I Don’t Want to Go Back to Normal!

COVID-19 has changed all of our worlds around the world!

In short order, our personal calendars have gone blank. Any attempt to reschedule has the word “hopefully” attached to it.

For thousands, there is a longing to get back to “normal” such as work, school, ballgames, shopping, eating out, not wearing a mask, etc.

There is one area of life that I hope does not return to “normal,” and that is what I will call “typical church life” here in America before the coronavirus.

My perception at times over the years has been that the church has been too reliant on programs and “business as usual.” (I remember attending a church growth conference in the 80’s that said if I would spend a $100 to buy their materials, my church would grow to 300 in one year.) With that in mind, there have been occasions where I have desired to announce on a Sunday, “Beginning now, all ministries of this local church are laid aside. For the next 40 days, we will give ourselves to fervent prayer and the reading of God’s Word to discern how Christ, the Head of the Church (Ephesians 5:23), would have us continue His ministry for His glory (Acts 1:1-14; 1 Corinthians 10:31) in the days to come.”

Well, guess what? It happened! We are living it out right now in April 2020. Indeed, these are uncharted waters for all of us. At the risk of sounding heartless for all who have suffered loss, I must say that I am optimistic! I believe God is up to something awesome right now, and because the Church is His vehicle to accomplish His redemptive purposes, and the Church is still here, having not been taken out (1 Thessalonians 4:13=18), I’m on my knees. I’m watching. I’m anticipating. I’m longing. I’m expecting. I’m reading. I’m listening. I’m rejoicing.

You see, who am I, but I will say with a broken, weary heart that I don’t want to return to “normal” if it’s more of . . .

  • Man-centered, convenience-driven, “I’ll serve if it doesn’t interfere with MY life” ministry. In other words, the self-life taking preeminence over the Christ-life. (Romans 12:1-2; Galatians 2:20)
  • Prayer meetings usually being the least attended gathering of God’s people on any given week. (Acts 1:13-14; 4:23-31;12:5-17)
  • Lost souls not hearing the gospel from the redeemed on a regular basis; few coming to Christ; and the baptismal pool having to be swept out because it’s become a den of cobwebs and dead bugs. (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15)
  • Dry, empty altars. Call me old-fashioned, legalistic, and/or emotional, but we need a fresh awareness of the holiness of God, a renewed vision of Christ and a visitation of the convicting power of the Holy Spirit that drives us to our knees in repentance and revival! (e.g. Judges 10:10; 2 Kings 11:17-20; 2 Chron. 15:1-19; Acts 2-5; 10-20)
  • Personal preferences and the fear of man being the driver of ministry decisions as well as the stated “biblical standard” which determines whether we are right or wrong. Since the virus has shuttered our Sunday meetings and weekly ministries, I don’t hear complaining about music preferences, Bible translation arguments, -ism discussions (whatever you wish to use to preface -ism, put it in there). By the way, I don’t think we are going to hear about many church splits during this time!!! (Proverbs 25;29; Romans 12:10; Ephesians 4:1-6; Philippians 2:14; Colossians 1:9-18)
  • Church membership being a take-it-or-leave-it decision. (1 Corinthians 5:1-12; 2 Corinthians 2:6; 1 Timothy 5:17; Hebrews 13:17; 1 Peter 5:1-5)
  • Pharisaical, hide-behind-my-looking-good-Sunday-attire and continuing to answer the “How you doing?” question with a “Fine!” Oh, that we would be transparent and genuine in our conversation acknowledging our dependence upon the Lord and His people. Oh, that we would enter into the hurts, sorrows, burdens, and sins of others through prayer and scripture reading to help them take the next step toward Christ during fellowship time rather than being upset that our favorite donut was no longer available. (Romans 14:19; 15:14; Ephesians 4:15; Colossians 3:16; Hebrews 10:24-25; James 5:16)
  • Prayerless, powerless, going-through-the-motion preaching and teaching of God’s Word in every area of ministry. Martyn Lloyd-Jones put it this way, “If there is no power, there is no preaching.” (Isaiah 61:1; Zechariah 4:6; John 15:5; 1 Corinthians 1:18; 2:14; 3:6-7; 2 Corinthians 9:8; Philippians 2:13; 2 Timothy 4:2)

Over the past few weeks, I have heard pastors say that they were attempting to keep things as normal as possible while using online services. I totally understand what they are saying. With all my heart, may I say, let’s not seek to keep things normal. Let’s cry out for a fresh touch from the Throne of God! Let’s be willing to go with God and not be timid about asking for a fresh movement of the power of God. And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness (Acts 4:31).

Perhaps we could begin that 40 day prayer movement now so we will be ready to follow the Head of the Church into this new territory of ministry when the Lord opens the doors.

I end this post truly from from my pastor’s heart, with two quotes from Vance Havner:

“Too many church services start at eleven sharp and end at twelve dull.”

“The church is so subnormal that if it ever got back to the New Testament normal it would seem to people to be abnormal.”

I don’t want to go back to normal!

That’s My Old Church

old-church

A man is rescued after many years on a desert island. As he stands on the deck of the rescuing vessel, the captain says to him, “I thought you were stranded alone. How come I can see three huts on the beach?”

“Well,” replies the castaway, “that one there is my house and that one there is where I go to church.”

“And the third one?” asks the skipper.

