Get out of the cave.

Last weekend, my wife and I took our children to Carter Caves and toured Cascade Cave.  The guided tour was 75-minutes long and included 225 stair steps.  Our children loved it, and we did too.   At least, the older two that stayed awake.  Our youngest fell asleep towards the end and was carried through pretty much the entire trip.

When we came out of the cave, our signal returned to our phones and messages and voicemails came on them.  We missed a lot of what was going on and valuable communications.  The experience reminded me that we can enter into spiritual caves in our lives.  The cave is not evil itself and is something that somehow provides protection and a place of solace.  However, it is not a place we are meant to stay.  Let’s look at a couple passages of Scripture to learn more.

David.

1 Samuel 22

David therefore departed thence, and escaped to the cave Adullam: and when his brethren and all his father’s house heard it, they went down thither to him. 2And every one that was in distress, and every one that was in debt, and every one that was discontented, gathered themselves unto him; and he became a captain over them: and there were with him about four hundred men.

3And David went thence to Mizpeh of Moab: and he said unto the king of Moab, Let my father and my mother, I pray thee, come forth, and be with you, till I know what God will do for me. 4And he brought them before the king of Moab: and they dwelt with him all the while that David was in the hold. 5And the prophet Gad said unto David, Abide not in the hold; depart, and get thee into the land of Judah. Then David departed, and came into the forest of Hareth.

Elijah.

1 Kings 19

And he came thither unto a cave, and lodged there; and, behold, the word of the LORD came to him, and he said unto him, What doest thou here, Elijah? 10And he said, I have been very jealous for the LORD God of hosts: for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.

11And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD. And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake: 12And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice. 13And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah? 14And he said, I have been very jealous for the LORD God of hosts: because the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.

15And the LORD said unto him, Go, return on thy way to the wilderness of Damascus: and when thou comest, anoint Hazael to be king over Syria: 16And Jehu the son of Nimshi shalt thou anoint to be king over Israel: and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abelmeholah shalt thou anoint to be prophet in thy room. 17And it shall come to pass, that him that escapeth the sword of Hazael shall Jehu slay: and him that escapeth from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha slay. 18Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him.

The Rest of Us

John 16:33 reminds us, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”  I am thankful that God has provided grace that is sufficient for all our needs.  Thankfully we can experience His grace during our times of grieving and other overwhelming emotions.  While our feelings can betray us, we must still understand that God has created us with these capabilities.  Emotions are just some of the ways the Lord has given us the power to cope with all the ups and downs of life.

However, as far as the emotions associated with sadness and anger go, we must not stay there too long.  In the passages above, we see that David and Elijah went to the caves in time of despair and depression.  However, both were not there for very long.  It allowed for a moment of profound soul-searching.

We can do this deep searching of the heart during this time because typically we find seclusion.  For Elijah, it was a time where God could speak to Him in a mysterious, yet miraculous way.  Saints of old have called these times the dark night of the soul.  These are times when we feel withdrawn and numb in our emotions.  Communication with God may be foggy at best.  However, it is during these times that we can hold on to God’s Word alone by faith and in the end find out that He still reigns.  This is the peace that Jesus talked about in John 16:33.  We can have trouble and should expect it.  However, we can overcome and have peace because of Jesus’ triumph over sin and death.  That triumph extends to every arena of life.

Don’t Quit

This is the recent preaching outline I used for a sermon called “Don’t Quit.”

Job 14:1, “Man that is born of a woman is of few days and full of trouble.

Who do you know right now that you would like to tell them not to quit?  Was there a point in your life, maybe even now, that you wish you had someone to say to you, don’t quit?

Job’s background and Introduction

  • He had great possessions, his family, his health, and his marriage.
  • However, beyond his control, he suffered great loss but remained faithful to the Lord.  God blessed his faithful in the end.
  • We experience these cycles in almost every arena of life.  The cycle move from the promises to problems and many of us never see the prize of being faithful because we quit during the problems.  God help us to not give up.  To not quit.
  • Like Job said, we don’t go very long in life without trouble popping up.

The Promises

  • The first day on the job, honeymoon & marriage, children (Job. 14:1), health, home, education, etc.
  • Each of these

The Problems

  • We tend to settle or surrender.
  • We then quit, give up.
    • Gal. 6:9 and reiterated in 2 Thess. 3:13, And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.
  • To not quit, we need to ask ourselves the question, “what wrong things do we need to quit so we don’t quit on the right things?”

The Prize

  • God rewards faithfulness in life.
  • The ultimate reward of faith is eternity with the Lord.

 

  • 1 Cor. 9:24-27, Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.  I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.
  • Heb. 12:1-2, “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, 2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

 

 

 

Four Hindrances to Worshipping in Spirit and in Truth.

When Jesus spoke to the women at Jacobs well in the fourth chapter of the Gospel according to John, He spoke on worship.  Jesus stated that God the Father searches for those that will worship in Spirit and in truth (John 4:23).  The conversation basically boils down to the point that true worship does not depend on the physical location of the person but their spiritual position before God.

So what hinders our worship from being in Spirit and in Truth?  Here are a few issues impacting our personal and gathered worship.

