Thursday, April 16, 2015

Sermon Avoidance Does Not Make You "Lukewarm"

A couple of years ago a young Christian man told me that I was "lukewarm." He was referring to this passage:

14 And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God's creation. 15 "I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. 17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. 19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. 20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. 21 The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches." (Revelation 3:14-22, emphasis mine)

Let me provide a bit of context. At the time our family was gathering regularly with a few others families each Sunday in homes. We would sometimes see each other during the week, but for the most part our Sunday get together was the main time of fellowship. We shared in bible study, prayer, eating, and much conversation. It was almost always an edifying experience for me. We enjoyed being together.

One Sunday a young couple visited with us; they were invited by one of the other families in our group. I'm not sure why this couple came (maybe curiosity?) because the man clearly did not believe the way we were "doing church" was the right way. He was a very big supporter of sermons. He liked to discuss what preachers had said and written as part of their messages. Our church family had no need or desire for sermons.

Did I mention that this young man was only twenty-five-years-old at the time?

What I still do not understand is why this couple kept returning to our gatherings. It makes no sense to me. They were nice enough, but the way we functioned continued to bother them. One day it came to a head. The young man asked if he could meet with the elders of our church family. Several of us men (the older men of the body; nothing more than that) came together one evening in a home. The young man basically complained to us that the elders in our body needed to have more authority and that we should have sermons. We did not agree. I hope you see the irony here. The young man was saying that we should have authority, but he had no interest in our authority when it came to not having sermons. While making his case he kept referring back to one specific sermon he had heard and told us that we really needed to listen to it.

We kept asking him to support his assertions with scripture. He failed to do so. Eventually he told us that the real reason he wanted to meet with us was to tell us that we were "lukewarm." However, his only reason for saying this was because we did not preach and teach the bible the way he thought we should. He wanted someone to stand up front and give a typical monologue style sermon as in traditional churches. He equated this with caring for what the bible had to say. We disagreed.

It was clear to me that he saw himself as doing some sort of duty for God by rebuking us. He would not listen to what we had to say. We elders (all in our forties) were being rebuked by a twenty-five-year-old for not grabbing more authority. This encounter was both fascinating and disturbing.

This young man, while well-intentioned, was far off track. It was not long before they moved on. Last I knew they had moved near Houston, Texas to be part of Voddie Baucham's church.

I wish things could have turned out differently, but this young man would not listen. His error is in how he thinks of church life. In his mind zeal for God and ceremonial preaching go together. He believes that love for the Lord is most clearly shown by sitting and listening to a speech.

He is wrong.

None of us has to adhere to the typical traditional, institutional style of gathering in order to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. In fact, I would argue that taking part in church meetings that seek to edify the body through mutuality is a sign of great care for Christ. According to the bible, that is to be the purpose of gatherings.

If you read this blog regularly then you probably have no use for sermons. Don't worry, that's fine. Sermon avoidance does not make you "lukewarm." Rather, it might just be a sign that you care about how God wants his church to live. As far as I'm concerned that is evidence of being just the opposite of lukewarm.

Monday, April 13, 2015

"The Reformers and Their Stepchildren"

When I was in seminary I was required to read The Reformers and Their Stepchildren. Although the book interested me at the time, I didn't give it a great deal of thought because I was reading so many different books. It quickly faded into the background of my mind as I tried to ingest all sorts of other required reading.

I'm now far removed from seminary. My views on the church have changed dramatically since those years. I decided it was time to read this book again. I'm glad I did.

The Reformers and Their Stepchildren, written by Leonard Verduin in 1964, takes a fascinating look at the stark differences between the Reformers (such as Luther, Zwingli, and Calvin) and those who were called by various names such as "Anabaptist." Both of these groups had broken away from the heresies of the Roman Catholic Church. Both held a high view of scripture. Where the two groups differed was in their view of the church. While the Reformers largely took a Constantinian view of church, the Anabaptists believed the church should be free. This led to a massive rift.