“Oh, that’s my old church.”  (Wikipedia)

How many of us could drive through our town or city and say the same thing?

There are definitely a few biblical reasons for leaving a church and moving on to another, but I am convinced that most of the time, it has nothing to do with biblical reasoning or issues.  And sadly, many of the stated “biblical issues” are not biblical at all.  They are just strong preferences.

Wonder how many churches in your area are splits off of another church, and sometimes sadly are a split from even another church?  Some church splits are due to personality clashes, arguments over a building project, music preference, translation issues, petty offenses, wrong interpretation of separation, perceived misconceptions, etc.

Then there are splits created by sins such as gossip, pride, sowing discord among the brethren, refusal to obey the biblical instructions of how to address conflicts, power-struggles, dictatorial leadership from pastors and/or deacons, unbiblical response to church discipline, bitterness, etc.

The point of this post is simply this.

  1. As spoken by Thom Rainer, “There is little good that comes from church splits.”
  2. God is bigger than any issue that creates a church split.  Why not trust God?  Everything man puts his hands to, he ruins.  The flesh profits nothing.
  3. Prayer and humility is the answer, not gang warfare.  We should be fighting in prayer not in corner groups, email or on social media.  Even in situations of doctrinal deviation, patience and prayer should be the overriding mode of operation.
  4. Remember that every church is made up of sinners, hopefully saved by the grace of God, in desperate, daily need of God’s grace, and purchased by the blood of Christ.  We are not our own (1 Corinthians 6:9-20).  We are to be growing in grace everyday (2 Peter 3:18).
  5. Whatever issue causes that split, because of a lack of humble resolution, it is the reason for the “new church” to start.  Is that a proper foundation?  Will it last?
  6. The greater testimony for Christ in our communities should be repentance, reconciliation and rejoicing, not division, discord, and death.
  7. Consider please the following passages of Scripture before ever being a part of a church split: Proverbs 6:12-19; 13:10; 15:6; Romans 12:3-21; 13:10-14; 15:1-3; 15:5-6; Matthew 16:18; 1 Corinthians 3:1-23; 10:31; Ephesians 4:1-3, 14-32; Philippians 1:12-18, 27; 1 John 4:7-20.

Sadly, the word “split” is more synonymous with “church” than the word “reproduction.”  With the first, there is usually death.  With the last, there is always life.  Paul sums it up correctly in 1 Corinthians 1:10-17.  May I suggest it this way—Are we of the _____________ version, or of ______________ism, or of _________________ denomination, or of ______________ college, or of ____________________ conference or . . . of Christ?

Oh that our eyes would ever be on Christ alone! (Hebrews 12:1-3)  When we stand before Him at the Bema, He is all that will matter.  It’s His Church anyway, not “my old church.”

 

 

 

It’s Sunday!

BCBC

Have you ever really given some concentrated thought to all that happens in a local church on Sunday?

Sunday is a day of joy, tears, praise, mistakes, sin, confession, forgiveness, sadness, misunderstandings, questions, conviction, conversion, repentance, greeting, fellowship, preaching, truth, testimonies, introductions, singing, forgetfulness, encouragement, edification, communication, conversation, mishaps, announcements, listening, sharing, praying, burden bearing, heartaches, grace extended, mercy given, satanic attack, war with the flesh, victories, laughter, fears, disgruntlement, giving, decision-making, meeting strangers, discipleship, hypocrisy, rushing to get there on time, and so much more.

So, with that in mind, how should we respond?

Without a doubt, before any believer pulls into the parking lot, he/she must spend time with the Lord in prayer!  If able, on your knees in humble, contrite, calling out, dependent prayer before you leave home.

The Church is the Body of Christ, the vehicle God is using today to accomplish His redemptive purposes in this world, and the target of Satan, the flesh and the world.  The Church is not in a defeatist mode because we are on the winning side (Matthew 16:18), and God will do great things in and through His Body (Ephesians 1-6).. But, to be able to work through all the aforementioned things, to accomplish God’s purposes and plans for the local church, we must be in tune with the heart of God, not our heart!

You see, prayer is the declaration of your dependence upon God, your surrender to God, and your life before God.

Matthew 17 records the inability of the disciples to heal a young epileptic lad.  The father brought his case to Jesus to which He replied, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you?  How long shall I bear with you?  Bring him here to Me.  Jesus rebuked the demon and the boy was completely healed.  Jesus goes on to say that the disciples inability was tied to unbelief and a lack of prayer.

The whole goal of every local church Sunday gathering is to “bring people to Jesus; to help them move one step toward Jesus” for God’s glory!  Therefore, to work through all the stuff of a Sunday and not be a faithless generation, we must pray, . . . believing God.  He gives power to overcome our sin and weaknesses and gives power to energize our worship.  He can move mountains!

So, next Sunday in the midst of “all the stuff of a Sunday,” be sure to pray before you arrive at church, pray as you walk into church, pray with others in the foyer before church, pray at your seat, pray along with those leading in worship, pray while the message is being delivered, pray during the invitation, pray with some folks around you at the close of the service, pray in your small groups, pray for your pastors and leaders, pray, pray, pray, and when you have finished praying, pray!

1 Timothy 2:1-4 – First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

Ephesians 6:18 – Praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 – Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Ephesians 3:14-22 – For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love,  may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.