Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Reveling in Falsehood: 2 Peter 2

In Summary:

Peter continues his letter with warnings of false prophets. These false prophets have come and will keep coming, just they had throughout Israel’s history. The first few verses speak of the motivation and attraction of these false teachers: sensuality, greed, and arrogance.

In discussing these false prophets, Peter mentions Balaam (from Numbers 22-24, see here, here, and here,) the talking donkey, the Flood, Noah, angels, and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. We are forced to select one of two options: either Peter’s citations are accurate, and so is the Old Testament, or Peter was wrong. If he’s wrong on the Old Testament, then that throws his credibility in doubt for all things.

The chapter as a whole resounds with condemnation of those who push evil. Peter recognizes that a new religion is easily corrupted. And he knows that corruption usually arises from within—whether by deceptive entrance or being deceived down the line. The trick? It starts as simple teaching that is a shade off, and then morphs into something much, much worse.

In Focus:

Turn your eyes firmly to 2 Peter 2:2. The first verse has addressed the false teachers who will arise among the church. This verse speaks to those who will follow them. In this, we see a couple of major issues:

1. The teaching that we are dealing with here is destructive heresy. I wrote, a long time ago, about calling stuff “heresy” (link) and how we should reserve that for theology that masquerades as Christian but is truly going to send someone to hell. Assuming Peter and I are on the same page here, his point supports that one can sneak into the church and push the church into heresy. He’s not talking about those who shift opinions on debatable matters like mode of baptism.

This is about those who start teaching that one does not surrender to Jesus as Lord for salvation. That can be those who think there are multiple paths or that one’s life does not have to follow the instructions of Jesus after salvation (obedience follows grace).

2. The teaching that we are dealing with ends up sounding good but brings reproach on the “way of the truth.” That could slice in a couple of directions, but the main concept here is that it becomes a self-pleasing idea. The hearers want to believe it over the truth, because it is easier to follow.

In Practice:

Practical steps to deal with heresy and false teachers? These bear constant repeating:

1. Read your own Bible. Not just a little of it, nor just for the light and fluffy moments. Read it, grow through it, and do not leave it to someone else to always tell you what it means!

2. Keep your teachers accountable. Including your pastors. It astounds me that we often want to keep our ministers more accountable for how they spend their time than how they hold to sound doctrine. We act like a one-time ordination questionnaire is all the theological exam someone needs. It’s not the case. But if you’re more worried whether your youth minister came to work at 8 or 805 than if he still believes the Bible is actually true, you’ll never notice his theological drift.

Or if you’re more concerned with the measurable effects: if your senses are more pleased by a large crowd than you are concerned with right doctrine, you are following down into trouble.

3. False teaching almost never sounds “bad” to our natural ears. It either supplies us justification for what we want, like men drawn to extreme patriarchy views, or it rolls nicely with what we’ve always heard, like some views of nationalism mixed into worship. These are harder to stop than we might think, because they sound so appealing and reasonable at the outset.

Overall, the difficulty in fighting false prophets and teachers is that they rarely start off sounding wrong. One preacherjust wants you to have a nice day, like every Friday should be, that’s all…somebody else just wants the 10 Commandments to be listened to. Then the next guy just wants you to have obedient children, and then the whole thing falls apart.

The best defense is keeping your focus on the One and Only Savior, and seeing the people God gives to help us walk with Jesus as precisely that: people.

In Nerdiness: 

Such nerd fun here: 1. Universal flood or not? Peter says…whole world.
2. Angels and judgment? There’s a boatload of differing opinions here. Suffice it to say that Peter’s point is not about the outcomes for the angels but about the reality that if God judges them, you do not escape the opportunity.
3. 2 Peter 2:8 is the source for thinking Lot was bothered by Sodom. Nothing in Genesis gives us that idea, so we either have to take Peter’s reflection as inspired or toss it.
4. Notice the idea that “instinct” leads one to be ignorant and destroyed. (V. 12). What does that do with viewpoints about natural inclinations?