The Anabaptists thought that each person in an area should be free to choose what he believed. This necessarily led to a composite society. The Reformers, seeking protection from the government, looked for a melding of church and state. Therefore, everyone in a given location was considered part of the church in that location. The Anabaptists wanted no part of this view. This led to severe persecution by the Reformers (and Catholics) toward the Anabaptists.

The Anabaptists were known by a wide variety of different names given to them by the Reformers and Catholics. Almost all of these were derogatory in nature (even the term "Anabaptist" was originally negative). Verduin entitled the various chapters in this book with these negative names; the chapters deal with different but related topics such as baptism, the Lord's Supper, and church-state relations. While the Reformers and the stepchildren held the same basic views of the gospel, it was their differences over the church that led to the problems.

This book is extremely well researched and detailed. At some points it bogs down a bit, but the large amount of information is needed because this book is a challenge to the Reformed view of both the Reformation and the Anabaptists. The author was forced, due to the resistance this book would face, to add a great amount of detail.

The interesting thing about this book is that, for most of us in the modern West, a free church is the norm. We cannot imagine anything other than a composite society. That was hardly the case 500 years ago. Back then the Anabaptists' hope for church life led to persecution, shunning, and death. They desired what we have.

This text is much more than a history book. It is living in the sense that the Anabaptists, or stepchildren, asked many of the questions about the church that we do today. The difference is that they often paid for it with their lives.

This book is worth your time.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

My Name Is No Longer on a Church Membership Roll. I Guess I'm Not Going to Heaven.

As far as I know, my name is no longer on any local church's membership roll. I cannot confirm this for certain because I'm not about to dig through old file cabinets to find out.

The church where I worked as pastor is the last place where I was a member. Last year I emailed to request that my name be taken off the roll. I received a confirmation message that this occurred. This is the best I can do.

Since I'm no longer on a church membership roll I suppose this means I'm not going to heaven. That makes me sad.

Saturday, April 11, 2015


I like the word poppycock because of the way it sounds. It basically means "nonsense" or "rubbish."

If you want to read an example of poppycock, simply click on this.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

By the Way, Christianity is Not a "Religion of Peace" Either

In my previous post I made the case that we should reject the ignorant, politically correct, and patently false notion that Islam is a religion of peace. In doing so, I did not want to imply that Christianity is a religion of peace. When we look historically at the religion Christianity has become we see much violence. This is to our shame.

Please allow me to take a moment to clarify one key term. When I say "religion," I'm referring to man's attempts to get to God by his own means. This describes any religion in the world that does not have Jesus Christ at its center.

Institutional Christianity poses some problems when it comes to definitions. While it has many aspects of man-made religion, it also focuses to one degree or another upon Jesus Christ. Additionally, many wonderful Christian people attend institutional churches. This makes things a bit murky.

The sad reality, however, is that institutional Christianity has a long history of violence. This all began when Constantine made Christianity the preferred religion of the state. Whenever the church and state come together, the church becomes the whore of the state. This always (no hyperbole) leads to violence and aggression. All through the Middle Ages the church struck out against any they deemed to be heretics. During the crusades, many Muslims were slaughtered in various attempts to retake the holy land.

During the Reformation, both Catholics and Protestants killed in order to defend what they considered to be theirs. Dissenting groups such as the Anabaptists felt the wrath of both sides, finding little shelter anywhere. Even in modern times many within the church support violence. When President George W. Bush, himself at least sort of an evangelical, decided to start two different wars the church in this country largely lauded him.

When we look at the life of Jesus Christ we see one of non-violence. In fact, we see a man of peace. This is the model he left for us to follow. While the man-created institutions that masquerade as Christianity embrace war and violence, those who truly seek to live as Christ did desire lives of peaceful existence with all people. This is not to suggest that Christians cannot endorse or even commit violent acts; rather, I'm saying that those who do so have no biblical basis for their beliefs and actions.

Ultimately, Christianity is not a religion of peace because Christianity is not a religion.

