Monday, July 27, 2009

Hillsboro Family Camp

We're in Hillsboro, Ohio for Family Camp. Can't stay all week, but we came down tonight and heard Ray Bennett and Matt Proctor. Ray is a friend and one of my faves (I remember hearing him at my first Family Camp -- I had never heard preaching like that before. Wow!). I've heard Matt Proctor twice in the last month. He's very good. I have a lot of fond memories of Family Camp. When I was a newbie preacher, Hillsboro had a huge impact on me. It's good to be here if even for a short time. Looking forward to tomorrow.

Saturday, July 25, 2009


So I finally caved and decided to try Twitter. See link on sidebar to follow me on Twitter. I have no idea what I'm doing, so any advice from you Twitterers would be appreciated.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Matter of Interpretation

Here's my latest article for reIGNITED:

One of the principles that our Restoration Movement forefathers like Alexander Campbell put forth was the concept of “individual private interpretation.” This is the idea that the Bible can be understood by the average person. The concept did not originate with Campbell. Reformers like Martin Luther and Bible translators like John Wycliffe, John Hus, and William Tyndale believed that people should be permitted to read the Bible in their own language. This ran counter to the belief that the Bible should only be read and taught by learned scholars and/or members of the clergy.

Campbell believed that it is the duty of each Christian to honestly and diligently study the word of God with the best helps available, and to walk in the light of divine truth as God gives him the ability to see that light. He insisted on the individual’s right to interpret Scripture. In his debate with John Walker, he complained about clergy who did not trust the laity to do this correctly. He said, “Go home and read your Bibles; examine the testimony of those holy oracles, and judge for yourselves, and be not implicit followers of the clergy.” Campbell (and Barton W. Stone) had a strong faith in the ability of lay people to read, interpret, and understand the Bible properly. The New Testament gives an example of people who verified the words of the preacher by checking the Word of God. “Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true” (Acts 17:11 NIV).

There are some inherent dangers with the idea that each person can interpret the Bible for himself or herself. On several occasions, as I have been talking to people about the Bible, they have dismissed differences with the statement, “Well, it’s all a matter of interpretation.” Their basis for this assertion is that all interpretations of Scripture are equally valid. Common sense tells us that this cannot possibly be true. Another example is the Small Group Bible Study or Sunday School class that reads a passage of Scripture followed by the leader asking, “What does this passage mean to you?” This generally results in numerous and widely diverse responses that often have little relevance to the text. A more pertinent and appropriate question is, “What did this mean to God?” or “What does the Lord want me to do?”

The privilege of reading the Scripture cannot be separated from the responsibility of using sound principles of hermeneutics (i.e. the science of interpreting the Bible correctly). Members of Restoration Movement churches were once known as “the people of the Book.” Wouldn’t it be great to see that reputation restored? The admonition that the apostle Paul gave to young Timothy seems just as fitting now as it was in the first century: “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15 NIV).

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Faithful Christians

The last few posts have lamented the fact that there are believers who don't quite "get it" when it comes to being true disciples of Jesus. While there have been Vampire Christians, AA Christians, and Peter Pan Christians in every generation; there are also Faithful Christians -- people who love the Lord with heart, soul, mind, and strength. These are the folks who keep the church going and keep the preacher pumped up about ministry. These are people want to use their giftedness and calling for the building up of the Kingdom of God. The New Testament lists people like Barnabas and Lydia and Onesiphorus - faithful Christians. In nearly every epistle, the Apostle Paul commends people like this.

I'm so thankful that there have always been these people in my ministry. Folks who have prayed for me and encouraged me and ministered with me. People who have the joy of the Lord in their lives. Preacher, don't take these folks for granted. Appreciate their faithfulness to the Lord.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Peter Pan Christians

Several years ago I heard a guy preach about Christians who are afflicted with the "Peter Pan Syndrome." You remember Peter Pan -- he never grew up. Too many believers fall into this category. While it may have been 20 or 30 years since they were saved, they do not have the maturity of a 20 or 30 year old Christian. The reality is that they have been a Christian for one year, 20 or 30 times.

This is nothing new.

Paul addressed it with the church at Corinth: "But I, brothers,could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?" 1 Corinthians 3:1-3

The Hebrew writer chastised his readers for the same thing: "For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity..." Hebrews 5:12-6:1

What do you do with Peter Pan Christians? How do you help them grow up?>

Friday, July 10, 2009

AA Christians

Yesterday I blogged about Vampire Christians (i.e. those who are only interested in Jesus’ blood – salvation). Shortly afterwards I was listening to a sermon by Patrick Mead in which he spoke of AA Christians. He meant those who judge their spirituality by Attendance and Abstinence. The idea that if I attend services regularly and abstain from certain “big sins”, then I’m a “good Christian.” Mead asked, “Is that really why you were given the Holy Spirit? So you could be a moderately good citizen?” Ouch!

