Friday, January 05, 2007

Here's An Idea

One of our members in LaGrange is a retired businessman, leader in the church, grandfather, and concerned Christian. He is also involved in several community activities, and has come up with a great idea to share Christ with other people. It is so good and so simple, I thought you might like to hear about it.

About a year ago this man volunteered as a "Big Brother" with the local chapter of Big Brothers and Big Sisters. He learned that here was a tremendous waiting list of kids wanting someone to share their time and help mentor them. So, he signed up, made it through the background check, and was assigned a "little brother," an 11 year old boy who needed a little encouragement. Now the two spend between 1 and 2 hours a week together, and are forming a close relationship. They go out to eat, they go to the lake and walk along the shore, they go to a little league game, or they might just go to the library. The point is, they can do just about anytime, and it is up to the Big Brother to decide how much time and how much money is spent. Through that relationship, he is also able to influence the family, invite them to church, and introduce them to our community of faith. In fact, this man was honored as the "Big Brother of the Year" by our local chapter.

So, we have decided to rally our congregation and attempt to flood Big Brothers & Big Sisters with volunteers, and here's why:

1. They do all the paperwork.
2. We don't have to appoint a deacon or ministry leader to keep up with stats, number of visits, etc.
3. There is absolutely no expense to the church, no printed materials, not even an annual dinner -- the organization does that.
4. Anybody can do it.
5. Volunteers get to determine the age and race of the kids they want to help.
6. The parents of these kids have asked for this help.
7. Schedules are flexible -- if the volunteer has to be out of town, or something else comes up, you just call and reschedule.
8. The parents agree in writing that they can deny access on a weekly basis as punishment for anything the child has done.
9. Sunday school, youth events, VBS, camp, etc. can all be part of the relationship
10. The relationship with the child gives open access for the volunteer to build a relationship with the parents that may create a door of opportunity for evangelism.

You get the idea. Also, it is important to note that social scientist now say that the vast majority of children will never rise above the expectations they have for their futures past the age of 11.

If you are looking for a new idea for local outreach, look into Big Brothers & Big Sisters. You can click on the title of this article for a link (assuming I did it right) to find a chapter near you.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Maybe This is Why the Argument Rages

I seem to have myself in a foggy place the past two months. This whole music thing has me in a tizzy. It is not that I do not understand the arguments, or that I want to embarrass someone -- its just that it is so hard to get a straight answer any more. I have been on a quest trying to find someone who can explain certain things to me, and I have had no success (maybe people think these are trick questions!?!).

Here they are:

1. On October 16, 2006 I asked how it could be that we could infer from Eph. 5 & Col. 3 that instrumental music in worship is wrong when those passages are so solidly in the context of daily Christian attitude and behavior, and have nothing to do with corporate worship? I got a lot of comments, no explanation from those who oppose IM.

2. On the "Argument of Silience," I keep wondering several things:
a. Where did it come from? Who thought it up?

b. What biblical authority do we have to apply it only to the subject of instrumental music in the church? In fact, what authority do we have to apply it to anything at all? If it is so "self-evident", then why all the division?

c. If it does apply to other subjects, why doesn't that list include things like multiple cups in communion, church buildings, fellowship centers, orphans' homes, etc.? And who decides?

d. If the argument of silence is so true and so powerful, why didn't Jesus give it weight and power by criticizing the use wine during the Passover (not authorized by God), attending synagogues (not authorized by God), and/or celebrating Hanukkah (not authorized by God)? In fact, quite the opposite is true. Jesus used wine at the Passover, he attended and taught at the synagogues (never attacking the institution's right to exist), and he celebrated, or at least attended without condemning, Hanukkah in John 10.

e. Many people who oppose instrumental music in church say that God never authorized its use in the OT, but tolerated it because of David's relationship to God. These same people argue that it is sinful to use it today (see Alan Highers' article entitled, "Is it a Salvation Issue?" in the November, 2006 edition of the Gospel Advocate). Assuming (and it is a HUGE assumption) that the first premise is true, why would we not conclude that God would "tolerate" its use today? It seems to me that we have a biblical example of such toleration (if the first assumption is true), and my relationship with God is at least as good as David's because I am a son of God, and an heir. To conclude that David had more is to introduce the idea that either God plays favorites (election??), or that David earned a higher status due to his meritorial works (nullifying grace).

f. Why is it that instrumental music in worship is the only issue that we appeal to the practices of the Church Fathers for support? No one I know thinks these men were infallible, and most, if not all, who argue against instrumental music would not even consider these men to be faithful Christians.

3. Finally, I would like to know why we can make a distinction between corporate worship and private, or family devotion to God when it comes to using, or listening to instrumental praise. What is so different between my house, my car, a funeral, or a wedding, and a Sunday morning worship assembly when it comes to offering up praise and adoration?

