Friday, June 27, 2008


Healing and preaching...

The ministry of Jesus featured two prominent activities: serving people (healing, feeding, etc.) and preaching the good news of salvation. I have recently been involved in a number of discussions about the mission and purpose of the church...most of which center around the idea of serving people. Let me share three of those discussions, along with my concerns about them.

One of the hot trends among churches today is to partner with human resource agencies to help people. That is, instead of maintaining a food pantry you refer people to the local agency that does that. Your congregation may contribute to stock the food and you encourage your members to be involved. This enables you to really serve the community more efficiently.

So who gets the credit for these activities? Does God get the glory, or the agency? Are people led to marvel at the love God's family has and thus want to know how to become a part of this family?

Our own congregation at Southern Hills has been asked to think about the following question: if we were to close our doors tomorrow, would the community even realize we ceased to exist. In other words, what kind of difference are we making in the community?

Is the function of the church to serve the community? Or, are we to worship God, encourage each other to go out and serve and teach, and help each other to live faithful lives for Jesus? What really is the mission and function of the church?

Finally, I have been in several discussions about the enthusiasm people have for digging water wells, building houses, and making a difference in the physical well being of third world countries (or disaster stricken cities in our country). It is easy to raise money for these projects, or staff "mission" trips for these efforts, or generate enthusiasm for these projects. It is not so easy to raise money for evangelistic efforts, or staff a vacation Bible school, or be excited about evangelism.

Do you even have to be a Christian to participate in some of these campaigns? Why do we not have the same desire to tell someone the story of Jesus as we do to provide clean drinking water?

Finally, I believe service is an incredible door opener to talk about Jesus. But if all we do is serve people, have we really helped them in the long run? I believe in serving people... it is a way of connecting to their lives and gives me authenticity and credibility to talk about Jesus. But I worry that if we are not careful, there will not be much difference between us and a civic club. You know, pray a prayer, sing a song, serve the community. Have we made the Great Commission a call to"seek and serve" the lost rather than to seek and save" the lost?

Jesus came to this earth to save the lost. He served a lot of people. He encouraged his disciples to do so also. But that was not their mission. Service is a means to an end...not the end.

So... am I way off base here or not?

Friday, June 20, 2008


Back from Spain...

Marsha and I are back from our trip to Spain with Herald of Truth. We spent a week with Juan Monroy and our Spain Herald of Truth field office staff. Juan is amazing. In the midst of planning for future ministry projects, we celebrated Juan's 79th birthday. He has told me many times that he plans to die preaching...but not for many more years. Juan still records a daily radio program, writes two articles per week, preaches regularly, serves as an elder in Madrid, preaches in at least six campaigns around the world, and is working on three books.

He caused me to reflect on our concept of retirement. I am not sure that retirement is an option for a Christian in the sense our culture thinks of retirement. For a Christian, retirement might just mean freedom from the demands of employment in order to give more time to ministry.

When I quit selling ads for a phone book to come to work at Herald of Truth, I visited with our children about what it might mean. When I was telling Joe Don that I would probably not be able to retire when I had planned, he reminded me that what I would do in retirement was preach, write, and talk about Jesus. So, as he said, why not start doing that full-time now. Good advice.

Juan actually "retired" financially. His pay structure is different than when he worked for us full-time. But his workload did not change at all.

What a great man of God. He "gets" it.

I hope I always get it too.

So what are going to do about retirement?

Thursday, June 05, 2008


Off to Spain...

Sunday I head off with the Herald of Truth team to Madrid, Spain to spend a week with Juan Monroy. We will be visiting Juan's church, attending the building dedication of a new congregation in Saville, checking on potential projects among Moslems in Morocco, and spending time at the Herald of Truth field office in Madrid.

Two things make this trip very special. The first is that Juan Monroy is right at 80 years old and we are planning the next several years worth of projects and campaigns. Maybe preaching really does keep you young. I love that attitude. Juan has assured me that he will either die preaching, or he will preach till 90, then enjoy 10 years of retirement, and then go home.

I love to be around Juan. He loves the Lord and he loves the lost. He preaches around the world, writes numerous books and articles, and records a daily radio program. He has been the "apostle Paul" for the church in Spain and in Cuba.

The other thing special about this trip is that Marsha is going. I am gone so much that it is special for her to get to go see some of what I do... and she loves Juan too.

I'll let you know how it goes when we get back.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008


I Ain't Gonna Study War No More...

A week ago we honored veterans at Southern Hills. This last Sunday we started worship by singing "Down by the Riverside". It is a great song with roots in African American gospel music. Since the 1960's it has been perhaps the most sung anti-war protest song. Wow. Talk about mixed messages. I know that most of those in the audience Sunday did not even realize the history of that song. But in a way I think this is part of our growth and balance as God's people. Our congregation has veterans that are faithful Christians. And we have faithful Christians that as a matter of spiritual conscience could not serve in the military of any country.

Yet for two Sundays in a row we worshiped together. We must learn how to stay in fellowship while disagreeing on various issues. After my last post, Sarah and Troy commented that we would have to "disagree". That's great. I know that both of them are passionate Christians who make a difference in this world. They are two of my spiritual heroes. And I suspect if they were in spiritual crisis, I would be their "go to" elder. And it's OK that we disagree about Christians and war.

Our elders are working on deacon selection and we are all over the map on what the function and position mean. That's among our eldership. We are not going to all agree on what we decide. But we will have a plan, and everyone will not agree, and we will still stay together.

I preach in assemblies that have women participate in leading the service and in assemblies where women sit on the floor and say nothing. I have preached in services with instruments and those with a cappella praise teams and those with just a song leader. I preach in congregations that have Bible school and those that do not. And we are all brothers. Even when I don't agree with everything they do in their assemblies. Because we do agree on the gospel: that Jesus died, was buried, and was raised on the third day. And because we shared in that gospel by being baptized. And because we share in that gospel around the table of the Lord.

That is core. That is fundamental. Not the rest. Not war, or instruments, or women's role, or deacons. I have studied those issues. I think my position on them is right. And as an elder, I work with the other shepherds at Southern Hills to decide how we will work these issues out in practice. Sometimes we decide a position different from mine. Doesn't mean I am wrong...or maybe means I am. But these are not core. Not gospel. Not the message this world must hear. And not the message Christ died for.

Feel free to respond. After all, we're still brothers and sisters.

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