This may not come as a surprise to you, but being a parent of three kids under 4 years old comes with many challenges. The ceaseless questions, cries for snacks, and skinned knees require constant attention! One challenge we are currently facing is our son’s out-of-whack sleep schedule. He doesn’t have a problem with going to bed. He’s actually a pro at falling asleep quickly and on time. The main issue is that he likes to wake up REALLY early. No matter what time we put him down for bed, he is up the next morning before everyone else, screaming for mommy and daddy to come get him.
After several mornings of waking up before the sun, I started researching sleeping patterns to uncover the reason for my son’s early wake-up routine… and you know how searching for answers on the internet goes. I got dragged down the rabbit hole of endless medical articles that led me to discover some interesting facts about the human body’s smallest organ: the pineal gland.
This tiny organ (measuring at less than ¼ of an inch) has a big job, and that job is to produce melatonin, the hormone that helps us sleep. Without the help of this little organ, we would be restless, drowsy, and struggle to adapt to the changing seasons. These random facts led to a profound insight… not about my son’s sleeping habits… but about the future of the church.
In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul uses the human body as an analogy of the church. Just as the body is made of different parts, so too, is the church made of different people with different gifts. Paul uses this analogy to confront lies that had crept into the church at Corinth. Many of these members saw themselves as more important than others, because they had greater social status or spiritual gifting that was deemed more significant and valuable. Paul corrects this misunderstanding through his comparison of the church and the body. Every single part of the human body is needed for it to thrive, no matter how small a part might be. The brain and heart are major players no doubt, but if they are detached from the other members, there isn’t much they can do. Thus, every member of the body is needed, even ones as small as ¼ of an inch.
The church is beautifully unique in the same way. It is made up of different people with different gifts, abilities, personalities, and skills. This diversity is by design. God has placed specific members within specific churches to fill specific needs at specific times in specific communities. This means that every member in a local church is indispensable, because they fulfill a particular role that no one else can. By the Spirit, each member is equipped with spiritual gifts to build up the church and empowered by His presence to proclaim Christ to the world. If members are refused opportunities to serve the church, it not only creates division but it can also lead to decline. After all, if an organ stopped functioning, it would lead the body to shut down. In the same way, if members of Christ’s body aren’t given space to function as God designed, then the church is causing itself to shut down.
As a person whose work focuses on child discipleship, I am led to wonder how this truth might change the way we view children in the church. If every person who puts their faith in Christ is indwelt by the Spirit, equipped with spiritual gifts, and empowered to proclaim the gospel, then why are children often treated as exceptions to these truths? Paul makes it clear that every member of the body of Christ drinks from and lives out of the same Spirit. This means that every member, no matter how small, has the same calling to build up the church and advance the gospel.
If members of Christ’s body aren’t given space to function as God designed, then the church is causing itself to shut down.
With that being said, let me ask you, “Do the children in your church serve the body in meaningful ways?” Oftentimes, children are seen as people to watch, teach and control, but if they are believers in your church, then they are much more than babies to be sat. They are fellow members that God has placed in your church to fill specific needs at this specific time. If they are refused opportunities to serve due to their age, size, or ability, then a portion of the body isn’t functioning in the way it was designed to serve, which can lead to decline.
This may sound intense, but think back to the pineal gland I mentioned earlier. It’s the smallest organ in the body but, despite its size, is invaluable to the function of the body. Without it, we would be restless, have disrupted memory, and suffer damaged vision.
When it comes to the body of Christ, I wonder how many churches find themselves restless, because they have denied the service of their smallest members. I wonder how many have disrupted memories of Christ’s faithfulness, because they have forgotten the important place children hold in their congregation. I wonder how many have damaged the vision of their church, because their littlest members aren’t seen as co-laborers in the gospel.
