There is much about life on this earth that is commonplace and oriented around laborious effort, but we can easily lose our joy if we focus only on toil. Any parent who has tried to convince their child to complete their chores in a timely way knows this is true.

We build moments of celebration into our lives to nurture a sense of wonder and create opportunity for gratitude. Christmastime gives us the best reason of all for celebration—God’s lavish gift of Jesus, born to live and die to save us, is the reason that we celebrate by giving gifts to each other.

We rejoice in knowing that the one whose birth we honor is here: God with us, always, until the end of the age (Matt. 28:20). The assurance of his constant presence affirms our trust even when (especially when!) we don’t remember he’s right there, next to us.

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