I am not arguing for instrumental music in worship. I am, however, arguing that I think a cappella only worship cannot be defended without addressing these questions. Every time I try to ask them, they are tossed aside and ignored - usually by an explanation of how the argument of silence works. I know that. I am searching for an answer to these specific questions, and they never seemed to be addressed.

I have decided to do the only thing I know to do -- keep digging and praying. I share this with the full knowledge that I live in a time when my devotion to scripture, faithfulness to God, and motives will be held in suspect by some. I truly mourn that I have lived to see a time when people are labeled and criticized for simply asking questions that deserve an honest and complete answer. If you read this and think that I am rebelling, trying to stir the pot, or that I have abandoned the faith, then you do not know me, and more importantly, you do not want to face questions like these - either because you are afraid of them, or you care more about tradition than truth. I welcome any assistance I can receive on this matter, especially from those who defend a cappella only worship to God.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Everybody Hates to Say Goodbye to a Mentor

I have decided to end my "Blogger Sabbatical." I thought it would be nice to stay away for a couple of weeks, concentrate on the holidays, and allow my mind to rest and reload a bit. It is rested, but I would not be surprised to learn that I have reloaded with blanks.

Everyone has a pocket full of individuals who helped us along the way -- helped us get started, helped us see truth and righteousness, offered quiet and gentle wisdom, and the like. For me one of those men was Quinn Jarrett. Quinn was a wonderful Christian man who past away early this morning in Albany, GA. He and his family loved and nurtured me soon after I became a Christian in 1971.

I don't know his roots, except that he owned a small construction company when I first met him. Back in the late 60's his wife, Joyce, won the Publisher's House Sweepstakes. The prize was a new car and a sum of money. Quinn took the money and began his construction company with his brother, known by all as "Double 'L'". Before that, I think he was into some form of pig farming.

Anyway, Quinn had four children: Barbara, Dan, Glenn, and Gayle. Dan is my age, and a graduate of Heritage (formally IBC). He works and preaches in south Georgia, and is married to one of my wife's, Donna, old college friends. Barbara is the same age as my wife (1 year younger), Glenn was a student I recruited at MBC. He preached in Mississippi for a few years before returning to Georgia. He now lives and preaches in Cordelle, GA, and works in the family business. The youngest, Gayle, married a printer and lives in Newman, GA. I only learned of his illness on Christmas Eve.

We all grew up together in the same youth group at church, and Quinn always saw to it that I had a ride to church and every youth activity. I used to hang around their house a lot, and spent a few summers framing apartment buildings and new homes, or setting forms for the foundations of metal buildings. He and his family was always there for me and Donna when we were young. He was a loving and caring friend.

Quinn never would serve as an elder because he smoked, most men did in those days. He was always cheerful, and never compromised his Christian convictions for money. His business slogan was simple, "Sometines on a Saturday, never on a Sunday." I cannot ever remember any church activity that took place that they did not attend, support, or serve. Words like quiet, gentle, easy going, joyful, and friendly best describe his personality. He never raised a fuss, showed his temper, or complained about anything at church that I am aware of. Quinn did not like or seek the limelight, and he never took advantage of anyone. Quinn Jarrett loved the Lord, the church, and his family more than money, property or fame. Of all the men I have ever met in my life, I hold none in higher esteem than Quinn. Everything I am and I have, I owe to him. He loved me, encouraged me, protected me, and helped me set my course in life. His passing is a bitter pill to take.

I know that practically no one knows this man, or appreciate his contributions to the kingdom throughout the decades. But I wanted you to know, and I wanted you to be encouraged by the thought that there are many, many wonderful people in the family of God.
I will leave tomorrow to pay my respects to his family. I am grieved by the news of his death, but I have been blessed by his life. What a wonderful mentor he was to me.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Check out this podcast episode!

Room For More

Give it a listen!

Why We Fight, #2

Enjoy! -- Gary Kirkendall

Monday, November 27, 2006

The Marriage Mystery

One of the best images of the church in the Bible is given in Ephesians 5:25-32 where Paul reveals a profound mystery concerning the relationship that Christ has with his church. He does not say that this relationship is "like" that of a marriage, he says that it is the very same thing.

Specifically the apostle teaches that husbands should love their wives "just as" Christ loved the church; and the way that he demonstrated that love was to lay down his life. That what real husbands do -- they protect. But there is more!

Verse 26 says, "to make her holy, cleansing her through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle,or any other blemish, but holy and blameless." Do you ever ask yourself what kind of a church Jesus died for? It has been, and continues to be a mess. It makes no difference what church you examine, they are all a mess -- Corinth, Thessalonica, Colosse, Sardis, Pergamum, where I attend, where you attend -- they are all a mess. Nevertheless, Jesus laid down his life for these churches and has every intention of presenting them holy and blameless as his bride on that last day. Remarkable.