I know these are heavy questions, but if we take Paul’s words seriously, then we need to consider how we can encourage the entire body to serve in meaningful ways. This doesn’t mean that every member needs to teach, preach, or sing, but it does mean that every member should be given opportunities to serve within their specific gifting. How can you know which service opportunities best match a person’s gifting? Well, it starts by getting to know them. Discovering their passions, interests, and talents and connecting these things to the needs within your church. Do you have a child that is a people person? Let him be a greeter. Do you have a boy who is talkative? Have him give announcements. Do you have a girl that loves to read? Let her read an opening prayer at the start of the service. Do you have children that are crafty? Encourage them to use their craftiness to make gifts for the shut-ins at your church.
The list could go on and on, but here’s the point: thriving churches call every member of the body to serve regularly. This may seem difficult with your church’s current structure, but don’t be discouraged. Slight changes in the layout and times of a church service can make all the difference in creating space for others to serve. I know the word “change” can be scary, but little changes often lead the body (both the human body and the body of Christ) to growth and wellness. When we see the church as a body to serve rather than a service to attend, we will make the changes needed to function in healthy ways for the glory of God.
Thriving churches call every member of the body to serve regularly.
While I may not have found a remedy for my son’s sleeping issues, I think I may have gained an insight into the decline taking place within the church of America. With 6,000-10,000 churches closing a year and 50-60% of youth departing the church after graduation, I think we can all agree that there’s a problem. We could contribute the decline taking place to a variety of issues such as the pandemic, cultural changes, or persecution, but Jesus promised that hell’s weapons wouldn’t prevail against His church. If that is the case, then maybe much of the struggle and decline being experienced isn’t due to anything happening outside the church but within it. This isn’t to say pandemic and persecution aren’t contributing factors, but if the Lord of Lords is the head of the church, then it can’t be defeated… unless the body itself fails to represent its King.
Again, I’m not saying that churches haven’t had it unusually hard in the past few years, and I’m not saying there aren’t any churches who haven’t sought to be faithful during this time. What I am saying is that one of biggest helps to the church might be found within its smallest members. Because serving children and allowing them to serve not only leads to a healthy church today, but it builds strong bones for the body of Christ in the future. What if the way for churches to grow up is to look down, and what if the way forward requires stepping back in humility to see God work through unlikely people in extraordinary ways? If an organ that is a 1/3 of an inch long can make such a drastic difference in our bodies, then maybe a child, 1/3 the size of an adult, can make a difference in the body of Christ.
Like I said, I don’t know why my son keeps waking up early, and I may never discover the reason. One thing I do know for sure is that God has used waking children in the past to accomplish some pretty powerful things. What if God is using children today to wake up His church? It would be a shame to keep sleeping and miss it.
Regardless of your personal feelings, denominational traditions, what someone might have told you, or what our chaotic culture has to say, the Bible (God’s Holy Word) is crystal clear: Women may not be pastors. To be clear, they may not hold the title of pastor or exercise the duties of a pastor. They may not wield any sort of pastoral authority, influence, or impact in the church of God…Cue the enraged shrills of Satan and his seedlings! But no matter what you think or feel, the Bible is clear, women may not be pastors…
From the pastoral epistle, 1 Timothy 2:11-15, “Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.” Offended? Mad as ever? Friend, you’re enraged against your Maker, not me…Women may not be pastors.
And then in 1 Timothy 3:1-7, “The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer [pastor], HE desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the HUSBAND of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. HE must manage HIS own household well, with all dignity keeping HIS children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage HIS own household, how will HE care for God’s church? HE must not be a recent convert, or HE may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, HE must be well thought of by outsiders, so that HE may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.” Notice it is only MALE pronouns that are used in this list of qualifications for a pastor. Don’t like that? Want to try to bypass the clarity of Scripture with your cultural gymnastics? Go ahead, but God’s Word is clear…Women may not be pastors.
With these Scriptures in mind, this is how I describe the situation to my lovely daughters…”Can Daddy give birth to children? The answer is no. Only Mommy can have children. Does that mean Mommy is better or more gifted than Daddy? The answer is no. It just means that in God’s good design, only Mommy can birth children, not Daddy. In the same way, only men can be pastors, not women. Does that mean men are better or more gifted than women? No! It just means in God’s good design, only men can be pastors, not women.”
