The Conference on the Church for God’s Glory

Monday I was able to participate in the Conference on the Church for God’s Glory (CCGG).  It is hosted annually by the First Baptist Church of Rockford, IL.  This is the third time I have had the privilege to participate in the conference. I have thoroughly enjoyed participating each time; it is a great time of fellowship.  I think there were about 170 attendees this year; the majority of them were pastors or ministers of the Gospel.  However, I also met some church members who attended the conference and they told me they were encouraged and edified by the conference.

Let me commend several of the sessions from the conference.  Pastor Steve Thomas presented an excellent session entitled, “What Did God Say about Preaching?”  It was an encouragement to me personally and was very helpful.  I appreciated Scott Aniol’s presentation on worship.  It reflected Scott’s normal carefulness and thoughtfulness.  I was personally encouraged by Pastor Scott Williquette’s sermon that began the conference.  It was an excellent exposition of Jesus’ interchange with Peter in John 21.  Unfortunately, I have heard that it did not get recorded.  However, I understand the other sessions will be available on the conference website.

I also enjoyed being part of honoring my Theology professor from seminary, Dr. Rolland McCune.  Pastor Williquette organized bring Dr. McCune up for the conference.  Those of us who had been his students shared lunch with him, and were able to express our appreciation for him and his ministry.  Dr. McCune has had a wonderful Gospel influence in the lives of many men who have studied at Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary and Central Baptist Theological Seminary over the years.  It is always good for our souls to honor those the Lord has used in our lives to shape our Christian character.

If anyone is looking for an encouraging conference to attend I hope you will consider the Conference on the Church for God’s Glory.

Jesus: Our Celestial Event Coordinator

I have the opportunity, at times, to attend funerals of those who were friends or relatives of members of our church. Sometimes I am glad to hear the gospel clearly given and the Lord honored. However, at other times I am quite disappointed with what passes as a Christian funeral.

I have been to several funerals where the emphasis of the funeral was on the hope of seeing our friends and loved-ones again. Now, I don’t mind people taking comfort in the fact that their loved one is in heaven and they will see that person again. On the other hand, I am deeply grieved at this being the focus of the funeral. Our hope of eternity in heaven is based on Christ. It is because Christ, the God-man, took on humanity that he could be our redeemer. It is because he perfectly satisfied his Father with his obedient life and sacrificial, substitutionary death (Romans 3:24–26) that we have a righteous standing before God. Christ is the author and finisher of our faith and he ought to be the focus of our faith and our hope. Our expectant looking forward to being with our Savior God should be the hope to which we cling. When this hope is left out of a Christian funeral service, such a service is evacuated of its Christian message and comfort. At its core, turning the focus from Christ to humanity (we will have a family reunion in heaven someday), is to skip over the gospel message that is our hope; the gospel message that makes it so that we do not sorrow as those who have no hope (1 Thess 4:13). We must not move the focus of our funeral services away from the gospel and to our friendships and familial love. To do so is to take the Christian element out of a Christian funeral.

As I have observed some of these funerals, I realized that the pastors or family members conducting them have minimized Christ. They have demoted him in their minds from the focus of heaven (Rev 22:1–5), to a celestial event planner who will sit in the background and will host all of our sentimental reunions with friends and family.  This not only removes the foundation of our hope, but exalts God’s good gifts of friendship and family love at the expense of demoting Christ our Savior.

The Usefulness of Falsehoods

Recently in the news, a pastor has admitted to claiming to have been a Navy SEAL, when in fact he never was. Apparently he did serve in the U. S. Navy, but he was never trained, and never served as a SEAL. I don’t bring up this incident to pick on this pastor. I bring it up to consider the issue of truthfulness in the ministry.

After years of listening to preaching (much of it very good and biblical, and some not so much), I have heard a lot of things from the pulpit. I have heard profanity used from the pulpit. I have also heard slander and arrogance from the pulpit. However, this story caused me to think about the issue of truthfulness in the pulpit. Many times I have heard illustrations and stories (they weren’t illustrating anything, they were just entertaining) that I knew were simply false.

Let me give the first category. I know of one preacher who used and illustration that was clearly factually in error. A friend of mine, in order to be a help, I believe, talked to the man about the illustration and explained to him the factual error in the illustration. The man thanked my friend at the time, but shortly after preached the sermon again and used the illustration over again, without correcting it. Now it may have been an oversight, but since it was preach again shortly after the correction, I am afraid that the man did not think the truth mattered in this case, because it was a good illustration. Being careless with the truth does not help the gospel, no matter how good the illustration is.

A more sinister category is the intentional lie from the pulpit. I have heard preachers claim to have an experience or conversation that they did not have. They claim to have a conversation that C. H. Spurgeon, D. L. Moody, or Billy Sunday had, and they relate it (as a good illustration or story) as if they had the conversation. Likewise, I have heard men claim to have had a very unique experience, that was actually the experience of another man, but they claim it for themselves in an illustration. I suppose this makes for more interesting illustrations, but the ethics of it are awful. The gospel is never aided by falsehood.

The third category I have experienced is the exaggeration to the point of lying. I have been at evangelistic outreaches and then years later heard a man bragging on and on about that outreach, but yet he embellishes it so much that it becomes a lie. I am not talking about a difference of perspective, but an inflating of numbers or exaggeration of people’s response. I suppose we as preachers are tempted to do this to inspire people to trust in the Lord to do a great work. However, I don’t believe that inspiring people is a justification for falsehood. The gospel is never aided by lying.