5. Peter alludes to two major portions of the Old Testament: the Law and Wisdom divisions.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Sermon Recap from June 28

We had the Vacation Bible School recap in the evening, so there’s just the morning sermon. But I did have a voice all day!

Morning Sermon: John 1:14-18 “In the Middle of People” (Audio)

Title: "In the Middle of People"

Primary Theological Point: Jesus is fully God in the flesh

Primary Practical Point: Be in the middle of life, seeking those who need God

Textual Points:

  1. Setting: Still in the Prologue but addressing "prehistoric" matters
  2. Events: Incarnation
  3. Connections: theophanies of the OT/explanation of God in Christ's person.
  4. Law/Grace and Truth: difference between given and realized/became. Idea is that both existed, one was shown and the other was done.

Preach Points:

  1. Church: the church does not exist to be clean and pristine, but to be filled inside with those needing Christ and going outside to those needing Him
  2. Salvation: Jesus came in the flesh to save those of us who live in the flesh--including you. He took all of our sin because He could, as fully God and fully Human
  3. Mission: Get out there and be amidst the people who need Jesus
  4. Families: don't mail it in, be with one another

Take Home Action: Live present with others. Take the time to be fully present. And share with others that God Himself put on all the foibles and troubles of flesh to find and save His own.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Reflections on the Move Part 2

I was going to drop this series, thinking the move is “old news.” Except that the move is far from old…we’ve been here right at 3 weeks. It has been a true whirlwind since the decision to move was made the first weekend in May. Next week’s reflections will delve into the serious business of that process.

For now, though, a funny. One that I wish I had video for, but I was driving.

On move day, after the trucks were all loaded up and headed out on the road, Ann and I fired up our two vehicles and headed out. Well, Ann got a head start with Steven and Angie. Olivia and I were about 10 minutes behind her. We had stayed and done the final locking up and one last sweep of the garage.

As we were driving up Park Avenue in Stuttgart, I noticed a semi-truck being towed ahead of us. This was just the cab, and it was pointed backwards. Picture this: the tow truck had elevated the rear wheels of the cab, so the front wheels were on the ground. And the hood was pointed the opposite direction of its travel.

Got that picture? It looks almost like the truck is backing down Park at a high rate of speed. It’s rate of speed, though, was about 15 MPH below the speed limit.

Like any quick thinking American, I grabbed my cell phone. I handed it to Olivia and told her to send someone a Facebook message for me. We are slow adopters of tech, so she’s not a high-speed texter. It also takes all of her attention.

While she is focused on sending the message, I weave my way through traffic. She’s still head down, looking at the screen.

I get in the lane behind the truck, there are no cars between me and the towed vehicle. I push the gas pedal to the floor…which doesn’t do much, because Ann’s got the Durango and I’ve got the Caravan, but we start closing the gap. Quickly.

So I reach over, grab Olivia’s arm, and gasp.

She then looks up….and screams.

This was a great moment of Father-Daughter bonding.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Beating the Trees: Deuteronomy 24

In Summary:

We’re still dealing with the various laws necessary for running a nation in Deuteronomy 24. This chapter gives us another look at family law, some finance law, criminal law, and health law. It’s a great mixture of items from everyday life in Israel.

First we have the instructions regarding divorce including the prohibition that a woman divorced by her first husband who then marries another cannot go back to the first husband. I’ll not pretend to know exactly how these laws fleshed out in reality, or even how often it was necessary to enforce them! But I know this: God took, and takes, marriage seriously. Even 3,500 years ago He put restrictions on divorce and the general idea of just trading partners for a time. We ought to remember that.

Then we see one of my favorite verses in Deuteronomy 24:5 where a newlywed is released from duty, both military and non-military, for the first year of marriage. Why? To give happiness to his wife. It’s worth remembering that the initial investment in a relationship will strengthen it later.

