Saturday, December 21, 2013

Why Won't They Listen?

People are frustrated about this Phil Robertson thing. You can hear it in post after post on the internet. The thing that is frustrating them isn't so much that A&E dismissed Phil. People are used to their favorite shows getting canceled. And it isn't because Cracker Barrel removed products with Phil's image on them. Most people weren't aware that they carried those products. No, the thing that is frustrating people is that these corporate executives don't seem to be listening. First. You've got Nancy Dubuc, who dismissed Phil for quoting what the Bible says about homosexuality. It wasn't that long ago when people rallied behind Chick-fil-a after the had someone make a similar statement. If Nancy Dubuc had listened, she would have realized that she was starting a fight. Then there is Cracker Barrel, who in the midst of most of their customers taking a stand for Phil Robertson, pulls his picture off their shelves. If they'd been listening, they would've realized that would anger their customers.

Part of the problem is that they really aren't listening. Many corporate types see social media as a way to tell people stuff, but they have failed to realize that the most valuable aspect of social media is the ability to listen to what people are saying. They're too busy for that. As a result, they're offending people by their efforts to not offend anyone.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Don't Criticize Me For Being Who I Am

Predominantly, the posts I have seen are in support of Phil Robertson and free speech, but FoxNews included the following Tweet in an article they wrote on the subject:

Thank god A&E did the right thing, what Phil did was not a issue of freedom of speech but an immoral act, its 2013, stop being ignorant. - @LucVsZhVO of Chicago

This is the type of mentality we are dealing with when we deal with the world. To this person, an immoral act trumps freedom of speech, so it is seen as perfectly okay for A&E to silence Phil Robertson. The problem with this thinking is that what @LucVsZhVO defines as an immoral act and what Phil Robertson defines as an immoral act are two very different things. That is why freedom of speech is so important. Without it, those who have the most power will define what acceptable speech is and define everything else as immorality. True supporters of freedom of speech realize that freedom of speech means that other people have the right to say things they don’t agree with or even consider to be immoral.

While I haven’t spoken to the executives at A&E, I suspect that they have a similar mentality to the one shown in the tweet by @LucVsZhVO. If you were to ask them if they support the First Amendment right to freedom of speech, they would likely agree wholeheartedly. But they have placed their support of the homosexual lifestyle at an even greater importance. This is likely because they don’t see homosexuality as a lifestyle choice but something akin to a person’s race. Frequently, we hear homosexuals refer to their sexuality as “who I am.” It is on that basis that people argue against what the Bible says. How can it be wrong to support people for being who they are?

Let’s think about this for a moment. The Bible tells us that we are all born with a sin nature. That is who we are. So even if scientists discover evidence that homosexuals are born that way (no such evidence has been found so far), that would only be more evidence that people are born with a sin nature. Now, none of us think a murderer is a born killer. But some people will become murderers. The nature they are born with leads them in that direction. That doesn’t mean they have to become murderers, but they will, if left unchecked. And the same applies to homosexuality. They didn’t have to become homosexuals, but their unchecked sin nature led them in that direction.

Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the Kingdom of God? Be not deceived: Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor the effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners shall inherit the Kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But ye are washed, ye are sanctified, ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God. - I Corinthians 6:9-11

I love this passage because it makes it so clear. Yes, that may have been “who we are,” but if we repented and accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior, “who we are” is something very different. We are washed. We are sanctified. We are justified. That’s who we are!

And being the people that we are now, we’re not going to have the same attitude that @LucVsZhVO has. We are going to see sin for what it is and we are going to warn the people who are involved in sin of the wrath to come. You see, a Christian will feel as strongly that they need to warn people of the consequences of sin as a heathen like @LucVsZhVO feels that what the Bible says about homosexuality is immoral.

I think we will encounter more of these people than we have in the past. For a while, many people would pretend to be Christians and they would never say something like @LucVsZhVO did. But political correctness has shifted and people have become emboldened to express non-Christian views. It is easy to become discouraged because there are religious organizations that have begun to support these unbiblical views. Don’t think that Christians are shifting their views; realize that many of these people were never saved in the first place and others are simply weak and in need of more training. But Christians will stand with Jesus and the Bible. That’s who we are.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Christmas: the most wicked of all holidays

When we think about the holidays, we might think that Halloween is the most wicked of them all. It is a celebration of the dead and often involves people dressing up as ghosts and witches and any number of evil things. If that isn’t enough, children go from house to house begging for candy. Christmas, on the other hand, is viewed as the very best of the holidays. We sing songs of peace on earth and good will to men. We watch the kids in the Christmas pageant at church. We read the story of Jesus’ birth in the Bible. What could possibly be evil about Christmas?