Christianity, at least what we see in the scriptures, is about knowing and living for Jesus Christ. It is not man's attempt to get to God, but rather God's successful reaching down to mankind. He has done so in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Christ never retaliated even though he would have been completely justified in doing so. This is the type of life we must lead.

Let's follow after Christ, rejecting both the violence and made-created religion that permeates this world.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Can We Please Do Away With the Ignorant Notion that "Islam is a Religion of Peace"?

One ubiquitous talking point for both politicians and talking heads is that "Islam is a religion of peace."

This idea persists because it is politically correct. However, a glance around the globe tells us otherwise. The Islamic State (or whatever its latest name is) is, well, Islamic. Boko Harem also claims the name of Islam. So does Al-Shabaab.

Remember Al-Qaeda and the Taliban? Both are Muslim groups. The list goes on.

Quite frankly, the above groups' behavior is not surprising. After all, they learned from the founder of their religion: Muhammad. Ever since the starting of Islam it has been bathed in blood. The rapid spread of Islamic ideology and way of life soon after its founding occurred mostly at the end of the sword.

Islam has been consistently violent wherever it has gone, at least until those areas submit wholesale to its rules and laws. Only after a society kneels to the demands of Islam does it become somewhat more peaceful (and even then dissenting residents face the wrath of Islamic rule).

I'm not suggesting that all Muslims everywhere are terrorists. Most are not. However, the reality is that Islam far outpaces any other religion when it comes to violence. Just watch the news. It is all too common.

What we need to understand is that Muslims who are engaged in violent activities are simply following the model they've been given by Muhammad. In light of that, it is understandable why they behave the way they do. More surprising is why more Muslims aren't involved in terroristic acts.

The reality is that any ideology, belief system, or worldview that does not come from Jesus Christ cannot be fully peaceful. The reason for this is that only Jesus is the Prince of Peace. Only Christ brings true peace to the world. Only through the gospel can people come to know what true life and peace are all about.

The world is full of all sorts of false religions. At a spiritual level none of these are peaceful. Probably because of the manner it which it started, Islam appears to be the most violent. How many more atrocities have to be committed in the name of Islam before the talking heads and politicians wake up to this reality?

Islam is most definitely not a religion of peace.

How should we followers of Christ respond to Muslims? I'm glad you asked.

(Before I receive any angry responses about Christianity please let me tell you the name of my next post: "By the Way, Christianity Is Not a Religion of Peace Either.")

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Why Does Christ's Resurrection Even Matter?

Within Christianity we talk a lot about Jesus Christ's crucifixion. This is a good thing. We ought to continually honor him for it. It is through Christ's substitutionary atoning work that we are saved.

We tend to talk somewhat less about Jesus' resurrection. I'm not sure why this is. After all, it is a stunning miracle. Maybe the reason is that we aren't exactly sure what the significance of the resurrection is. While we embrace the crucifixion because it paid for our sins, we might not know why we should cherish the resurrection equally as much.

Simply put, why does the resurrection even matter?

I've been thinking about this quite a bit over the last couple of days. The reason is somewhat self-centered; I wanted to make sure that I know why Christ's being raised from the dead really matters. After looking up a variety of bible passages and consulting with my favorite systematic theology text, I now feel comfortable that I know why the resurrection is significant.

Being a blogger, I feel compelled to share my findings with you. What I'm writing here is nothing new theologically. You may find it fairly basic. That's fine. My hope is that it will assist you in thinking just a little bit more clearly about why Jesus' coming back to life is something that we as his people ought to adore.

I found six different reasons, although all are ultimately connected:

1. Most importantly, Christ's resurrection brings glory to the Father.

Philippians 2:9-11 tells us, "Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." Although this passage does not specifically mention the resurrection, it is clear that through the resurrection all will eventually (at one time or another) submit to Christ, bringing glory to the Father.