I think about this image in light of the power of true love. My wife loves me in spite of my glaring deficiencies. I'm growing older, I have my peculiar ways, I struggle with my selfish interests, I don't help out around the house as much as I should -- but I am still pretty special in her eyes. I look at my wife and, to me, she is pretty close to perfect -- creative, loving, energetic, committed -- and in my eyes just as lovely as the day we met. I consider myself fortunate because I know that there are lots of men who do not feel this way about their wives. They tend to notice the wrinkles and the graying of the hair. Perhaps they no longer have a wife that wears a size 2 dress, or have flowing thick locks of perfect blonde hair, and the begin to imagine what it would be like to be free and happy again with the passion of their youth -- too bad! We, as husbands made a commitment that included the term, "no matter what". That means that we gave our wives permission to age, to gain weight, to wrinkle, to stop being "perfect" in our ideal imagination.

That's the way Jesus loves the church -- no matter what -- warts and all! It seems to me that we spend a lot of time griping about what we do not like about our churches and not enough time concentrating on the reality that Christ died for a messy, less than perfect, and sometimes lazy church. He loves the church so much that he has every intention of presenting her to himself as pure and holy on the last day, and he not only loved her enough to die to for her, he has every intention of living with her forever.

Here is the mystery -- somehow Jesus loves his people even though they are a mess -- even though we are all less than ideally perfect. He loves me and makes me holy and blameless. He protects me, provides for me, he makes me better than I am and treats me better than I deserve. That's the way husbands are supposed to love their wives -- that's the way real men treat their wives. That is also the way we ought to view our congregations. They are not perfect -- except in the eyes or our Redeemer. If people understood this concept, maybe they would see their spouse in a whole new light. But as Paul says in Ephesians 5, "This is a profound mystery -- but I am talking about Christ and the church." > So I guess I should say that if we could wrap our minds and our hearts around this concept maybe we could diminish the griping that constantly goes on, maybe we could lessen the tension between congregations caused by the feeling from some that everything has to be perfect to be faithful, and maybe our eyes and hearts would not wander in search of a better way, a better group, or a better church. Wouldn't it be great if we could love our churches in the same way Jesus does -- warts and all? And maybe -- and this is very important -- if we understood that Jesus loves our churches even though they are a mess, our faith could be strengthened, and our confidence concerning our salvation would be more certain.

God is truly a realist. He does not demand perfection, merely faithfulness. Come to think of it, isn't that the key to any strong marriage?

Monday, November 20, 2006

Worship Attitudes

I believe that Christianity in its purest form is all about Victory! Victory over death, victory over ignorance, victory over loneliness, despair, uncertainty, decay, evil, guilt, and on and on. For me, that makes Sunday a very special day.

In recent years there has been so much discussion over attitudes and styles of worship, and much of it has been very revealing. But I think sometimes we forget that worship is also about Victory!

A lot of folks I know and love approach worship as an exercise in somber and reverent meditation. They want a quiet auditorium several moments before the worship hour begins. They want the absence of humor and laughter. They want a dominant air of serious introspection and sober contemplation. "Decently and in Order" means a tight schedule, a regimented sequence of events, and a dedication to the familiar and often rehearsed themes and actions. Predictable songs, predictable prayers, predictable sermons, predictable communion comments, predictable everything. Phrases like, "Now separate and apart from the Lord's Supper,. . ."

I truly can appreciate that kind of an attitude, but for me, something is missing. For me what is missing is the hopefulness and heart swelling affirmation of Victory.

Historically, and biblically, worship has contained the constant tension and balance of reverent awe and irrepressible celebration. In John's Revelation I see heavenly creatures lying down in reverent repose before the throne of God followed by the uncontainible shouts of joy announcing and celebrating the holiness and inexpressible power of God. Biblical worship acknowledges the majesty of our Lord, and at the same time erupts in spontaneous cries of joy, blessing, and hope -- the kind that can only be explained by the realization of personal and eternal Victory.

David danced, Moses felt small, Daniel fainted, Isaiah felt unclean, Paul fasted, John cried, Peter fell to his knees, Stephen rejoiced at the vision of God's throne, and we somehow feel compelled to just sit there with a somber and detached expression during worship thinking that we honor God.

The realization of Victory prompted the proliferation of thousands of psalms, countless proverbs, and timeless scriptures. Victory has motivated missionaries from Paul and Barnabas, to present day ambassadors spread throughout the world. Victory has built wonderful worship and ministry centers and schools of thought and training. It has built campuses of refuge for orphans, unwed mothers and battered women. Victory has led to ministries serving the emotionally distraught, the mentally diseased, the addict, and the sexually confused. It has rebuilt cities after hurricanes, earthquakes, and other natural disasters. It has done truly amazing things for millions and millions of believers and those they serve.