For one thing, Santa. The way many people view the jolly old elf is far more evil than what most people do for Halloween. Many people view Santa Claus as the god of snow. Take the song “Snow for Johny,” for example. One line says, “God, tell Saint Nicholas to send a little snow.” While the kid in the song is praying to God, it seems to be saying that the weather isn’t in the hands of God, but in the hands of Saint Nicholas. While there are indications in the Bible that one of the jobs given to angels is to control the weather and other natural events, it is not their decision but God’s. If we want snow, God is the person to ask, not Saint Nicholas or an angel.

Many people view Santa as this benevolent being who wants to give people, and especially children, whatever they ask for. The concept of Santa is the way many people think of God. They send Santa a letter, asking for gifts of various kinds, from toys to snow to new family members. Unlike God, Santa’s only job is to give them whatever they want. God might say no to a prayer, but Santa will always say yes, as long as someone has been good enough during the year. People have made Santa into a god. That is evil.

Then there is this concept of belief. Whether it is belief in Santa or belief in the holiday itself, we are bombarded with the idea that we have to believe. The belief that we are told to have is one with no evidence. If one says that they don’t believe because they’ve never seen evidence of Santa, they are told that Santa won’t show himself to people who don’t believe. After all, we’re told, it isn’t real belief if it isn’t blind.

That concept not only encourages children to believe in something that doesn’t exist, but it messes up what God has told us about faith. Salvation also requires faith and people have latched onto this Christmas faith for it as well. They have the idea that if they can make themselves believe, by forcing all doubts aside when they see no evidence, that they have done enough to make it to heaven. That is not saving faith. Saving faith is not belief in something that has no evidence. When we accept Christ as our Savior, we have evidence. That evidence comes first in the form of his word, written in the Holy Bible and presented to us through the preaching of his saints. The world itself proves the existence of God. The inerrancy of the Bible reveals its truth. But when we come to Jesus, we have one more evidence that is unlike any other. The Holy Spirit convicts us of our sin and encourages us to put our faith in Jesus Christ. For us to teach people to believe in Christmas faith, which is a faith with no evidence, is evil because it may keep people from seeking saving faith, which has much evidence.

Christmas is a time of overindulgence and gluttony. Not only do people eat far more than they should, but they use the holiday as an excuse to spend large amounts of money on themselves and others. Children are supposed to get ever gift they ever wanted. The poor and homeless are given special meals, though the people who are concerned about them at Christmastime may have no concern at all during the rest of the year. It is very much about people wanting to make themselves feel good. People want Christmas to be “the most wonderful time of the year.” Somehow, they believe they deserve for Christmas to make them feel special.

The thing that makes Christmas the most wicked holiday is that people worship Christmas rather than God. Even though Jesus never asked us to celebrate his birthday, Christmas is supposed to remind us of the birth of Jesus. Without the virgin birth, his sinless life would not have been possible and his death on the cross would have no value. But when people worship the holiday instead of the God who came to earth to dwell among us, it is as evil as evil can be.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

What Churches Expect from Members

After listing four expectations their church has of their members, Steve Stroope, the lead pastor at Lake Pointe Baptist Church in Rockwell, Texas, states, “Every church you would ever join expects these things of you. The difference is that they just won’t tell you. We let you know up front what is expected. The only difference is communication, not expectation.”

As I think about it, before I was baptized, I stood before the small church I was joining and we read through the Church Covenant. I was eight years old at the time, just old enough to grasp most of the concepts. Before I was permitted to join the church, I was asked to agree to that covenant. The next church I joined didn’t have a copy of the Church Covenant hanging on the wall. Some of the church members had never seen it and it even surprised one of the men the church ordained as a deacon, shortly after I became a member. But whether a church has the Church Covenant on display or not, every church has expectations of their members.

Church Attendance at Worship Services

If you don’t think churches expect their members to attend worship services, you haven’t noticed the attendance boards that are in nearly every church. Some churches place these board at the front of the auditorium, for everyone to see. Sometimes these boards are placed in a back hallway or near the church office. Or they may be virtual and take the form of a number that appears in the bulletin, but churches want to know how many people show up each week. And when the count is lower than normal, they start looking around and asking, “Who didn’t show up this week?”

Spiritual Growth

It isn’t enough for members to just show up in the services. Churches want their members to grow spiritually. One of the things churches do is provide formal means by which their members can experience spiritual growth. They do this through sermons and classes of various kinds. But they also expect their members to take the initiative to study the Bible on their own.

Financial Support

Churches expect their members to give money to support the work of the church. Generally, churches ask their members to give ten percent (a tithe) or more of their income. Their membership may not always be aware of what they are expected to give because many pastors hate to preach about giving, but the expectation is there, nonetheless.

Working in Church Ministry

Many people look for a church based on what the church can provide them, without thought of becoming involved in the ministry of the church. That is the wrong view to have of church. Church is a body of believers coming together serve the Lord. While the members do benefit from that service, they are not meeting the expectations of the church if they are not also doing something in the way of service.