Our church staff has been discussing this. I am reluctantly having to admit that it isn’t 1979 anymore, and the church landscape has changed. My life experience has been that life revolved around the Lord and His church. And good Christians planned their lives/schedules accordingly. Christ and the church were a high priority. My experience differs from some folks I have known. Whereas they were threatened with, “You’d better attend church and behave a certain way or you are in danger of hellfire”; I was brought up with the attitude, “Why wouldn’t a person want to do this? Christianity is great. The Lord is good. Service is simply something that believers do.”

I’m not sure that world exists anymore. This is the challenge for the suburban church. Busy lives. Crowded schedules. Relatively happy and secure people who are simply “adding Jesus” to their seemingly good lives. Consequently, church leaders are finding that the level of commitment is not what is was in previous generations. At least it seems that way. I feel the tension between the desire to “raise the bar of discipleship” while at the same time trying to reach as many as possible. How many times can a guy say, “Bless your heart, Jesus went to the cross and you can’t even get your butt out of bed to come to the church work day!”? Okay, I haven’t said it publically. Quite like that. Yet.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Vampire Christians

Recently I came across the term “Vampire Christians” – (I think it was Dallas Willard who coined the phrase). Erwin McManus put it like this, “The entire focus of our faith has been the elimination of sin, which is important but inadequate; rather than the unleashing of a unique, original, extraordinary, wonderfully untamed, faith.” Vampire Christians are people who are only interested in Jesus for His blood, but not for life change. One in effect says to Jesus: “I’d like a little of your blood, please. But I don’t care to be your student or have your character. In fact, won’t you just excuse me while I get on with my life, and I’ll see you in heaven.”

Church, we have to do better than this. Because you know what vampires do best? They suck.

Friday, July 03, 2009

NACC: Day Four

Things wrap up this morning. I'm going to Dr. Cottrell's workshop again.

Last night's session was terrific. Matt Proctor, President of Ozark Christian College preached an outstanding message (by far, the best one of the week). The night ended with a concert by Casting Crowns. Wow! One of the things I observed was that several "Senior Saints" stayed for the concert. I don't know if they knew what they were getting into; surely it wasn't their favorite style, but I admire them for being there and for staying for the duration. Casting Crowns rocked! It was LOUD (especially by older folks' standards), but they stayed. They must have appreciated the lyrics and the fact that so many young people were worshiping Jesus. And I think some of them actually liked it. "Lord, when I am old, give me that same spirit."

Thursday, July 02, 2009

NACC: Day Three

The day began with a Bible Study led by Dr. Jack Cottrell. It was good to hear my old Prof. again. Later, I heard Dr. Johnny Pressley do a workshop about the Lord's Supper. It was excellent. The only disappointment was hearing the morning speaker talk about people coming down the aisles at his church and "praying to receive Christ." I know the brotherhood is diverse and the NACC is supposed to be a "big tent." But where do they find these guys from "our churches" who have sold out on the plan of salvation? It makes me so angry that it would be unwise to put my feelings into words (put I would include: spineless, capitulating, fence-straddling, compromising, limp-wristed, gutless, etc.). I wish Dr. Cottrell's workshop tomorrow could be presented from the main stage: Saved by Grace, Saved in Baptism. Some of us still believe it.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

NACC: Day Two

I'm skipping the afternoon workshops to work on Sunday's sermon (and to update my blog).

I remember my first NACC from a few years ago (other than the one I attended when I was 10). I was like a 12-year-old kid at the MLB All-Star Game: “There’s Ben Merold. And there’s Bob Russell. And I think that’s E. Ray “Cotton” Jones and Wayne Smith.” Even we preachers can get a little star-struck sometimes. Even in my forties, I can be somewhat intimidated by the brotherhood “biggies.” But they are simply men:

What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.
1 Corinthian 3:5-7

NACC: Day One

We arrived safely in Louisville, checked into our room, and scoped out the downtown area for awhile before going to the evening session. The worship was outstanding! There's just something about thousand of people praising the name of Jesus -- a preview of Heaven. Jeff Stone did a good job preaching about grace. Afterwards, we strolled through the display area and connected with several old friends. We're looking forward to another great day today.