Maybe it is time we "danced" a little. Maybe it is time that we celebrated a little more and inject pure and spontaneous emotion into our worship. Maybe it is time we communicate Victory.

I know that there is nothing wrong with honoring God with reverence and somber moments of meditation and piety. I love the quiet times during communion, and I eagerly anticipate the reading of his word. But worship should also be a celebration of Victory -- complete with sincere outbursts and declarations of joy, complete with happy faces and filled hearts.

Somehow we have constructed an attitude of worship in may places that places constraints on worship that you cannot find in the Bible. Sunday morning is not a production -- it is a reaction to the unrelenting purpose of God's will and power in the lives of the believer. Worship is about God, but it is also for the saints. It is a time to be filled with reverent awe and overwhelming joy. Worship is about many thing, including Victory!

Now, tell me again why I cannot clap --

3 Send forth your light and your truth,
let them guide me;
let them bring me to your holy mountain,
to the place where you dwell.

4 Then will I go to the altar of God,
to God, my joy and my delight.
I will praise you with the harp,
O God, my God.

5 Why are you downcast, O my soul?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God.

Psalm 43:3-5

Friday, November 17, 2006

Back in the Game

After a six year delay, I have gotten back into the fund raising business! We have undertaken the construction of an 18,000 square foot addition to the Broad Street church, and the task of raising the funds fell into my hands. On October 15 we unveiled the renderings and the plans and set out securing the funding.

LaGrange is peculiar in that there is a foundation here set up by the Callaway family (Callaway carpet, now Milliken, and Callaway golf). This foundation matches all projects for the community (Medical, educational, cultural, etc.) at the rate of twenty cents on the dollar. The catch is, none of the money can be borrowed. So, all of the money needed has to be in the form of cash, property, or pledges. Last week we went over the $1,000,000 mark, which means that we will have $1,200,000+ to complete the project. I am very proud of our families and the plan put together to secure the finances.

I spent a lot of years raising money for good works before I returned to local work, and I must confess, I really enjoy the process. Besides this project, I volunteer with an abortion alternative center, and a home for abused women in raising money. It is very gratifying to help people understand why God has blessed them with prosperity, and to see what good people can accomplish when they work together. One of the best resources around is Alan Phillips, a long time friend and professional consultant, who is also presently the Assistant Director of the Mission Resource Center out in Texas. Alan taught me, and those who worked with me, a lot; and has always been involved in helping good works secure proper funding. He has been a facilitator in building universities, local church campuses, sending missionaries around the world, and a host of other great works. He taught me to love the ministry of fund raising and use it to make a difference in the kingdom.

Most preachers I know talk openly about how much they hate talking, preaching, or teaching about money, and I have always wondered why. Here is what I have concluded:

Preachers don't like talking about money because:
1. They're concern is with the spiritual and money is attached to what we consider "Worldly", even though securing necessary financial resources has been a part of kingdom business since the Exodus.
2. Most preachers I know are not good with money. To be more precise, they do not want to mess with it. They leave it up to their wives to manage household budgets and banking business (I am included in this group).
3. Many preachers do not give what they should. They reason that their service and their life, and their acceptance of a salary that is less than it should be is sufficient sacrifice to God. When you factor in taxes, unre-embersed business expenses, lack of benefits, and the like it is easy to be seduced into thinking that our giving is "factored in" our salary. It is easy to forget God's promises to the cheerful and generous giver.
4. Some think that people in the church are afraid of being challenged financially. They reason that people will complain, or leave if they talk about money. However, it seems to me that most people leave because of the lack of any real action or challenge or growth in their life.
5. Some feel it is beneath their dignity. Almost every fund raiser I have ever known has been called a "beggar" by someone. That's OK -- if you read your Bible, many beggars found their way to glory, and no matter how much we humble ourselves, we will never match the humility of our Savior!
6. Most just do not know how. Maybe raising money is a gift. Perhaps it is an "acquired taste". I am not certain. I only know that someone has got to do it if we are to have the resources needed to expand the kingdom.

Regardless, I enjoy the whole process, and now I look forward to our church family reaching out to the community and preparing for the tremendous growth in our community that is predicted with the coming of several new industries including KIA, Cooper Tire, and a host of other suppliers for the new automotive manufacturing plant.

We did it, and we did not have to hire consultants, and we did it in just under four weeks! I am thankful to God for His blessings and always excited to see God's people working together in the kingdom of our Lord. Any thoughts you have on the subject would be welcomed.