As preachers of the gospel, all of us are called to be truth proclaimers. No matter what motive we might have for being untruthful, we do not have a right to use falsehood to enhance our preaching. The Gospel is the truth, and is best adorned by the truth.

Geocentricism and Earth Day

As I have been thinking about Earth Day, I came to the realization that it is far too provincial and selfish of an observance. Sure there may be some environmental issues here on our planet, but what about other planets and even our own moon. This is really a form of planetary discrimination, if you would; a form I like to call Geocentricism. We have been so concerned about our own planet that we have not even considered the poor little satellite known as our moon.

Let me enumerate the ecological disaster that exists on the moon.
1. There is no breathable air on the moon. We worry selfishly about the quality of our air here on earth when there is no breathable air on the moon.
2. There is no clean, potable water on the moon.  We have been selfishly hoarding it here on earth.
3. The moon lacks healthy verdant vegetation because of numbers 1 and 2.
4. Animals are completely missing from the moon. Numbers 1, 2, and 3 make it impossible for animals to live on the moon.  Think about how much more beautiful the moon would look in the sky if it was more like our earth.
5. The moon’s climate is unhealthy. Half of the moon is in the dark perpetually. The other half is exposed to dangerous unfiltered solar radiation. We are worried about climate change here on earth, when the moon’s climate is more than changing, it is unihabitable.

Those five reasons alone lead me to the conclusion that the moon is an environmental disaster. What could be worse than having dangerous solar radiation, no breathable air, no drinkable water, no plant life, and no wonderful animals? Certainly the environment of the moon is in far worse shape than that of the planet earth. We must reconsider Earth Day. It seems selfish in light of the environmental catastrophe of the moon. What right have we of trying to enrich our own environment when our poor moon, which is so important for our own planet, suffers there in orbit around our home.

Great Point

Chris Anderson makes a great point over at his blog My Two Cents.  He is exactly right that we too often have been guilty of tolerating and even encouraging unbiblical preaching.  Too often we have desired ear tickling preaching, especially if it makes us laugh (0r cry).  Our only authority is the Word of God and we must not forget that in our preaching.

What Is Cool?

I remember hearing a version of someone (Stan Freberg?) singing “The Banana Boat Song” (Daaay-OOO). During the song a member of the beat generation keeps asking the singer to move away because he is too loud. By the end of the song the singer is outside the building doing the Day-O portion of the song. The beatnik then responds to the toned down volume: “Cool!” Another example of cool from a little later period is the “King of Cool,” Steve McQueen.  He was a huge box-office success in the height of 1960s and 1970s counter-culture.   In the 1980s Michael Jackson and Heavy Metal were cool.  In the 1990s the nihilistic lyrics of Nirvana and sitcoms about nothing (“Seinfeld”) were cool.  In this decade cool has its own incarnations:  the green movement, Brad Pitt, Beyoncé, and comic book themed movies are cool.

However, if we examine this concept, we find that it is very transitory.  Hardly any teenager today knows what a beatnik is or who Steve McQueen was for the matter.  While Steve McQueen was cool, so were menthol cigarettes.  Neither one is considered especially cool today.  Men in tight spandex pants screaming loud lyrics to a heavy beat are not considered cool anymore.  To today’s youth Nirvana is practically Oldies.  In another couple of decades the same will be said of Beyoncé.  Considering the elusiveness of our ever-shifting American pop culture, it is ironic that Christianity is still chasing cool.  Not only is American Christianity chasing what is ever-changing; it is often at least half a decade behind.  The evidence of this chasing of cool is the modern church growth dogmas.  The modern dogmas for church growth have hitched the wagons (a very uncool metaphor) to pop culture and its ethos of cool.  The problem is that we have traded eternal, foundational truth for what is cool.  We have traded a 2,000 year history in Christianity for what is cool.  Not only that, but those who want to hang on to what is timeless are blamed for the decline of Christianity in America.

The problem of chasing a changing culture is no more apparent than in our worship.  Don’t misunderstand me, I don’t mean only our music when I say worship.  I know the common reference to a music leader in a church is a “worship leader,” but that is a misunderstanding of worship.  Biblical worship included music (Col 3:16), biblical preaching and teaching (1 Tim 4:2), Scripture reading (Rev 1:3), Prayer (Acts 2:42), and the ordinances (Acts 2:41–2).  All of those things are worship.  The Modern American twist on Christianity has taken all of those things and changed them to make them cool.  The changes in music (and even greater the disgust with timeless hymns) are directly linked to the attempt to be relevant in an ever-changing culture.  The changes in preaching style and content are a repudiation of the timelessness of the Word of God. Likewise, the disregard for Scripture reading, serious times of prayer, and solemn practices of the ordinances are all evidences of buying the ever changing and untrustworthy shares of pop culture stock, and repudiating the eternal and unchanging.  There are all kinds of causes (both intellectual and populist), but they all end in the same shifting sand of uncertainty: pop culture. I understand the gospel will be expressed enculturated in various ways in various cultures, but in the past this has not rejected the timeless elements of Christianty.  The new attempts at reaching the culture not only embrace the culture wholesale, but unavoidably reject the timeless, either knowingly or unwittingly.

If godly change is to come in the life of an individual or in the life of a church, it will come only through the timeless, eternal truth of the Bible.

Sermon Audio

I thought some of my readers might be interested to know that Calvary Baptist Church  of Winter Garden, FL is now broadcasting on SermonAudio.  You can find sermons by me and other preachers on our SermonAudio page.  We will be primarily posting Sunday morning sermons to the site.  They will be archived there as well, if you are interested in listening to sermons from prior weeks and months.