Moral Behavior as Defined by God’s Word

A church expects its members to live by a high moral standard. This means things like not having sex outside of marriage. It means things like seeking to resolve arguments. It means putting in an honest day’s work with one’s employer. It means abstaining from the use of alcohol and drugs, and not becoming an enabler for people who might be taken in by them.

Sharing the Gospel

One of the great responsibilities of the church is to share the gospel with the world. That isn’t going to happen if the members of a church don’t share the gospel with the people they meet.

I can’t help but wonder how many people join churches without giving any thought to the expectations the church has of them. I met one woman who selected yes on a form that asked, “Do you want to become a member?” even though it was the first time she had visited the church. She thought that church membership meant that she would be placed on a mailing list.

One woman had been attending a church for several weeks and was a little peeved. Each week, someone would announce that such and such person was now a member of the church. Some of these people had been attending the church less time than she had and she couldn’t understand why the church hadn’t asked her to be a member. She posted a question about church membership on a website for mothers. And though some of the answers told her to ask the pastor of the church how to become a member, most of the women who responded seemed as clueless as she did when it came to understanding the concept of church membership.

So, it would seem that Steve Stroope is right. Many churches are not letting people know up front what is expected of them. That is a communication problem.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Carry Case for the Nokia Lumia 1020

I finally decided to give up on my old flip phone and move up to a smartphone because the Nokia Lumia 1020 has a camera on it that is actually worth having. With the camera grip attached, it even feels like a camera with a cell-phone attached rather than the other way around. With that in mind, I decided I wanted to keep the grip attached, rather than just attaching it when I thought I would be taking pictures. (How am I supposed to know when I'm going to want to take pictures.) The problem with that is that there isn't a cell-phone case out there that is big enough to hold it. Small camera cases are too small. Larger camera bags are too big. And it seems that other people are having the same problem finding a suitable case. So, I thought I would write a post to tell people what I am using.


I am using the Lowepro 5.0 Navi Case. It is a little snug top-to-bottom, but it provides enough room otherwise to store ear buds and the USB cable (without the wall plug). It has a screen protector on the inside, behind which I store a wipe cloth. And the zipper works nice to allow me to store the Nokia Lumia 1020 with the ear bud cable sticking out while wearing the case on my belt.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Christians and the Public School System

A recent discussion caused me to think about the public school system and the role Christians have in it. In recent years, there have been several well-known Christian leaders who have suggested that Christians should pull their children out of public schools. Most recently, Albert Mohler and John Piper have been pushing this idea. The basic argument is that parents shouldn’t subject their children to the liberal agenda of the National Educator’s Association (NEA).

The problem I see with Christian parents pulling their kids out of public school is that schools are like a pan of salt water. If you taste the water and it isn’t salty, you add salt. If you start taking the salt out and putting it back in the shaker, it becomes less salty. In Matthew 5:13-16, Jesus called us the “salt of the earth” and “the light of the world.” Most of us will agree that public schools are lacking salt and light. And most of us will agree that the kids who are attending public schools have a great need for salt and light. So, the question is, how do we correct that problem?

My view is that we need more Christian teachers in public schools. Even if these teachers never have an opportunity to tell their students about Jesus, they are an example to these kids in how they ought to live. Even if the State requires them to cover topics they don’t agree with, the students are likely to see that the teacher doesn’t share the State’s view on the subject.

We also need to send Christian students into the public schools. Where teachers are limited in what they can tell their students about Jesus, students have an opportunity to share the gospel freely. That’s not to say that we should expect students to take over the class and preach a sermon. No, think instead of a non-Christian child stating something his parents have said and a Christian friend saying, “that’s not right.”

But there is more that we can do. Did you know that many schools are looking for volunteers? You don’t have to have a teaching certificate to volunteer, you just need to be an upstanding citizen. Can you imagine how much more salt and light there would be in public schools if parents would not only send their kids, but would go to school too?

Now here’s the really cool thing. Because I wanted to mention the possibility of volunteering at schools, I did a search on one of the school districts in our area. In the search results, I found a list of volunteers receiving recognition for their service. The very first name on the list is a member of our church!

I understand the desire of parents to protect their children from the evil they see in public schools. And if we look at each family in isolation, that may cause us to look toward Christian private schools and homeschooling as the solution. But when we look at the big picture and remember our call to carry the gospel to the world, things look different. The more Christian students we put in private schools, the more Christian teachers we will have to pull out of public schools. The more parents who homeschool their kids, the fewer parents we have who can volunteer at school. Carried to its full conclusion, what we end up with are public schools funded with our tax dollars that are completely devoid of salt and light. On the other hand, if we send Christian teachers to work in public schools, Christian students to influence their friends, and Christian parents to volunteer at school, Satan’s influence over the public school system will be greatly diminished.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Instant Church Directory - A Rant

Our church is doing a new pictorial directory using this service called Instant Church Directory. The service makes pictures and addresses available through a mobile device app. Using your smart phone, or a tablet, you can scroll through the pictures and find the person you’re looking for. But what it doesn’t allow you to do is to access the information from a website. Okay, that’s not exactly true. What they will allow you to do is download a PDF, which most people will be able to use if they have Acrobat Reader installed.