And lest you think I’m a chauvinistic, male-power-hungry pig, just check out my wife and children. See how joyful and content they are! Notice the women of Prairie Flower Baptist Church. Notice how joyful and content they are! The beautiful evidence of biblical, properly administrated male eldership speaks for itself. But rage, rage, rage all you want…We’re ready for battle.
This past week, a senior saint passed into glory. His name was Milo Luers. Now I did not know Milo for very long. I first met him in February of 2019 when my family had come to our church to candidate for the associate pastor position I now hold. I had quoted a verse in the lesson that I had taught and Milo had recognized that I had quoted a passage out of the New King James Translation. He relayed to me that this was his favorite translation and that he appreciated my use of it. Though Milo had his preferences as we all do, I never experienced any negative feedback. In fact I never saw Milo with anything but a smile on his face. I for one can say he was nothing but a joy to be around.
Around January of 2020, Milo became somewhat of a shut-in. That winter the flu was running rampant and it was not a mild strain either. He decided to lay low for a couple months until spring came. Little did any of us know what events were about to transpire in the world at large. On March 15th 2020 we held our last church service before the main shutdowns. Like everyone else, we did not know exactly how the Covid-19 Pandemic was going to play out. Milo became a permanent shut-in at that point. As pastors, we did our best to try to shepherd our flock in those weeks that we were not meeting. Essentially, everyone became a shut-in for a short while. Once we started to come out of the lockdowns, it took a little bit for everyone to figure out the boundaries that each person was comfortable with. This caused some things to slip between the cracks that should not have.
It was probably in the fall of 2020 that I realized that Milo had fallen off my radar. I began to get updates from his family members on how he was doing. I kept telling myself that I needed to go pay him a visit. To my shame, I never seemed to make time to make that happen. The regular routines of ministry and life distracted me from connecting with this senior saint. And so the months stretched on.
In the late summer of 2021, Milo contracted Covid himself. Even in his older years everyone who knew him noted his remarkable vitality. He kept his independence far longer than most people his age. After he contracted Covid, though he recovered from the virus, he never really recovered his old strength. Soon after he moved in with his son Edwin. Now I could write paragraphs about the love, attention, and care that Edwin and his dear wife Rita gave to Milo. Suffice it to say that they were an amazing example of the way children should love and honor their parents even when they are grandparents themselves. I hope that I would be able to have a fraction of the patience to do the same for my parents when the need arrives.
I began to see less and less of Edwin and Rita as one of them always had to stay home with Milo. They would alternate Sundays and could rarely attend service together as they used to. When I would converse with them, I realized that they were exhausted from this extra burden but they never, ever complained. It was at this time that I had neglected my duty as Milo’s pastor for far to long. I went out to meet and talk with Milo who was completely bed ridden at this point. Now I will admit that I felt some awkwardness about what to talk about with this gentleman. I quickly realized though that this senior saint was facing the fight of his life. Not that he was holding on to dear life. He wasn’t. He relayed to me that he was ready to go home to be with his Lord, over and over again. I began visiting Milo every week from then on. I realized that I needed to be with him in his fight to wait patiently for the Lord’s timing. Instead of beginning the conversation with a “how are you feeling?” I would ask him about how the harvest was progressing. He was always ready to discuss his lifelong passion, farming. He told me all about how he had begun farming from a very young age. How God had blessed him and his family. I indeed would remind him of the wonderful things his children, grandchildren, and even great grandchildren were doing for God. How they were faithfully attending and serving in the church.
I would always end my visit with a request. I asked Milo if I could read some Scripture with him. He would always respond with a smile and the reply; “I wish you would!” I would then switch from my normal ESV to the NKJV and read passages like Romans Chapter 8 that say that the suffering of this present time will seem like nothing compared to the glory to come. Or 1 Corinthians 15, that speak of our resurrected body. After reading to Milo, I would then say, “can I pray with you?” He would again reply; “I wish you would!” We would then go to our Father’s throne and request strength for Milo’s remaining battle, we would intercede for our church, we would pray for his children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. I would then leave and be reminded about eternity. I’m so thankful to have an example like Milo. He would never claim to be a perfect man. I however have a great deal of respect for the legacy he left behind in his commitment to his church, his family, and in the godly people he influenced throughout his life.