We then get various other laws, from constraints on lending practices to bans on kidnapping. All of these weave together to remind the people of Israel that other folks matter, too. Whether they are women, poor, hired help, aliens, orphans (wait, aliens? I still laugh…) people that were not the power holders were still worthwhile.

In Focus:

Trees, on the other hand, were apparently not that big a deal. Taking a look at 24:20, we see that it was considered appropriate to beat olive trees. That’s because there was no advocacy group in Ancient Israel for olive trees…or, perhaps, because the reference is to the process of knocking loose olives to harvest. The first pass was enough, after that anything left behind was for the needy.

In Practice:

What do we do with this in practice?

First, recognize that words have shades of meaning. “Beat” is one of those words—applied to a human being, it’s bad. Really bad. Applied to an olive tree? Not bad. I stand ready to be corrected by the first ent that comes along, but trees aren’t the same as people.

Second, be cautious not to make everything perfectly efficient. It was the inefficiency of manual harvesting, both of olives and grains, that enabled Old Testament Israel’s system of providing for the poor. Is it possible that our interest in efficiency has numbed our compassion? Or at least trimmed off our ability to show it?

Third, as we see constantly in the Israelite system, charity is not intended to become a simple handout. Instead, it was designed to keep an individual’s dignity intact and prevent society from looking down on them.

Therefore, let us remember those ideas. There are people that need help—find a way to help them. But over time, we must address the systems that dehumanize those in need and come back to treating people like people. Because even aliens are people :)

In Nerdiness: 

I’m really running short on nerd thoughts out of this. The reminder of Miriam refers back to Numbers 12. Also of note is the idea that “sons not be put to death for the sins of their fathers” and vice versa in v. 16. This echoes forward to Ezekiel 18 and addresses individual responsibility.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Book: The Printer and the Preacher

Today’s book delves into Colonial America and looks at two figures that are not typically portrayed together: George Whitefield and Benjamin Franklin. While I am not quite certain that I’ll grant Randy Petersen’s subtitle of “The Surprising Friendship that Invented America,” I still find The Printer and the Preacher a great read. Here’s why:

First, Petersen opens with some of Franklin and Whitefield’s interactions rather than burying those into chronological order. This leaps the reader ahead a few decades and sets up why one would want to read the rest of the book.

Second, while there is some prior knowledge of American Colonial History is helpful, it’s not critical. Petersen provides many of the background events needed to understand what was going on in the world of Whitefield and Franklin. We should know what happened in those times, but keeping it all straight is easier with the reminders.

Third, I greatly appreciated the admission of things not known throughout this book. While there is enough ambiguity admitted to for the overall premise to be questioned, at least Petersen is not foisting a false certainty about the relationship between the two.

Fourth, there is no attempt to posthumously baptize Franklin. The man went through his life unwilling to be counted a born-again Christian and any biography dealing with his life should admit that. Too many Christian-oriented books on the founding era of the United States attempt to classify all the Founding Fathers as strong, right-wing Christians, which they weren’t. Honesty is a good sign for a biography.

Overall, this work is not without its flaws. For example, there are several places where there is no evidence that Whitefield and Franklin met. It’s possible they did or didn’t, and one’s view of their relationship will decide how that silence is interpreted. Naturally, Petersen presents them as likely having interacted. It helps the story, but it’s not certain.

At its core, though, this is a story of two men with conflicting viewpoints working together. They benefited professionally and personally, and in turn two nations reaped spiritual and temporal rewards. It’s a great story, one that sheds light on a model worth learning.

Free book in exchange for the review.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Stirring Reminders: 2 Peter 1

In Summary:

This second of Peter’s letters opens slightly differently than his first. The first calls him simply “Peter, an apostle…” while this one names him as “Simon Peter, bondservant and apostle.” The difference is more than just window dressing or epistolary frippery. Peter’s use of his full name may only be about clarifying his identity to the audience, but it may also indicate his embrace of the swings back and forth in his past.