2. Christ's resurrection shows that he has supreme authority.

"...and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all" Ephesians 1:19-22. Paul makes it abundantly clear that Jesus is in charge of all things.

3. Christ's resurrection is directly connected to our regeneration.

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead" I Peter 1:3. The apostle Peter informs us that we are born again through the resurrection.

4. Christ's resurrection is directly connected to our justification.

In Romans 4:22-25 Paul writes the following, "That is why his faith was 'counted to him as righteousness.' But the words 'it was counted to him' were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification." This passage indicates that the acts of crucifixion and resurrection were both necessary to bring about our salvation. Also implied is that the resurrection is evidence that the Father accepted the Son's sacrifice as both valid and sufficient.

5. Christ's resurrection gives us reason to have faith in Christ and hope in our future resurrection.

According the Paul, "But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain...but in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep" I Corinthians 15:13-14, 20. Without the resurrection, it is all pointless.

In a similar way Peter says, "He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God" I Peter 1:20-21. Our faith in Christ as Lord and Savior is directly related to his being raised.

6. Christ's resurrection provides us with post-salvation marching orders.

Jesus did not leave us here to remain as we were prior to knowing him. At the conclusion of I Corinthians 15 Paul writes, "Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain" I Corinthians 15:58. The apostle's use of the word therefore to begin this verse points back to the first fifty-seven verses of the chapter that focus almost exclusively on Christ's and our resurrections. God expects us, in light of the resurrection of the body, to stand for him and work for him.

The bible gives us ample evidence that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is extremely significant. Let's cherish this stunning event just as much as we do the crucifixion. The two go hand-in-hand.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Cherishing the Substitutionary Atonement of Jesus Christ

Few doctrines are as important as Jesus Christ's substitutionary atonement (which is defined well in the graphic above). I love Jesus for both who he is and for what he has done. Therefore, I cherish the atoning work as my substitute sacrifice on the cross.

In the bible we see a consistent pattern of substitutionary sacrifice. For example, just before the Hebrews escaped from Egypt after years of captivity they killed a lamb without blemish and put the blood over their doors. If anyone failed to do this (the Egyptians), the firstborn was killed.

During the hundreds of years of tabernacle and then temple sacrifices the people understood that the sacrifices paid what they owed (for example).

In Isaiah 53:4-6, the high point of the final Suffering Servant passage, we read the following prophecy:

4 Surely he has borne our griefs
  and carried our sorrows;
  yet we esteemed him stricken,
  smitten by God, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions;
  he was crushed for our iniquities;
  upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
  and with his wounds we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
  we have turned—every one—to his own way;
  and the Lord has laid on him
  the iniquity of us all.

In the New Testament we see Jesus Christ as the fulfillment of the O.T. prophecies. One of my favorite verses in the entire bible is II Corinthians 5:21. Paul tells us, "For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." We see that Jesus became sin (took on our sin), and in this great exchange we receive his righteousness. What an amazing gift!

In I Peter 2:24 we read, "He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed." Jesus was our substitute, taking our sins upon himself. He was the spotless lamb, executed in our place.

Elsewhere Paul writes, "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us — for it is written, 'Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree' — so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith" (Gal. 3:13-14). This description of Christ's work informs us that Jesus bought us back from our impossible sin debt by becoming the curse we deserve.

In Colossians 2:13-14 we see the following, "And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross." God has made us spiritually alive by cancelling the legal debt we could not pay. How? He accomplished this by nailing it to the cross (specifically by nailing Christ to the cross).

I cherish Christ's finished and accomplished work at Calvary because it is at the center of salvation. Jesus atoned for our wretched sinfulness by becoming that sin for us. He stood in our place and took what we deserved. He became the curse we could not pay. He, the perfect lamb, gave himself up as our atoning sacrifice.

Jesus Christ is our one and only, infinitely perfect substitute sacrifice! All praise and honor are due his name!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

New Blog Header

One of the things I'm most thankful for is God's releasing me from man's church traditions.