For my last visit with Milo, I decided to bring my guitar with me. Though I did not know it would be my last visit on this side of glory, I always went in with the expectation that it could be. When I interacted with Milo he was particularly weak. I could tell that he did not have long on this earth. I sang “How Great Thou Art,” and “It Is Well With My Soul.” I am told that when Milo was healthy, one of his favorite things to do was to sing the old hymns with his church family. It was hard to hold back to the tears when I sang “When I shall think, that God his Son not sparing, sent him to die, I scarce can take it in, that on that Cross, my burden gladly bearing, He bled and died to take away my sin.” How can you not be vividly reminded of the hope of the Gospel, when you sit next to a believer on their death bed? It is a powerful thing. We are so easily distracted by the busyness of life that we often forget that our only hope in life and death is Christ alone. Though Milo loved the old hymns so well, I thought I would venture to include a newer hymn and sing it to him. It is titled “Christ our hope in life and death.” If you don’t know it, I would strongly encourage you to listen to it. That song reminds us of the most important things of our faith.
After I was done singing to him, Milo responded in a faint voice that I could barely hear. He said, “you lied to us.” Confused I asked him what he meant. He said that when I candidated at the church, I had said that I didn’t have any real musical ability. I had to smile. Of course he would remember that from over two years before. I would still hold to the fact that I am not a good musician but I am thankful that I was able to use music one last time, to encourage this man with the truth of his hope and of his Savior.
Milo went home to be with the Lord this last Sunday. Even as I think about the this I am tearing up with joy to know that his prayers have been answered and his suffering is gone. He is singing again in a voice more beautiful than any on earth. And though he is gone, he left behind some of the biggest blessings in my life, in his descendants who are some of my dearest fellow workers in the ministry. May I leave a legacy as rich as what he left behind. May we all love God and teach our children to love him as well.
Time flies. Next week, on Wednesday, Nov. 10, I will celebrate my eighth year as the Lead Pastor of Prairie Flower Baptist Church and enter into my ninth year of ministry. When I accepted the pastorate out here on the prairie, I said, “I promise to love you and lead you.” I am more committed than ever to loving and leading this incredible congregation here in southeast Iowa. For better or for worse, I’m here. I’m committed. I’m ready, by God’s grace and strength, for another year of life and ministry.
However, as I type this report out, I have such schizophrenic feelings. So much good is happening in our church family! Our church services are full of people hungry to hear the Word of God, Growth Groups is in full swing, our kids’ ministries are dynamic and exciting, and our building improvements have been nothing short of amazing. Indeed, with a pavilion project and sanctuary renovation project behind us, we are currently in the throes of a new siding project and a new church sign project. Exciting stuff! God is truly better to us than we deserve. On top of these things, several of us on the Leadership Team are engaged in a leadership development program called the Leadership Journey and we’re learning so much from the Word that will sharpen us as leaders in the home, church, and community. Time fails for me to fully explain all our plans for a South Africa Missions Trip in March of 2022, our Pastoral Internship Program for the Summer of 2022, and our ongoing Church Constitution Initiative. See what I mean?! So many good things are happening out here on the prairie!
But at the same time, the world, the flesh, and the Devil continue to make their dark and sinister advances. Yes, sin and selfishness are always percolating, even out here on the prairie, trying desperately to overtake our people with sweet lies of joy, peace, and freedom in living life independently of God and His Word. Indeed, some of our folks are so disconnected from the body that their drowning in the deep, icy, shark-infested waters of sin and selfishness. I fear for them. I pray for them. I’m pleading with them to take our hand, trust the promises of God, and take the narrow path towards true joy, peace, and freedom. At some of them, I’ve literally shouted, “You’re in deep sin. Watch out! ‘Sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.'” Some listen and humbly repent and make the bend towards change. Others scoff and say, “No. I hear you and I know you’re simply doing your job, but I’m not going to listen. I’m not going to change.” In fact, just recently, I wept in the home of a man who kicked me out of his home after he confessed to sexual immorality and a deep desire to continue in it. As I turned to leave, I read from 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteous.” His response? “I know I’m in sin. I know that I’m not following Christ. But I’m not going to change.” Tears streamed from my face as my body began to shake…See what I mean? There are truly some sad things happening out here on the prairie…
But we continue on. We trust our sovereign Christ. We remain committed to Scriptural truth. We fight our feelings with facts. We love on sinners. We offer the forgiveness of Jesus. And we always say, “I love you”, even as some people we say it to are ripping our hearts from our chest cavities. And then, we scarf down some food, work out, hit the sack, and then get back up to fight another day. Indeed, life and ministry is war. It’s a battle. It’s a fight. So, strap your armor of light on and beat back the darkness by representing truth, wisdom, and the beauty of grace amidst ashes. This is what we do as Christians, whether in the big city of Des Moines, IA or out in the rural prairie land of Washington, IA.