Okay, it’s great that they implemented it as an app, but what about people who don’t have one of the supported devices? Have we reached the point where those of us who prefer to use a PC are the dinosaurs of the technology world? Is the PC dead?

No, an here’s why. If you do a lot of typing, you’re going to want something more than a phone or a tablet. If you are doing graphics of some kind, you’ll want a larger screen, and maybe two or three. If you are doing processor intensive operations, you’ll want a high powered processor. High power equates to a lot of heat, and that means you need extra room in the case. If you are doing video processing, you’ll want a lot of hard drive space and you’ll want some fast optical drives. When you start talking about that kind of stuff, the desktop is king.

In short, phones and tablets work when mobility is the most important thing. Desktops work best when power is needed. But what does that mean in terms of Instant Church Directory? In my mind, it means Instant Church Directory falls short of what they need to be. It is great that you can pull out your phone and find information about a fellow church member. But as the church webmaster, I want more than that. If I’m working on a page that refers to one of our members, I want easy access to their picture, so I can include it on the web page. Being able to access it via a phone doesn’t allow me to do that. Neither does access to a PDF. Extracting an image from a PDF is problematic because PDFs are optimized for displaying information for the printed page.

Instant Church Directory also falls short in terms of protecting member information. While trying to find more about Instant Church Directory, I find a PDF file posted on another church’s website. I opened the file and found names, addresses, phone numbers and e-mail addresses. And unscrupulous person could easily send information to all the church members and give the appearance that he is someone they know.

Granted, Instant Church Directory does show some ways to password protect a PDF file, but then there is the question of whether we want only one password that people will pass around freely, or if we want user ids and passwords to discourage the sharing of the password. Presumably, we want user ids and passwords, but then there is the question of providing a secure login. Why couldn’t they have just provided a secure web link to the directory? A website would show the same information an app would, it would work on all web enabled devices, and it would work on a PC.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Understanding Facebook Spam

Check you’re e-mail and you’re likely to find a few spam messages. We’ve come to expect it and when the spam filters let some of it through, most of us hit the delete button and away it goes. Or maybe we don’t read our e-mail at all because most of it is stuff we don’t want to see. Many of us communicate more through Facebook than we do through e-mail. Unfortunately, Facebook has its own problem with spam. Worse, many of us perpetuate it without realizing what we are doing. Let’s take a look at how Facebook spam works.

Troll Linking

One of the most obvious forms of spam is the work of trolls and can result in click-through profits for the troll. It works like this: first, the troll finds a Facebook page that has several thousand followers. He then adds a comment to the page along the lines of “That’s interesting, but you should check out” The people curious enough to follow the link will be taken to a site advertising some product and the person who placed the link will be credited with redirecting traffic to that site.

Everyone Needs to See This

Some Facebook spammers are able convince unsuspecting users to do their dirty work. Instead of directly posting the link on a Facebook page, theses spammers rely on chain sharing. A classic version of this is that the spammer will post a picture of a child with a disfigured face. A recent version of this stated, “This child has skin cancer!!!! FB decided 2 give 1 dollar per every share Ur one share can save his life please dOnt ignore…..” The reason I saw it was because one of my friends had shared it with the statement, “Just in case this is true.”

That’s the reason this type of spam works. People recognize the power of social media and don’t want to be the break in the chain, “just in case this is true.” They don’t want to be the one who doesn’t help a child with cancer. If someone posts, “I found a camera with this picture on it, share to help me find the owner,” they don’t want to be the person who doesn’t help. If someone posts, “97% of Facebook users won’t repost this. Jesus is Lord,” they don’t want to be seen as a heathen for not reposting it.

What’s really going on here is that the person who originally posted these things is trying to drive traffic to their corner of Facebook. In some cases, they are just trying to see the numbers rise. In other cases, they are hoping to gain likes that they can use to push their product at a later time.


For a long time, people have noticed misspellings and grammatical errors in spam of all kinds, including Facebook spam, such as in the example above. Some people have attributed it to foreigners generating the spam. While that is a possible reason, it is much more likely that the people generating the spam speak fluent English. Some may have a college degree. Many times, the misspellings are intentional. If you notice in the example, “Ur” is used to replace “your” not “you are.” And “dOnt" is used to replace “don’t.” Only a person fluent in English would think to make these substitutions.

The reason spammers make substitutions like this is to get around spam filters. If the spam filter is looking for “your one share” then it might not pick up on “Ur one share.” If it is looking for “please don’t ignore,” then it might not pick up on “please dOnt ignore.”