Identifying himself as a bondservant as well as an apostle reminds the reader that even Peter’s importance did not elevate him beyond serving the Lord Jesus Christ. From that point, his first chapter establishes that this letter addresses practical matters from the spectrum of life that all believers can benefit from.

For example, Peter speaks to his readers about applying diligence, moral excellence, and kindness—all because of the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. Further, he goes on to talk about the eyewitness nature of the faith of Christians. They were not believing in made-up stories or even ancient tales, but believing individuals telling the story of Jesus.

In Focus:

Let’s put the focus on 2 Peter 1:12-15. First, Peter states that he will “always be ready to remind…even though you already know them.” He is not concerned that his message is a repetition of what they already know. Reminding one another of the truth is more critical than innovating new ideas.

Second, Peter wants his reminder to be more than just (v.13) history. His goal is that they will be “stirred up” to action. This is his goal while he remains on this earth. The follow up idea is that they would not lose their grip when he is no longer around. Peter writes, partially, to prepare for his own death.

In Practice:

Practically, then, what do we need to do?

1. Know the truth for ourselves. This shouldn’t be hard to reason, but if you do not know the truth, you cannot remind others of it.

2. Develop a list of critical items to remind yourself and your fellow learners about. For example, grab Scott Duvall’s Experiencing God’s Story of Life and Hope and see how those dozen ideas are worth repeating on a regular basis. Or Robert Morgan’s 100 Bible Verses Every Christian Should Know by Heart. Either one is a good start.

On this note, even though I select sermons based on preaching through blocks of text, I do maintain a list of concepts that I want to remind the church of on a regular basis. These are ideas like the grace of God or the sufficiency of Scripture.

3. Connect those ideas to definite actions. The definite action of learning, followed by practical steps to take because of that learning. Learning that God’s grace should be declared to all people, for example, should shift your budget priorities.

4. Keep your own end in mind. At some point, you will no longer be able to teach and remind the people you have now. It may be a move. It may be changes of life. It may be death. Whatever that change, realize that you cannot stir people up constantly. You must expect that shift to come.

In Nerdiness: 


1. Peter as author? There are some who think Peter is the author of 2 Peter but wasn’t of 1 Peter. They take the rougher language of 2 Peter (rough as in not smooth, not rough as in UPS) as evidence of this. I find it more likely that Silas helped him with the first letter but not with the second.

2. Note how the chapter wraps up talking about the “holy mountain” and the “utterance.” The best view on this would be the Mount of Transfiguration in Matthew 17.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Sermon Recap for June 21

Well, I seem to have fairly severe laryngitis. I didn’t stop for that though. In ten years of pastoring, I’ve never been too sick to preach. I may have been too sick to preach well, but that’s another story.

Morning Sermon: “Witnesses to the Light” John 1:6-8 (audio)

Evening Sermon: “Gather Reminders” Joshua 4 (audio)

Morning Outline:

Witness to the Light

John 1:6-8

I. Text and setting

     A. John was a witness to the Light

     B. He was not the light

     C. People hoped so much for a savior that they were willing to settle for John

     D. It fell on John to be clear about his limitations

II. Conceptually

     A. We are the Light of the World because of Jesus (Matthew 5:14)

     B. Witnesses describe what they know

     C. But are judged on credibility by their character

     D. There is only one light

III. Practically

     A. Know the Light: be one of Christ's

     B. Be credible: let your character match your Savior.

     C. Then it's time for the trials.

After all, that's where witnesses function, isn't it? Where they must be truthful?

Evening Outline:

Memories Joshua 4 June 21 PM

Joshua 4

1. Gather reminders
2. Prepare to teach children that did not see
     God does not always "repeat" what He does, and instead we must tell rather than them seeing
3. Hold the Ark, stay in obedience and remember

Drive people to ask questions; then answer them!

What do you do that specifically remembers the acts of God in your life?