So, yeah, yay for another year of life and ministry. Cheers to year eight being done; and may God bless the ninth year in front of me. I usually give a list of lessons learned, but “ain’t nobody got time for that.” I got to get back to work. I got to get back to the fight. And so should you. Tired? We’re all tired. Need a break? We all need a break. Just keep going and let me encourage you…Mount up, shout truth, and try to enjoy the ride…To God be the glory.
A lot of ink has been spilled in the church world around this idea of discipleship, and for good reason too. After all this was our Lord’s final admonition to his disciples, that they should make disciples. If fact in Matthew 28:19-20, Jesus says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” I want underline that word “Teaching.” We are to make disciples by teaching. As someone focused on discipleship and especially as a pastor, it’s easy to consider Sunday school, Youth Group, Sunday morning church, and numerous other Bible study venues as the place we do that teaching. All of those things are great tools for teaching what Jesus commanded us to teach, but some of the most effective opportunities come in the most surprising of forms.
Every Thursday our church’s secretary/custodian comes to do her assigned work. Along with her she brings her four children with ages varying from 10-17. This provides me with the unique opportunity to spend time with these young people on an extra day each week that I would not normally get to do. Now I’m sure that most pastors have certain days that they get interrupted more than most. These interruptions can be frustrating when you have a long list of work that needs to be done. But as our lead pastor will frequently say, “interruptions are the ministry.” I would whole-heartedly agree with him. As stated above, its easy to consider your regular teaching times on Sundays and Wednesdays to be the appropriate time for discipleship. If we think though that this is the case we will miss out on some of the choicest times that can be presented to us. Take today for instance. I have a long list of things I needed to accomplish today. As I was retrieving an item from the printer, I noticed the secretary’s 10 year old son working on multiplication tables near the printer. I could have continued on with my task as I would most days, but today I stopped to comment on what he was doing. He said “my mom is making me do this because I didn’t finish this at home.” I proceeded to ask him if he had any tricks for these multiplying numbers like this. He then showed me the unique method he used for multiplying by eleven. I was then sucked down a rabbit hole and began exploring with him new ways to multiply by eleven. His demeanor quickly changed from annoyance and frustration at his school and he became excited and interested in this activity. I was excited for a very different reason. See unlike his 3 older siblings, I have struggled to connect with him and therefore he was never really interested in the things I try to share with him. This very random and simple connect over math problems was the very thing that allowed me to connect with him on a personal level that I believe God will use for him to be able to hear wisdom from me in the future.
You see often times its not about the content of your message but about the relationships with the person you are trying to reach. So many of us truly desire to disciple and be discipled but we struggle to find others who have the time or desire to carry out that mission. Many of us will make time for that on Sundays, but how many of us are intentionally doing this throughout the week. I could easily have ignored this kid and gone on about my day completing my “important” tasks, but this time for whatever reason, God caused me to stop and enter into his world for just a few moments. I wish you could see the excitement of this young man as we worked together to figure out his math problems. In fact, later on that day his dad stopped by to bring him home, he had to be pulled away from my desk. I was thankful that I could get back to work but more thankful that God had given me this connection point.