How to Avoid Sharing Spam

First, consider the value of the information. Is this something your friends would want to see? If you see a funny picture or video and want your friends to see it, there isn’t much harm in sharing it. But if the main reason for sharing it is to encourage your friends to pass it along, then maybe you shouldn’t.

Second, consider the accuracy of the information. Can you find evidence to back it up? Does it make sense? Why, for example, would Facebook agree to pay money for the number of times a photo is shared?

Third, consider the source. Was the original information posted by someone you know and trust or is it coming from a page you can’t associate with anyone you know?

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Don't Be Thicke

Some people are asking why Robin Thicke isn’t taking the heat that Miley Cyrus is for their raunchy performance at the VMA show. And quite right—he should be taking heat for the performance and not just from his mother, who has been quoted as saying, “I can’t unsee it.” That fact is, you don’t put on a show like that without a lot of planning and practice. Based on her comments, it appears that Robin Thicke’s wife was forewarned about the raunchiness of the performance. In a nutshell, Robin Thicke is every bit as responsible for the performance as Miley Cyrus is.

One comment I saw online summed it up for me, “I don’t know who Robin Thicke is.” The reason Robin Thicke isn’t getting hammered in the media is because he hasn’t alienated his fans (other than his mother). Miley Cyrus, on the other hand, has turned her back on the fans she gained from Hannah Montana and those fans are mourning that loss. So many people thought they knew her. She was that kid who found plenty of ways to make mistakes, but she always did the right thing by the end of the episode. And her father was there to support her in doing the right thing. But who is Robin Thicke? I don’t know—just another singer born in California.

So, let me just say to you guys, Don’t be Thicke. Even though Robin Thicke isn’t taking the heat for the situation and some people are saying he won’t suffer any consequences for what happened, what he did was wrong. I may come across as a male chauvinist for saying this, but it is my belief that we guys have an even greater responsibility to take a stand and say, “This isn’t what we ought to be doing.” In the home and in churches, God has placed us guys in a place of leadership. That’s not to say that we get to decide what we want to do and then make everyone else do it. If we think that, we’ve misunderstood God’s concept of leadership. As men, we have a greater responsibility to learn the will of God, to do it, and to encourage others to do likewise.

Don’t be Thicke, guys. Don’t put a woman in a compromising position. Don’t go along with a woman who wants to put herself in a compromising position. Don’t encourage it. Take a stand and say, “No, this isn’t what we should be doing.” Encourage things that are pleasing to God instead.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Man Looketh on the Outward Appearance

By now, you’ve probably heard about Jase Robertson of Duck Dynasty fame being kicked out of New York City’s Trump International Hotel. [1] The story is that Robertson asked one of the staff where the restroom was and the staff member showed him the way out the door instead. Robertson attributed it to “facial profiling.” The staff member assumed Robertson was a homeless man. I don’t know that we can blame him. They probably encounter several unshaven men who are homeless and if not shown the door, would hang out in the lobby.

I believe the lesson we can learn from this story is that how we dress is important in our interaction with other people. In the Bible, we see the statement, “man looketh on the outward appearance, but he Lord looketh on the heart.”[2] We tend to look at that statement and say something along the lines of “we should all look past the outward appearance.” So we should, but let’s not miss the truth of the statement, “man looks on the outward appearance.” At best, only the most godly among us will look past the outward appearance completely. And even if we have that ability, consider the statement, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.” [3] Maybe our looking at the heart isn’t such a good thing. In any case, when the less godly among us look at us, their opinions will be based on our appearance, not on what our heart is like.

So let me ask you this: When you walk out the door each day, do you look like the child of the King, or the servant of the devil? What do people see. Do they see someone who dresses modestly? Do they see someone who dresses in such a way that they will respect what you have to say? Or do they see someone who dresses inappropriately? Do they see someone who dresses like an object to be possessed, not a person to respect?

And what about when they come through the church doors. In the past, people have argued that we shouldn’t make “seekers” uncomfortable by dressing up better than they dress. While that is a compelling argument, we must also remember that people’s ability to listen to a speaker is influenced by their respect for the speaker, and their respect for the speaker is partially based on the appearance of the speaker. A man in ragged blue jeans is more likely to respect what a man wearing a tie says, than what a man in a suit is likely to respect what an man in a shaggy beard has to say.

I’m not going to say that we should always walk around in tuxedoes. Depending on the situation, it is possible to be over dressed. But there is something to be said for us dressing better than what most people do these days. Instead of the freebee T-shirt, wear the polo shirt. Instead of the polo shirt, were the dress shirt. Instead of just the dress shirt, add a tie. Instead of just a tie, wear the suit. Step it up a notch and people are more likely to respect what you have to say.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Organic Church

How the Organic Church People See Themselves

I’ll admit it; I don’t keep up with all the latest fads. When the organic church came up in a conversation with my pastor the other day, I was pretty clueless and then showed my ignorance by opening my mouth. So, I went looking to see what I could find out about this thing called, the organic church.