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Book: Brain Savvy Leaders

BSL-181Leadership books are everywhere and have been for some time. They range from seriously deep to the farcical. It appears that everyone has a leadership theory, and so everyone has a book to write. The question for Charles Stone (D.Min, TEDS) is whether or not Brain Savvy Leaders rises above the clutter of the market.

First, let us examine his basic premise. Stone, who blogs extensively about the connection between neuroscience and ministry, tells the reader that the way the brain works is critical to understanding leadership. His premise is that ministry leadership should consider not only how their mind works but also the impact neuroscience has on their communication and their followers. I would note, positively, that Stone sticks with neuroscience as his term and not neurology—he is not a “neurologist” which is a medical specialty.

Along this path, Stone presents that we, as Bible believers, need not fear the science of the brain. After all, if the brain is part of how we are created, then learning about the brain furthers our understanding of how God made us. As we grow in that understanding, we are more equipped to work together.

From there, he goes on to present a mixture of Scripture and science, showing how the brain works and how that affects us spiritually. One of the more valuable sections deals with stress hormones and their overall effect on performance. To summarize, stress does have physiological effects on the brain which make it harder to make decisions. Even though we may feel like we make good decisions under stress, the truth is just the opposite. Cortisol is only your friend in crisis, and you need time to recover.

From a theological perspective, Stone’s analysis dovetails well with Scripture. He clearly recognizes the Bible as the top-line authority on what we do in ministry. This includes noting passages in the Psalms about rest and Proverbs about diligence, but tops out with the reminder that our purpose is to seek the Kingdom of God.

The concluding chapter provides a plan to implement Stone’s ideas. This practical addition moves the work of Brain Savvy Leaders from a theoretical exercise to a practical work. While this is not the first book I would hand to someone developing their leadership skills, it’s definitely a great “next-step” learning book.


Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Reflections on the Move Part 1

For those of you who don’t know it, our family recently moved. As in, 2 weeks ago today the big trucks rolled up and took everything away. We had lived among some of the best people we’ve known in Almyra for nearly five years. We left there owing many things to many people, from emotional debt to encouragement debt to the fact that I know (and still intend to repay) I still owe someone money. No, it’s not a gambling debt either.

We’re now in East End, Arkansas. Actually, we live in Landmark, Arkansas, though I’m fairly certain that doesn’t make us Landmark Baptists. The church we serve is in East End, creatively named East End Baptist. It’s from the time before groovy church plants like “The Verge” or the “Connexxion” or anything else.

The first reflection I want to make on the move, though, is this: it never gets easier. Ann and I have both moved a good bit in our lives. We’ve gone through relationship changes from it, and it doesn’t get easier.

In fact, that was one of the harder parts this time around. I’ve done this enough to know that half the people who you say (and even intend!) to keep in touch with, you won’t. Either we’ll drop the ball or they will. A few are guaranteed—I still have Eric’s truck, for example—but everyone else? It’s a toss-up.

The kids, though, don’t really understand that. Five years have covered a lot more of their lives, and they expect the “you’re always welcome here” statements to be true. They have no reason not to think that.

Here I sit, then, wondering how much cynicism I need to project onto my kids. We were in a good church, with a good church family, but given our Sunday commitments, it’s pretty unlikely we’ll be back during church. So what will we do?

We’ll do our best. We’ll keep communication open, encourage our kids to write letters and make phone calls. And keep encouraging them to make additional friends, not new friends. Additional friends enhance your life but don’t replace the ones you already have.

And for that, we remain grateful as we have additional friends and family in this community. Some we haven’t gotten to know yet. Some we’re just getting started with. But life is made full by the lives you encounter, the people God brings through your path. We’re committed to a full life in serving Him. So we look forward to the rest of this adventure.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Shepherds and Flocks: 1 Peter 5

In Summary:

Peter concludes his letter with some personal greetings (5:12-14), but not before giving final critical instructions. These open with a “therefore” in verse 1 as Peter charges the elders to shepherd well. In this section, we see the elders commanded to shepherd, and so is one place where we get the idea of “elders” as equivalent to “shepherds” in the church. “Shepherd” being a term that can also come into English as “pastor,” and we see this as addressing (partly) the responsibilities of pastors.