Two real quick application thoughts. Number one, make time to have those basic every day connections with the people God has brought around you. I get it, you are busy. You have a million things to get done and cannot get distracted by everyone along the way. However, you may be struggling to connect with the people you want to connect with or that God wants you to connect with because you are so busy with the other things. People are usually not lining up to “be discipled or disciple you.” You have to be opportunistic with these moments. Secondly, if you are a parent, try to set your children up to be discipled by you and others in the church who will play a vital role in building up their faith. Most parents want the most for their kids and therefore try to put them in so many things so they have all kinds of opportunities. More often than not, these activities are the very things that prevent them from receiving what God would have for them. You have to teach them how to say no to good things for the sake of great things. God does not care how good an athlete, musician, or student your child is. He desires their heart. And if all of those good things are drawing their heart away from God, than its time to lay them down for the sake of the greatest thing, God himself.
In nearly a decade of pastoral ministry, I have heard it all in terms of why people don’t go to church. “I have to work.” “I’m sick.” “Covid.” The list of excuses that people generate for why they habitually skip out on a church service is nearly endless. Like the gushing waters of Niagara Falls, the excuses keep coming and coming and coming.
I’ve called church members who have missed months (even years!) of church, and the excuses pour forth. I’ve invited dear friends to a special event or program at church, and the excuses are many. As a local church, we’ve helped and counseled countless folks in our community with their bad marriages, addictions, and child rearing problems, hearing afterward that they’re so grateful and will be attending our awesome church. “We’ll be there this Sunday!”, they say quickly and with great excitement, but the following Sunday, they’re a no show. Gone. Absent. Not there.
And the excuses keep coming. “Oh, I forgot!” “I overslept.” “I’ll be there next Sunday!” As a church, we call, text, and visit in order to reach out and love on such people. And do you know what’s interesting? People tend to have no problem spending an hour or two at a coffee shop just shooting the breeze with us…People have no problem going to some church outreach event where hot dogs and burgers are being grilled…But an hour and fifteen minute church service (where we sing the truth, hear the truth, and try to live out the truth) is seemingly untenable to some of these folks. They kinda, sorta want to be there. But they’re not there.
I think the answer is drastically simple. THEY don’t go to church because THEY don’t want to go to church. Perhaps, as you read this short blog, this describes you. Let me be clear, gentle, and blunt. YOU don’t go to church because YOU don’t want to go to church. It’s really that simple. We all have the same amount of hours in a given week. 168 hours. In general, we choose how to use these precious few hours. Out of your 168 hours in a given week, a local church service will cost you between 1-2 hours a week. But the excuses keep coming and coming and coming…
Now, certainly, there are legitimate reasons to miss a church service. Sometimes we have to work. Sometimes we get sick. Sometimes covid is a real and deadly concern. I get it. There are legitimate reasons to miss church. But for anyone who habitually misses church, they need to seriously evaluate their hearts and lives, especially if they’re unable to attend church for an extended period of time (with a legitimate reason), but they’re not even tuning in online, or reading their Bible, or keeping up with their prayer life.
Friends, if you call yourself a Christian, but you don’t go to church, something is off and very wrong. Do you know there is not one single account in the New Testament of a Christian who wasn’t connected to a local church? Not one instance of such a “Christian”…Not one. Research for yourself…To be a true believer in Jesus Christ is to love the Bride of Jesus Christ, the Church. Do you love Jesus, but disdain His Bride, the Church? What does you church attendance say to this question?
So, will you miss church this week? What’s your excuse? As you grab your go bag of excuses, let me remind you of the Bible…Hebrews 10:24-25, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” So, will you miss church this Sunday? What’s your excuse this time? I would kindly ask you to drop the excuses…But the choice is yours.
I’ve been in pastoral ministry for nearly 8 years. During that time frame, I have encountered so many different people with a variety of different perspectives. Indeed, different is not always bad. Sometimes different is just different; and that’s ok. But when it comes to church attendance, I have noticed that, in general, there are four very different types of church attenders. I like to think of these people as follows:
Church attenders who treat the local church like a grocery store. These types of people are always shopping for the best deal for themselves, and especially their kids. These folks are highly uncommitted and fear joining any church because…”What if the church goes bad?” And “I want to keep my options open.” These folks might go to the church down the street on Sunday morning because they like the music there and the preaching is tolerable, but on Wednesday night they’ll take their kids to another church in town because (“Well, come on now!”) they just have a better kid’s ministry or youth outreach event. These folks view their local churches like they view their local grocery stores and are always hunting for the best deals in town.