For most of my life I lived within the institutional walls of American-style Christianity. During those years I never questioned the existence or validity of things like worship services, professional pastors, and large church buildings. I even worked for a few years as a paid pastor myself.

I praise the Lord for freeing me from tradition's shackles. The above blog header is an accurate depiction of how I feel much of the time. While I thank God mainly for salvation, at a secondary level I'm exceedingly grateful for His opening of my eyes to the limitations of institutional Christianity.

What a gift from God to see a truly free church.

I hope you are feeling and experiencing this freedom, too!

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

One More Time

Please indulge me for once again posting this clip of my favorite hymn. The video is nothing special, but the audio is wonderful. Thank you Charles Wesley for penning this so many years ago. I love it!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Twenty Books That Have Deeply Impacted My Life

I'm guessing that you like to read. So do I. The following are twenty books that have, for one reason or another, had a significant impact upon me. This is simply a list; if you'd like me to expand on why any particular book had its impact, please ask in the comments. Additionally, if you like you can comment leaving your own list of books that have changed you.

In alphabetical order by title:

Christ in the Passover, by Ceil and Moishe Rosen

Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, by J.I. Packer

Fight: A Christian Case for Non-Violence, by Preston Sprinkle

The Great Divorce, by C.S. Lewis

The Holiness of God, by R.C. Sproul

House Church: Simple-Strategic-Scriptural, by Steve Atkerson

How Long, O Lord?: Reflections on Suffering and Evil, by D.A. Carson

Just Do Something: A Liberating Approach to Finding God's Will, by Kevin DeYoung

I Kissed Dating Goodbye, by Joshua Harris

Let the Nations Be Glad!: The Supremacy of God in Missions, by John Piper

Mere Christianity, by C.S. Lewis

The Myth of Adolescence: Raising Responsible Children in an Irresponsible Society, by David Alan Black

Pagan Christianity?: Exploring the Roots of Our Church Practices, by Frank Viola and George Barna

The Pilgrim Church, by E.H. Broadbent

The Pilgrim's Progress, by John Bunyan

The Pleasures of God: Meditations on God's Delight in Being God, by John Piper

Reimagining Church: Pursuing the Dream of Organic Christianity, by Frank Viola

Through the Gates of Splendor, by Elisabeth Elliot

To the Golden Shore: The Life of Adoniram Judson, by Courtney Anderson

When the Church Was a Family: Recapturing Jesus' Vision for Authentic Christian Community, by Joseph Hellerman

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Listing the 25 Reasons Professional Pastors Should Resign

Below is a complete list of all my posts in the series 25 Reasons Professional Pastors Should Resign.

Reason #1 - Professional Pastors Propagate the Clergy/Laity Divide
Reason #2 - Professional Pastors Take Jesus Christ's Spot as Senior Pastor
Reason #3 - Professional Pastors Turn Gatherings Into Performance-Oriented Shows
Reason #4 - Professional Pastors' Salaries Place a Massive Financial Burden Upon the Church
Reason #5 - Professional Pastors' Sermons Put People in the Pews to Sleep
Reason #6 - Professional Pastors Cannot Be Fully Accepted Members of the Body
Reason #7 - Professional Pastors' Sermons Are Thought of As Special Messages from God
Reason #8 - Professional Pastors Get Confused With Biblical Elders
Reason #9 - Professional Pastors Lead Almost Everything, Taking Opportunities From Others
Reason #10 - Professional Pastors Can Easily Abuse Power
Reason #11 - Professional Pastors Stay Largely Cloistered, Not In Full Contact With the Real World
Reason #12 - Professional Pastors Suggest That Payment Should Be Given For Service
Reason #13 - Professional Pastors' Long Sermon Prep Implies That The Bible Is Extremely Complicated
Reason #14 - Professional Pastors Are Placed on a Pedestal by the People
Reason #15 - Professional Pastors Preach Tithing In Order to Get the People to Give Enough to Pay Their Salaries
Reason #16 - Professional Pastors Keep the People in "Feed Me" Mode
Reason #17 - Professional Pastors Imply That Churches Need "Experts" to Lead Them
Reason #18 - Professional Pastors Keep Money From Going to the Poor and Needy
Reason #19 - Professional Pastors Should Get Real Jobs That Provide Goods or Services
Reason #20 - Professional Pastors' Salaries Give the Message That the Church Should Spend Money on Itself
Reason #21 - Professional Pastors Turn Church Family Gatherings Into "Worship" Ceremonies
Reason #22 - Professional Pastors Allow and Encourage the People to be Spectators
Reason #23 - Professional Pastors Are, In Fact, Professionals
Reason #24 - Professional Pastors Tell the Church That the Biblical Model for Church Life is Unimportant
Reason #25 - Professional Pastors Force Jesus Christ Into the Background