We’ll come back to that, though, in a moment. The next part of the chapter gives instruction to the younger men, which lends itself to understanding “elder men” in the earlier verses as those who are simply that, elder and more mature. The younger men are addressed as needing to move beyond their arrogance and worry, instructions that clearly should be followed by all of us.

Finally, Peter gives the general instruction to be of sober spirit with a warning about the adversary of God’s people. Fortunately, we are given the promise that the adversary will flee if we resist in faith. This should make it clear, though, that our suffering over things of this world is not guaranteed to go away—after all, we’d all resist that. Instead, resistance in faith supports our spiritual walk.

In Focus:

Let’s bring the focus back on the opening verses. Peter speaks to the elders about their actions in leading the church. For the sake of argument, we’ll stick with the idea that “elders” here speaks of a specific group of leaders in the church rather than just those who have been around the longest. I would suggest, though, that in a world where church participation is opposed culturally, legally, and traditionally, those who have been around a long time likely are the most committed and should be the leaders. Also, do not forget that Peter’s writing comes in a time where there would have been older believers who were actual witnesses of the life of Christ, which would even better qualify them for leadership.

That being said, take a look at the instructions to the elders. First, the ownership of the flock. It belongs to God, not to the elders. Likewise, fellow pastors, these are God’s people not ours. Our charge is to defend and feed—the Lord God will decide when it’s time to shear. Second, consider the the statement of “voluntarily” in our service. While there is something to the idea of calling, it remains that we could do something else. So we should dial down our “I sacrifice so much” jabber and work forward. Third, not “lording” it over. The Church of God has ONE Lord. It’s not your pastor. Even you, East End, the church I serve.

What has this to do with those who are not pastors? Quite simple: do not surrender to a pastor what belongs to God. And do not expect from a pastor what only God can do. Your pastor is not to lord things over you, but likewise you cannot expect him to solve every problem like a man with the power to enforce compliance. God’s people have to work together—don’t expect the pastor to save you. Jesus did that already.

In Practice:

1. Pastors, pray for your section of God’s flock and remember you are one of them. And feed them the Word of God.

2. People, pray for your section of God’s flock and your pastors. And feed on the Word of God so that you can recognize when your pastor is right and when he’s not.

In Nerdiness: 

Two things on the nerd side.

1. There is debate about whether or not “elders” and “pastors” are the same group in the church or not. This debate extends to whether or not any of these terms apply technically, that is referring to a specific group at all. They may simply apply to whoever is or does what the term means. There’s big debate on this. Grab a book or two and study up.

2. Note v. 12’s reference to writing through Silvanus. We’re fairly certain that this is Silas, and that Peter used him as a scribe for the letter. One question is how much Silas influenced the wording/structure of 1 Peter. Compare it to 2 Peter, for example. The other is how much Silas’ presence influence Peter in general.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Sermon Recap for June 14

Look! I’m on time this week! Bear with me while I straighten out a few last recording details. Quality should improve at points along the way.

Morning Sermon: Unconquerable Light: John 1:1-5 (direct audio)

Evening Sermon: Joshua 3 (direct audio)



1. Next week I should have outlines back in place.

2. Still working on camera options. We are using the built-in mic on the camera, so it picks up some noise.

3. Once I figure out how, I’ll see about putting these directly on the East End Baptist website, but that’s down the road a bit.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Sermon Recap from June 7

Yes, I’m running behind! Moving will do that to you.

Morning sermon: John 1:1 (direct audio)

Evening Sermon: Joshua 1:1-8 (direct audio)

I’m having some issues with the evening video—it should come up here soon:

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Multi-site churches interview

This past weekend, I was featured on a radio show talking about multi-site churches. First, here’s the link: Up for Debate Radio.