The first thing I came to realize was that the words in the name have little meaning unless you understand how the people using it are defining the terms. As a friend pointed out, to be organic, something has to contain carbon compounds. That’s probably not what is intended by the use of the term. Neither can we use the etymology of the word church. The word originates from a word used to refer to a place of worship. (In other words, a “church” is the building, not the people.)

In looking for a definition I found the statement, “an Organic Church is born out of spiritual life, not constructed by human institutions and held together by religious programs.” [1] Frank Viola contrasts the organic church with what he calls the institutional church, “To put it in sentence, organic church is not a theater with a script. It’s a lifestyle-a spontaneous journey with the Lord Jesus and His disciples in close-knit community.” [2] He continues:

An organic church can be contrasted with “institutional church.” By “institutional church,” I mean a church that is created by human organization, chain-of-command styled leadership, and institutional programs. It’s marked by a weekly order of worship (or mass) officiated by a pastor or priest. It’s controlled by a top-down hierarchical organization and human social conventions (called “offices”) that people fill. The institutional church has often been called “the traditional church,” “the organized church,” and “the audience church.” Congregants watch a religious performance once or twice a week, and then retreat home to live their individual Christian lives. [3]

How the Organic Church People See the Church

Another writer states, “We are the ekklesia, the called out ones. We are here to make a difference in the world, not hide in church buildings. Jesus was all about sharing God's love and ministering to peoples needs to show that love.” [4]

I find this last statement particularly interesting because it expresses how the writer defines the word church. You will recall that in most English translations of the Bible, the Greek word ekklesia is simply replaced with the English word church. As a result, the KJV mentions “the church in the wilderness.” (Acts 7:38) So, the writer above is defining church as “the called out ones.” This is a common view today, even among institutional churches. When a person uses the word church to refer to all saved individuals, he is applying the same meaning.

When we apply the primary meaning found in Strong’s Concordance, we find that a better interpretation of the word ekklesia is assembly or congregation. Acts 7:38 makes much more sense when it reads as, “This is he that was in the assembly in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sina, and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us.”

This disconnect between the “all saved individuals” interpretation and the “gathered assembly” interpretation may explain the relationship between organic churches and house churches. If I view the church as “all saved individuals” then there’s really nothing particularly special about the group that meets down at the church building. They are just a small subset of the worldwide church, so if I want to create a gathering in my house and do worship the way I think best, then I have just as much of a right to do that as they do.

On the other hand, if we consistently apply the definition “gathered assembly” in each place we see the word church in the Bible, we are forced to apply much more of what the Bible says to the local assembly. That’s not to say that a group meeting in a house is not a church, but rather is causes us to apply what the Bible says about the leadership of the churches to all churches, including those meeting in homes. When Paul wrote concerning the apostles, prophets, teachers, etc. that God has set in the church, this would mean that he as placed them in each local church. When Paul mentions that a pastor is to “take care of the church of God,” it means something totally different when we apply it to the assembly, rather than to all the saved.

Problems With the Organic Church

On the surface, the organic church concept seems good. What could possibly be wrong with allowing our worship take us wherever the spirit leads? What could be wrong with spontaneous, participatory worship? But when we look closer, we see that the organic church attempts to have church without a pastor. This certainly doesn’t model the New Testament church. The New Testament has much to say about pastors/bishops/elders, all words for the same position. It outlines the qualifications of pastors and deacons. It gives pastors the responsibility of seeing to the doctrinal and spiritual wellbeing of the assembly. Deacons have a responsibility take on the more practical matters, so that the pastor has more time to study.

The end result of the organic church concept is that something won’t get done. Without someone having a responsibility to pastor the assembly, those who attend may spend a lot of time talking about what they believe God wants, without having first studied the Word to discover what God has said. Without people responsible for seeing to the needs of the members, the practical needs of the members may go unmet, when work obligations get in the way. With anyone being able to go out and start a new group and without an official group leader, those who lead the group may not meet the qualifications God has given us.


I see problems with both extremes. There are institutional churches that have so much structure that they have no worship. Organic churches are missing so much structure, that they are weak. What we need is a church with pastors and deacons who fulfill the responsibilities the Bible has laid out for them, but a church that removes the divide between clergy and laity. Leadership within a church is necessary, but the only good leader in a church is one who places the needs and the good of the other members above his own. He should lead by example rather than command. All members should have the freedom to voice their opinion. All members should participate in the work of the church. The leaders in the church should be gentle with those who disagree, but the member of the church should always recognize the need to respect the leaders within the church, because those leaders have a responsibility to see to the wellbeing of the members of the church.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

What Can Churches Do to Train Future Leaders?

Picture this scene: a group of people are gathered in a room. Someone, the president, gets up and calls the meeting to order. A few reports are given. Some miscellaneous business is discussed. Then the people begin getting up and giving ten-minute speeches on various topics. What organization is that?