Monday, March 23, 2015

25 Reasons Summary

As followers of Jesus Christ we want to see His church grow and thrive. We desire to see a healthy church that impacts society for the better. We hope to see a special people stand out for Christ for all the right reasons. Above all, we strive to honor Christ together as we help one another grow closer to Him.

A healthy church is a maturing church. Each member of the body is necessary for the whole to reach its potential. Anything that hinders body growth and body life should be cast aside. As the family of God, we have the joy and privilege of being active agents for Jesus Christ. We do this most effectively as a group. While salvation is individual in nature, body life is most certainly communal. Churches can be what God wants them to be when the people work as one to do the things God wants. Simply put, we all need each other.

Despite generally good intentions, professional pastors hinder body life and growth. For all the reasons I've listed in this series, they harm the church, forcing it into a passive mode of being. Salaried pastors come in between the people and their Lord, taking away many of the privileges that all the people should enjoy. Because of these things, the church as a whole ought to reject the entire concept of pastors as professionals. Instead, the body does much better to recognize elders who are already part of the family.

The church will see an immediate increase in spiritual vitality if it will do away with the professional pastorate. I hope this happens in my lifetime.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Reason #25 - Professional Pastors Force Jesus Christ Into the Background

Of all twenty-five reasons in this series, this one is the most problematic. While the bible shows us that Jesus Christ is the one and only head of his church, professional pastors push him into the background.

Of course, they don't truly force Jesus into the background because nothing in the universe could do that to our sovereign Lord. However, the very existence of professional pastors forces Jesus out of the way in the eyes of the people in the pews. Many Christians look to pastors for leadership more than they look to Christ.

This problem is closely related to professional pastors taking Jesus' spot as senior pastor and professional pastors being placed on a pedestal by the people.

As Christians, our entire belief system is wrapped up in one person: Jesus Christ. He is everything. I'm not denigrating the Trinity in any way in saying this. Our God is the three-in-one who is difficult to comprehend with our finite minds. While God is all, Jesus Christ is all as well. Christ is the head and we are the body. We are all equally needed parts, while he is the supreme leader. He points the way, and we all follow. He lovingly and sacrificially gave himself for us at Calvary so we would live for him.

Professional pastors cloud this beautiful picture by coming in between the people and their Lord. The pastor tells the people what to think, what to do, and how to act. The folks dutifully believe because he is the expert from the outside. Quite frankly, professional pastors are little different from Roman Catholic priests.

As the body of Christ, we need a clear, unobstructed view of Jesus. Anything that gets in our way must be done away with. The professional pastorate is a good place to start.

(This post is the final installment in 25 Reasons Professional Pastors Should Resign.)

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Reason #24 - Professional Pastors Tell the Church That the Biblical Model for Church Life is Unimportant

Every good Christian teacher points to scripture over and over. The bible must be the source of any instruction that occurs within the life of the church. Most pastors consider themselves to be teachers (they had better). At least within evangelicalism in the USA, pastors do a fairly solid job of pointing people back to scripture again and again while preaching and/or teaching. This is certainly a generalization, but it is one I believe to be true.