Why did I end up on a program with a guy from 9Marks, given that they’re famous and, well, I’m not? It came from this blog post that I wrote on SBCVoices.com about 6 years ago. I’ll reprint my part below.

What was interesting about this was that I wrote the blog post to help spur the debate, not really thinking positively about multi-site churches. I still think the better way, and the more Bible-driven way, is individual, interconnected local churches. That is, there ought to be a real, live person preaching/teaching in front of real, live people. Otherwise, the temptation to celebrity or unaccountable pastors is too great.

That does not mean, though, that I don’t think there is a value in a multi-campus ministry. here are two thoughts on that, both stemming from the ministry in Almyra that I have just moved from.

First, pastors don’t always stay in one place. Maybe we should, but we do see Timothy and Titus going as sent, and so forth. What becomes of a smaller membership church when their pastor leaves? (Realize that even if a pastor stays put for 40 years, he’s going to die or retire.) There is confusion, lack of leadership, and so forth. If a church served by one pastor was part of a network involving multiple locations and multiple pastors, the departure of one would be softened by allowing another trusted individual in the network to fill the gap for a time. This would also allow for extended mentoring for new ministers that is just not possible in the current Baptist system. The difference between “Youth Minister in Church of 200” and “Pastor of Church of 75” is too great.

Second, pastors do not possess all the skills needed in a church. Out in the rural areas, we’re well aware that a small church has nearly every problem that a large church does. We just only have one of them. One person with PTSD. One person with drug problems. One child with special needs. One couple needing marriage counseling. And we’re frequently far outside the effective radius of referring these folks to the “big city” for more help. We just don’t have the connections to the right counselors or therapists.

Yet being a connected campus of a larger church would allow a smaller church to meet those needs with Biblical guidance far better. One counseling-equipped minister could be known by multiple congregations, one special-needs specialist could help equip multiple groups. And so forth.

I think it is far easier to do multi-site badly, even hideously, than it is to do it well. And it is too often done to safeguard egos and make more money—after all, preaching to 2,000 pays more than 200—and there is no excuse for that.

Overall, though, I think there may be something more appropriate about using smaller, distributed facilities than building megachurches. But that may just be me.


Here’s my half of the old post. It was a debate post, and I had the “pro” side. In the six years since I wrote this, the model has spread more in the US than I imagined would happen.

Multi-Site Churches: Why They Are A Good Thing

I have found the recent decade or so of discussion and emphasis on church planting in Baptist life a fascinating one.  I thought that we Baptists had a natural church planting system.  When you get mad, you start another church.  This has created, especially in the South, Baptist churches on every corner. 

Is this a good thing?  I’m coming to the conclusion that perhaps it’s not.  Why?  Well, for any decision in the church today, we cannot simply choose based on our preferences.  As Baptists, we claim that our churches are driven by Scripture, not solely by human ideas.  So, let’s examine what solutions Scripture offers us.

First, we do not see in the Biblical record evidence that there existed multiple churches in one city.  Peter or Paul traveled, preached, but only established one church in the places they visited.  The epistles of the New Testament are addressed to the church at Rome, Ephesus, Corinth, and the like.  So, we see that, Biblically, there are no cases of multi-church cities.

Second, we do see in the Biblical record that, Paul especially, but Barnabas also (Acts 15:36-41) felt a continued responsibility for the churches they started.  What became the second missionary journey actually started out as a church checkup trip.  Paul continues impacting the churches he started through his letters and through his dispatch of leaders like Timothy and Titus.

Finally, we have the example of Old Testament Judaism.  Although the exile led to the development of local synagogues, the initial structure of worship involved the central sanctuary of the Tabernacle and then the Temple.  While the Levites were spread throughout Israel, worship was centralized, first at Shiloh and later at Jerusalem. (Deuteronomy 18:1-8; 1 Samuel  1; 2 Samuel 6)

What does this mean for us?  After all, we have neither apostles nor Levites; we do not live in the Roman Empire.  How do we use these ideas in our days?  I see these Biblical examples as supporting the use of multi-site churches. 