Church attenders who treat the local church like their favorite restaurant. These types of people have honestly fooled themselves into thinking that they are faithful and loyal to their local church because they only/exclusively attend just one local church. Some of these folks have even taken the plunge into full blown church membership, but they are rarely seen and, because of their lack of attendance, don’t give of their time, talents, and treasure with ease. No, they don’t hop and shop around for the best deals in town like the first category above, but because they view their local church like their favorite restaurant, they rarely show up and step up. Why? Well, you don’t eat at your favorite restaurant every week, do you? No, you reserve eating at your favorite restaurant for special events, date night, or whenever your schedule is free and uncluttered. This is exactly how these category of church attenders view their church experience.
Church attenders who treat the local church like their local gym. Now, I’ll be honest, this is by far my favorite group of church attenders because these folks don’t merely attend their local church, they’re all in. These folks have joined the church by giving credible testimony of their salvation and baptism and have plunged themselves into all of the “one another” commands of Scripture. These folks love well, serve often, and are truly committed to Christ and the local church. And they rarely miss a Sunday unless they’re puking their guts out or are out of town on business or vacation. Why don’t they hardly miss a Sunday? Because they view the church like their local gym…They take their fitness (their spiritual fitness) very, very seriously. They work out on their own nearly every day (i.e., reading their Bibles and praying) and then on Sunday they converge at their local church to work out. Yes, they are fed the Word by the singing and preaching, but they are also greatly interested in lifting some serious weight as they love, give, and serve in a variety of ways.
Church attenders who treat the local church like a gas station. Ha! Just had to throw this category into the mix. Who are these folks? This is the online crowd. They view things (many things – great praise bands, great preachers, and great churches) from the comfort of their devices with no intention of ever actually, physically attending a local church. They consume, and consume, and consume. It’s so easy! It’s so convenient! “Why go to church when I can worship God anywhere?”, they think to themselves. They get their fill of knowledge from online sources and get extremely fat on the Word. Why? Because they merely eat and consume without working out and giving back. In treating church like gas station food they have gorged themselves to being extremely full, and extremely unhealthy. Gas station church attenders…Gotta love them! And yeah, some of them scream, “Covid! Covid! It’s all because of Covid!” But I doubt many of them are truly sincere…But I digress.
There you have it. Four types of church attenders as far as I see the current church going landscape. What do you think? Which church attender best describes you? Do you truly love Christ’s Bride, the Church? Do you truly love the individual expression of Christ’s Bride, the LOCAL church? Are you fully bought in and committed, eating the Word and exercising your faith?
Our 2021 Annual Election of Officers is fast approaching! All church members, in good standing, who are 14 years of age or older, are kindly invited to nominate and then vote for individuals in the following categories: Deacon, Clerk, Financial Secretary, Treasurer, and Sunday School Superintendent. Below you will find the church’s timeline of events:
Sunday, October 31 – Nomination of Officers Commences (Clerk mails explanation letter, membership roll, and nomination ballots the week prior)
Sunday, November 14 – Nomination of Officers Closes (Nominating and Election Committee meet on Sunday, November 14 at 2:00 PM to discuss results)
Monday, November 15 – Wednesday, November 24 – Contact proposed nominees to see if they’re interested in serving (These individuals must reply by 5 PM on Wednesday, November 24)
Sunday, November 28 – Official Posting of the 2021 Officer Nominees (Posting of nominees will be done by email, the church bulletin board, and via our app…Two week notice of special member’s meeting to elect officers will be given)
Sunday, December 12 – Annual Election of Officers (Election will be held by secret ballot)
All elected officers will take office on January 1, 2022. Please be in prayer concerning who you would have serve and if God is leading you to serve!