When it comes to teaching about the gospel itself, most pastors look to the bible to lead all they say. While the gospel may be presented in somewhat different ways (for example, John 3 versus John 4), the key content remains the same. We all find this content in the bible. I give pastors credit for staying true to scriptural teachings on salvation.

Something weird happens when most pastors begin teaching about the church. They abandon many of the principles of biblical interpretation that they use for understanding and teaching the gospel. Most pastors take into consideration everything the bible has to say about salvation.

When it comes to the church pastors ignore much. In particular, they act as if what we read about church life is simply description. The scriptures certainly tell us much about how we are to live. Some of this is in the form of exhortation, but some comes in the form of narrative. While narrative may be descriptive, some of it also has prescriptive authority.

I'm convinced of the prescriptive nature of the New Testament church narrative for one primary reason. That reason is that the apostles were present as active participants in the early church. If anyone knew what Jesus expects and demands from the life of his people, it would be the apostles. A few years ago I wrote a piece entitled On the Importance of Apostolic Presence that explains my reasoning in detail.

The form of church life we see around us today deviates a great deal from what we see in scripture. Professional pastors have a large part to play in this. Through their piecemeal teaching about the church, pastors are telling the church that the biblical model for church life is unimportant.

Pastors are not being fair in how they interpret and teach the bible. They use strikingly different principles for their teaching on the gospel versus their teaching on the church. This is incredibly irresponsible. Not only is their teaching faulty, but they are offering to the people a confusing manner of how they should understand scripture as they study it for themselves.

This interpretive mess would largely disappear if the professionalism of the pastorate disappeared. Let's hope it happens today.

(The above is section twenty-four of 25 Reasons Professional Pastors Should Resign.)

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Reason #23 - Professional Pastors Are, In Fact, Professionals

The title of this post borders on redundancy. That was purposeful on my part.

Professional pastors by definition are professionals. They do certain things and receive payment for doing them. Very few of these men would continue to do those same things if they weren't paid (they might want to do them, but they wouldn't have time since they'd be working a regular job).

When a pastor begins his time at a church he signs some sort of contract. The church agrees to provide him with a certain package (salary, insurance, retirement, etc.) while he agrees to preach, baptize, marry, bury, visit, etc. The pastor supplies the services while the church supplies the money. It is a clear agreement between two parties.

What I've described above is the definition of a professional.

It ought not be this way. Scripture shows us churches free of this sort of professionalism. Elders (as opposed to modern-style pastors) were men who were simply part of the body. They were recognized for what they already were: godly individuals who were growing to be more Christlike while helping others do the same. These men may have received some financial gifts from time to time, but nothing in the bible suggests that they ever received salaries for their actions.

Well-known author John Piper has written a book entitled Brothers, We Are Not Professionals. The book is directed to pastors. I enjoyed reading it; it's well-written and thought out. However, and this is a big however, Piper is wrong in the very title of the book. The fact is that professional pastors are, in fact, professionals.

Today is a great day for all professional pastors to resign. The church will benefit greatly from turning to a biblical model of elders and away from salaried experts.

(This is part twenty-three of my blog series 25 Reasons Professional Pastors Should Resign.)

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Savannah's St. Patrick's Day celebration is one of the biggest in the country. The city's population swells from about 250,000 to close to 1 million for the day. Somehow I've never managed to attend the parade - until today. My daughter Mary and I are hoping to grab a good spot along the parade route for this wild and crazy event. It should be lots o' fun!

Below are two St. Patrick themed videos for your viewing pleasure:

Monday, March 16, 2015

Reason #22 - Professional Pastors Allow and Encourage the People to be Spectators

The church we see in the New Testament was active.

Was the N.T. church perfect? By no means. However, they generally lived out active lives for Christ. Part of this stems from all the one-another exhortations that we read in the epistles. This, in turn, comes from Jesus' teachings, such as those we see in the Sermon on the Mount. While Christ expects us to take spiritual rest in him, he also wants us to impact the world through his revolutionary priorities.