A multi-site church is, essentially, a church that chooses to meet in multiple locations, generally, at the same time.  Preaching and sometimes music are simulcast or video delivered to the locations where the preacher is not.  Sometimes this setup is established in a church planting situation, sometimes it comes out of the intentional choice of existing churches.  While this setup has not spread like wildfire in America, it is becoming more known and more often, at the least, considered.

How do these Biblical examples support this idea? In these ways:

0.      The early church recognized the need for a central point of authority and direction for all believers.  This is best visible in Acts 15, but is also noticeable in the epistles of Paul.  After all, what do you think he’s doing when he writes to the Corinthians about church order? He is, while preaching elsewhere, trying to direct the affairs of another church.  There, we see that being on the scene is not crucial to knowing God’s intention for the situation.

0.      The utilization of one complete church in each city or basic area supported by the gifts and giving of its members.  Again, we see Paul write the Romans that there are many types of gifts (Romans 12:3-8) that should work together and 1 Corinthians 12 is our classic example of how the body operates through its diversity of parts, just as the Body of Christ ought.  By developing one church, without boundaries, that church would have the completed body at work.

0.      Various church teachers and leaders have differing specialties.  Some are gifted with marriage enrichment, some with various age groups, some with financial teaching, and others with parenting teaching.  Rather than developing a church on this side of town being strong with youth, and the church on that side good with senior adults, and thus dividing the body by age, the whole body can benefit from the skills and talents of all available teachers in the area.

0.      A word is due about the Great Commission in Matthew 28:16-20 and the command to make disciples of “all the nations.”  Unfortunately, within America, we still retain a highly segregated approach to our church activities and services.  A multi-site church should not, in ideal, focus only on one neighborhood or cultural group.  

0.      A word is also due about finding Biblically qualified leadership.  A debate could be had over the instruction that an “elder” be “the husband of one wife” in 1 Timothy 3:2.  Assuming it means non-divorced, our culture is leading to a rapid decline in the available pool of Biblically qualified elders.  Add to this the additional qualifications of managing a household well, being able to teach, and being self-controlled, and it’s actually remarkable that we can find enough pastors to fill the pulpits we have now.  By developing multi-site churches, the need to find excellent Biblically qualified leadership increases, but the number of positions to fill decreases, making it more feasible to fill those roles.

0.      A final word should be said about the pragmatics of the situation.  How many church buildings and administrative structures do we need to support?  While there are different costs related to the multi-site church, more study would be needed to determine whether this is a help or a drawback, it certainly bears consideration.  While there is no Scripture that flat denies using a multi-site church, there are certainly Biblical considerations of stewardship that matter here.

In all, I do not see a Biblical reason to avoid the multi-site church, and believe it is a good option as we go forward, seeking to spread the Gospel throughout the world.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Sermon Recap for May 31

Good morning! Here are yesterday's sermons;

Morning sermon: 1 Kings 18 (audio)

1 Kings 18: Five People

I. Ahab
     1. Does not recognize his faults
     2. Does not recognize the truth--returns to eating and drinking!
II. Elijah
     1. Knows the problem
     2. Does not know the breadth of God's people
III. Obadiah
     1. Serves the people and the king and the Lord God
     2. Who is his master? He greets Elijah as such, but Elijah refers to Ahab as his master
IV. The Prophets of Ba'al
     1. Fools. Damned fools, in the literal sense
     2. Mistake passion for truth
V. The people of Israel
     1. Floating, wavering

     2. Time to stop.

Evening Sermon: Jude (audio)

Thank you, Almyra Baptist, for allowing me the privilege to be your pastor.

Historical Thinking for June 18 2024

 So, one of the things that has me struggling with blogging for the last, oh, 3 or 4 years is that I am supposed to be writing a dissertatio...