If you are in the business world, you might say, “That sounds like Toastmasters.” And in fact it does sound like that well respected organization in which people learn leadership and speaking skills by doing. But the scene I described comes from a monthly youth meeting I attended when I was a teenager. The churches of the Cane Creek Baptist Association held these meetings (still do) and called it the Youth in the Harvest.

At one point or another, I held most of the jobs within the Youth in the Harvest. I had to give “a part.” I was elected treasurer. I led the singing. I was vice-president. I was president. And not once did I think, “I hope they elect me.” Not once did I think, “I hope our church is on the program next month, so I can give a part.”

Just as I never appreciated the beauty of the where I grew up until I moved to Texas, I never appreciated the Youth in the Harvest until I could look back and see what it gave me. As much as I hated participating, I look back now and realize that the Youth in the Harvest shaped the way I conduct myself in business meetings, in committee meetings, in teaching situations, in meetings at work. What a wonderful gift to have been taught as a youth what adults are seeking to learn through Toastmasters.

I’m a member of a larger church now and it is a member of a smaller association than the Cane Creek Association, so things are different. In some ways, they are better, but I can’t help but wonder if we’re failing to teach some of those things that I learned from the Cane Creek Association’s Youth in the Harvest. Because of the size of our church and the size our youth group, we don’t have the need of a monthly association sponsored youth meeting. But that also removes opportunities to learn to conduct meetings, to learn to teach a lesson, and other things we hope they will do later in life.

Association sponsored youth meetings are far from perfect. It is hard to get some churches to attend. Some pastors end up giving “the part” when their youth refuse. The value of the business meeting comes into question when adults become too involved in it. But I believe there is a need for churches to develop ways to hone the leadership skills of their youth. I don’t know what that should look like when it takes the form of a church ministry instead of an associational meeting, but I believe it is worth pursuing.

So let me ask you, what can medium sized and large churches do to prepare their youth for the leadership roles they will have in the future?

Thursday, July 25, 2013

They Can Plug Themselves In

In our Wednesday evening services, our church is discussing the book, I Am a Church Member. Our pastor asked how we should plug in a new church member to a place of service. There were several answers, but I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the answer, “They can plug themselves in.”

That is most certainly true. There are some people who join a church and whether the existing membership knows how to use them or not, it won’t be long before they’ll be busy doing something. In some cases, they end up doing things the existing church members wouldn’t have thought of. This is the case with the lady who made the observation. Since the time they joined the church, she and her husband have been asked to serve in various ways, (and they have done so willingly) but they ministry they are most known for is one that they were the first to see the need for.

As a church member, I feel that I have a responsibility to “plug myself in.” Whether someone asks me to do something or not, I have a responsibility to God and to my church to find something that needs doing and to do it.

That being said, some people aren’t going to plug themselves in. As I look at the roughly 10% of our church members that I would consider to be leaders, it seems like the one thing that distinguishes them from the other 90% is their ability to plug themselves in. It’s not necessarily a bad thing that 90% won’t plug themselves in. While it might be tempting to say, “we shouldn’t have to tell people what they need to be doing, they should see what needs to be done and do it,” we wouldn’t want someone to show up at church one Sunday and say, “I don’t think the pastor is doing a good job, so I decided I should preach the sermon today.”

There has to be a balance. No one knows what a person is capable of better than that person. When asked to plug a person in, leaders will tend to look to use that person to fill a vacancy. Or they will look to place that person in a position that it is assumed that anyone can do. I’ve heard it said that the reason men are absent in churches is because everything they look for something to do, someone suggests they go work in the nursery. I would hate to think a church would ask unqualified people to work in the nursery, but it’s something to think about. If a church member doesn’t want to end up with the default job, they need to demonstrate an ability to do something else.

But leaders can be more intentional about discovering the abilities of other church members. That may come in the form of a spiritual gifts assessment or some other questionnaire, but that shouldn’t be the only means. I have yet to see a spiritual gifts assessment that wouldn’t suggest that a non-Christian person who took the assessment had some spiritual gift. And what do we do with that information once we have it? Suppose it says a person has the gift of giving. Do we just hand a guy an offering plate and say, “you just give and we’ll do the rest?”

At best, I think spiritual gift assessments can give us a hint for things to look for. A person with a gift for teaching may not be suitable for teaching a Sunday school class, and yet we might observe them mentoring younger Christians in a one-one-one setting. And you might not find the person with the gift of evangelism preaching a revival meeting; rather, they might be sharing the gospel with their neighbors. The best way to discover what a person is gifted in is to watch them in action.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

This Week, The Bible Takes On New Meaning

A few years ago, in a Sunday school class I was teaching, one of the students asked the question, “Who is my enemy?” At the time, he and I came to the conclusion that we really didn’t have anyone we could call our enemy. Oh, there were people who didn’t get along with us as well as they should’ve, but they weren’t our enemies.