In light of the above, it seems that today's pastors would do all they could to inspire an active church. However, the opposite is actually the case. Professional pastors lead weekly ceremonies that keep the people locked and quiet. The folks in the pews are not encouraged to speak whatsoever; they aren't even supposed to move except to stand and sing. This entire situation brings about what we would expect: a passive church. The salaried men up front not only allow this, but also encourage it. If they thought it was a terrible thing (which it is), then they would certainly do something to change it.

But would they do something to change it? Since most people in the church have learned passivity through the years, they now expect it. The status quo is that the pastor will lead worship services. He will be the active one while the people sit silently. This is one of the main things the pastor gets paid for. Therefore, his paycheck depends on his encouraging passivity in the people. If he actually challenges this system, he could find himself on the unemployment line. He's not going to do that.

What we have in place is a largely quiet, dull, uninspiring church that lacks impact upon society. The laity have become spectators. The pastors lead the show. Week after week the church sits in a stupor while the paid experts lead the performance from the stage. This sad, pathetic situation will not change with salaried pastors in place. Therefore, they must resign. How about today?

(This is post twenty-two of the series 25 Reasons Professional Pastors Should Resign.)

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Reason #21 - Professional Pastors Turn Church Family Gatherings Into "Worship" Ceremonies

It's Sunday morning right now. Many church bodies in this country will gather today. A small percentage will get together like big families. The vast majority, however, will spend much of their time in a repetitious ceremony.

I'm not sure where the term "worship service" originated (if you know please leave your answer in the comments section). A more appropriate term would be "Christianesque ceremony." Instead of churches gathering to strengthen the body through mutual edification, they meet to perform basically the same ceremony week after week. Professional pastors stand at the epicenter of this phenomenon.

Salaried pastors receive their salary in large part because they preach. Monologue style preaching does not work as part of family get-togethers. Instead, this type of pastoral performance only works in ceremonies. Thus worship services rule the day in most churches.

When we look in the bible we don't find anything that looks like modern worship services. Instead, we see the body of Christ come together informally for the mutual upbuilding of the whole. The individual parts carry out the one anothers and use their areas of gifting to strengthen the entire family. It is a beautiful picture. This is what the church needs much more of today.

Professional pastors stand in the way of mutual edification. The reason is that they have to preach in order to get paid, and preaching only fits with a ceremonial atmosphere. Therefore, salaried pastors must resign. They must resign now.

(This is part twenty-one of 25 Reasons Professional Pastors Should Resign.)

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Reason #20 - Professional Pastors' Salaries Give the Message That the Church Should Spend Money on Itself

What do today's churches generally spend money on?

The answer is a simple and profound three-headed monster: pastors, buildings, and programs. The vast majority of most church budgets go toward covering these three things. The budgets themselves may seem more complicated than this, and in detail they probably are. However, when looking at the big picture it is clear that a huge percentage of the funds are used to pay for the salaries of the pastor(s), building mortgage and upkeep, and a wide variety of programs.

What's wrong with this situation?

What's wrong is that Jesus himself instructed his followers to give to meet the needs of others.

When the church spends most of its money on itself, it is disobeying Christ's command to help those who cannot help themselves. Putting a check in an offering plate, knowing that it will largely go toward pastors, buildings, and programs, does not exactly conform to Jesus' wishes.

Professional pastors sit right at the heart of this sordid situation. They actually take home more money from the church than goes to meet the needs of those who have no where else to turn. As a salaried pastor myself, I always felt weird putting a check in the offering plate, knowing that some of that same money would come back to me in the form of a paycheck. The longer I toiled as pastor the worse I felt.

When pastors accept a paycheck for services rendered, they give the message to the entire church family that it is just fine for the church to spend most of its money on itself. It ought not be this way.

Professional pastor friends, please resign today. The message you will send will be a blessed one.

(The above is part twenty of 25 Reasons Professional Pastors Should Resign.)