I remember many times, as an Army paratrooper, standing in line on some big military aircraft. My parachute would be on my back with my reserve chute firmly tucked near my abdomen. As I would stand in line, waiting to jump, I would breathe in the moment…The adrenaline surging through my body was so electrifying as I meditated on the loud swooshing air rushing through the open side door of the aircraft. As soon as the light turned green and the Jumpmaster said, “Go!”, we would all jump (or fall out gracefully) from the aircraft. What a rush! I miss these types of Army days, but I get close to such an adrenaline rush as I enter the jungle of covid protocols and whether or not one should get the vaccine or not. So, right, wrong, or indifferent, here is my take on COVID and Vaccine Exemption…
First off, I understand that covid is real and possesses a real threat to people, especially the elderly and those with pre-existing negative conditions. My heart aches for those who have (and are now) suffering from this dreadful virus. I also have a huge heart for those who have lost friends and family members from covid. What a relief to know that one day disease, destruction, and death will be no more as King Jesus assumes the throne of His eternal Kingdom. How I long for that day…
Secondly, please understand that I am not an anti-vaxxer. Indeed, I’m an Army Veteran who has been poked and prodded more times than I can remember. In fact, during a recent doctor’s visit, the nurse who was taking my initial vitals exclaimed, “Wow! You must have been in the military because your chart shows that you have had a lot of different vaccines that most people never get.” Indeed, she was (and is) correct. I am not an anti-vaxxer by any stretch of the imagination, either ideologically or experientially.
But thirdly, and hear me when I say this, I am firmly against anyone, and I mean anyone (pastors, doctors, or so-called professionals in other fields) needlessly binding the consciences of people. It especially breaks my heart to hear some of my fellow pastors say things, like, “By invoking the name of Jesus to claim exemption, you are using the Lord’s name in vain and therefore sinning.” Others are saying things that ooze of emotional blackmail, like, “If you don’t get the covid vaccine you are selfish and unloving.” Such talk is the emotional equivalent and reasoning of a teenager who shouts to his parents, “If you don’t get me this item, you don’t love me!” Such statements are certifiably false.
Pastors especially should be very careful to bind the consciences of their people. Indeed, the Scriptures are clear on doubtful things (such as the covid vaccine). Paul in Romans 14:20-23 states clearly, “Do not, for the sake of food [or the covid vaccine], destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean [such as the covid vaccine], but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats [or puts in his body in terms of a vaccine]. It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble. The faith that you have [in either getting the vaccine or not], keep between yourself and God [i.e., don’t blast your vaccine status to the four winds – keep it private]. Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves [like the covid vaccine]. But whoever has doubts [about the covid vaccine] is condemned if he eats [or gets the vaccine], because the eating [or vaccine] is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.”
Wow. There you have it. The Scriptures are clear. End of discussion. The Bible says, concerning the grey area of getting the covid vaccine or not, that it’s up to you and your conscience, specifically your faith-based conscience. What does that mean? Simply put, the Scriptures state that if you get the vaccine, then praise the Lord, just be sure it is done with faith (or trust or confidence) in God. That is, for those of you who opt to get the vaccine, just make sure that your ultimate trust is in the Lord and not in the vaccine. But if you can’t get the vaccine with full faith (or trust or confidence) in God, then praise the Lord, don’t get the vaccine. Again, “Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves [or disapproves]” (Romans 14:22b). Make sense?
In other words, the starting line, and the bottom line, and finishing line of the Christian life is faith. So, as you contemplate covid and whether or not you should get the vaccine, consider your faith. Does your faith allow you to get it? If so, get it with faith in God. If not, don’t get it with faith in God. It really is that simple.
One final thought, I feel so impassioned by this issue, namely, that no one should bind the conscience of individuals with poor Scriptural interpretation or emotional blackmail, that I am open to helping you (the dear reader of this blog) with writing a religious, faith-based exemption letter or statement for your place of employment. Perhaps you just have a difficult time articulating why you’re opposed to the vaccine. I can help. Indeed, I’ve already helped a couple folks and both individuals had their exemption approved with absolutely no problems. To be clear, I do not argue science or statistics, I argue for exemption purely based upon religious beliefs and faith. Reach out to me at email@example.com for further guidance and help.