It’s a lot easier to follow Matthew 5:44 when you don’t have any enemies:

…love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you and persecute you…

After the week we’ve had, that verse has taken on a whole new meaning for me. I put a few comments out there in the social media channels concerning gay marriage and abortion, both of which were heated topics this week. It was like holding a lightning rod over your head in a storm. And yet, the comments directed at me were tame compared to what I heard some other people had to put up with. One blogger mentioned that he had received a threat via e-mail. About the worst I received was a comment from someone telling me I should shut-up. One man made the statement, “I’m an atheist, so I don’t answer to anything but myself and the laws of the land.”

I definitely had the feeling that I had come face to face with my enemies this week. But the question is, how do you love someone like that? I don’t think Jesus meant that we should bake them a cake. But I do believe he meant for us to take action, not simply to have feelings for these people. That action is not the one that our enemies want us to take. Our enemies want us to shut-up and leave them alone. That isn’t what Jesus did. His enemies tried to shut him up and he kept on preaching. Then a day came that they came to arrest him and he went with them willingly, stretched out on a cross, and died for their sins.

How do we bless them? The interesting thing here is that Jesus didn’t say to “praise” them, but he said to “bless” them. Praise carries with it the idea of telling someone, “you did a good job.” To bless someone carries the notion of seeking future good for someone. Based on what I’ve seen from my enemies this week, there’s not much I can praise them for, but I can seek good things for them in the future. The beginning of that is that I can seek for their salvation.

And we most certainly know what it means to do good to our enemies and to pray for our enemies. It may not be an easy thing to do, but we know what it means.

But the verse is not complete without also looking at Matthew 5:45, “that ye may be the children of your Father who is in Heaven. For He maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.”

I thought it was interesting this week because one Christian man made the comment, “I think God is through with America and is ready to send his wrath on the just and unjust.” I wondered if he was thinking of Matthew 5:45 when he said that. But as I consider this passage, maybe we shouldn’t be so quick to conclude that God is through with America. I woke up this morning and watched the sun come up. Guess what. It came up over the houses of my enemies as well. And the next time it rains, I’ll praise God for sending it, but my enemies, who do not fear the Lord, will receive rain as well. God is very slow to give up on people and Jesus gave that as the reason we should be slow to give up on our enemies. Yeah, I know that Sodom’s sin was the reason God destroyed it, but he would’ve saved it if there’d been ten righteous men. Can you name a city in America that doesn’t have at least ten righteous men?

No, I don’t think God is through yet. I think we have some hard work ahead of us, but he’s not through. It is for that reason that I must love my enemies, bless those that curse me, do good to them that hate me, and pray for them that despitefully use me and persecute me. And if I do that, then the day may come that I will call some of those who are my enemies, my brothers.

Monday, March 25, 2013

An Open Letter to Well Meaning Friends

Dear friends,

As you know, I am single, but what you may not realize is that I’m content with that (most of the time). Don’t get me wrong; I have no desire to remain single my whole life, so I appreciate your questions. "Are you dating anyone?" "There’s this girl I met the other day. Would you like her number?" "Have you tried these online dating services?" They show you care, even though I sometimes think they are the most hurtful things you could ask.

So let me explain my situation. I have as much of a desire to share my life with someone as anyone, but I am more convinced than ever that I should be highly selective in who I date. Dating individuals that I know I would never marry is just a distraction from the things that are really important to me. Relationships take a lot of time, and since I believe I am serving the Lord in the way he wants me to serve him, I want to be a good steward of the twenty-four hours a day he has given me.

I ask that you also keep that in mind when you make suggestions. Here’s what I’m passionate about:

It is my greatest desire to see souls saved. I long to see the growth of the church in which the Lord has called me to serve. I want to see the spiritual growth of Christians. I have a love for the BMA and I want to see it succeed in its mission of planting churches throughout the world.

It isn’t enough that a woman “is a Christian” or that she “goes to church.” If she isn’t the kind of woman who is likely to come along beside me and help me with my passion, she isn’t the right person for me. I don’t know exactly what that woman looks like or how she would help me. I’m open to discovering exactly what that means, but let me be clear. I will serve the Lord with a wife or I will serve the Lord alone, but I will serve the Lord. But please don’t ask me to “fix” your out of church family member or your divorced friend. I don’t know how.

Your suggestion that I use an online dating service is also appreciated, but it isn’t as helpful as you might think. By the time you eliminate everyone who drinks, smokes, is divorced, or is currently separated, the pickings are pretty slim. That’s not to say that “the one” isn’t among them, but I don’t want you to get your hopes up too much.

For those of you who really want to help, here is what I suggest: First of all, pray that the Lord will continue to give me the opportunity to serve him. That means more to me than anything. Second, pray that the Lord will place a woman in my life who is passionate about what I am passionate about. Third, pray that the Lord will help you see the difference between a nice woman who happens to go to church and one who is fully committed to serving the Lord.


Timothy Fish