An unrepentant and deceitful heart (Acts 5:4-5 & 8:9-25)

In these two passages, we see the damage caused by unrepentant and dishonest hearts.  Highlighting the necessity of a personal relationship with God through His Son, Jesus Christ, made into a reality by the transforming presence of the Holy Spirit.  God is not pleased by anything that is not done by faith (Heb. 11:6).  The activation of faith begins with repentance of sin and belief in God.  If there is unconfessed sin in our life, we are deceiving ourselves and hindering our worship.  We need to come clean with God and allow Him to do the full work of Grace in our life.

Lack of prayer (Mt. 21:13)

When Jesus made his way into the temple at Jerusalem, He was disturbed at the marketing chaos and lack of respect for prayer.  He turned over tables and drove the moneychangers out.  Now, we might say this is a location but let us cross-reference with the Scriptural teaching that our bodies are the temple of God as well (1 Cor. 6:19).  We are to be a people of prayer.  Prayer marks our lives because it is more than a ritual of obedience.  It is intentional dialoguing with God.  If we do not have a habit of speaking with God through prayer, how can we also talk, sing, and serve Him in worship?  Prayer is a part of worshipping and can’t be separated from it.

Limited Biblical knowledge (Hos. 4:6 & Col. 1:9)

Despite those with an attitude of intellectual snobbery, Scripture has much to say about the need for Biblical knowledge.  Knowledge of God’s Word and His Ways in the world have a significant impact on our worship.  Worship is more than emotional outburst and your feelings.  A limited Biblical knowledge leads to shallow worship.  C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity noted a conversation that demonstrates this.  The individual he witnessed to said they did not need the Bible because they thought it restricted what they had already experienced with God through personal observations and feelings.  However, Lewis noted that there is a difference between standing on the beach and going out on a ship into the ocean.  You can only experience so much in the shallows.  But, to go out deeper and experience the totality, you need a map, or you will get lost.  The Bible is our map, and it helps us navigate deeper into our relationship with the Lord.  The more we know of God, the more we can honestly know God.

Toxic attitudes (Phil. 4:8-9 & Eph. 4:32)

Attitudes of ungratefulness, dishonesty, irreverence, pride, jealousy, cynicism, and more also hinder our worship.  We are challenged to think about things that are pleasant and good in the sight of God.  We are challenged to have a spirit of forgiveness and preference of others instead of self.  If we harbor this ill-feelings and negative thoughts, without ever giving them to God, we will find our souls drifting farther and farther from God.

Not willing that any should perish.

Last evening in service we had one of our directors of a foreign mission field.  It was great to hear of the work being done, challenged by devotion despite oppositions, and the significant needs across the world.   The greatest need of all is the salvation that only comes through faith in Jesus Christ.  The Lord is currently providing the opportunity if people would only receive him.  In Scripture, we see that is a free choice of individuals to make.

2 Peter 3:3-10,

“Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.”

Christ will set all things right (vs. 3-7, 10)

One of the oldest positions of skeptics is that the return of Christ has taken far to long.  Peter was acquainted with this critique and provided his response.  He noted that the flood took place as part of God’s previous judgment.  With the certainty of the flood, Peter assures his audience that God’s next judgment was ready at any moment.  Christ will return but it will not be expected.  It will arrive like a thief in the night.  However, instead of a flood, the judgment would be an intense fire.

The Lord is not willing that any should perish (vs. 8-9)

In the meantime, Peter provides an answer as to why the coming of the Lord has not happened yet.  He first remarked in verse eight that time does not impact God as it does with creation.  Many take this to be a literal understanding of time with God, but the truth is that whether a day or a thousand years takes place, God is not affected.  He is eternal.  Peter paraphrased Psalm 90:4 which stated, “For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night.”  Again, the notion is that the Lord is eternal and exists outside of time.

Peter associates the eternal nature of God with incredible patience when it comes to acting in time.  Especially concerning the return of Jesus Christ.  The reason for God’s patience toward us is that He is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”  God desires all to be saved.  However, we also understand that not all are not saved.  To understand this dilemma, two solutions are considered.  First, the Calvinist redefines the words “any” and “all” to only mean the elect.  Or, the second, is to understand that God has given free will and does not force salvation on any or all people.  Instead, he receives any, and all that will freely choose His Son, Jesus Christ.

God is waiting patiently to send His Son to set all things right because He longs for people to repent and receive His salvation.  If you are not saved, the time you have right now is a gift of mercy because the Lord is patiently waiting.  If you are saved, then be busy about the Father’s business, not wanting any to perish, but working to help all come to repentance.

So great a salvation.

We have been given a great salvation.  However, it can be neglected.  Which means what to the believer?  Let’s search this out.

“Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward; How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?” (Hebrews 2:1-4)

First, why is this salvation so great?  We will find the answer in the previous chapter.

Salvation begins not with us but the incomparable majesty of the Son.  The glory of the Son far beyond the Old Testament prophets and high above the angels.  Jesus is the only begotten of God, meaning one of a kind.  He is uncreated and eternal present before the creation of the world.  And, He is the one who sits at the right hand of Heavenly Father.  

It is Jesus that has purged us from our sins.  We see this referenced in chapter one and a deeper dive in the second chapter begins to open this more fully.  They center on the truth that Christ became flesh, dwelt among, died for our sins, and rose victorious.  Christ became as one of us to die and cleanse us thoroughly from our sins.

What does it mean to neglect?

It is a moral and spiritual command that we pay attention to what God has said.  Our response is a matter of ultimate blessing or loss.   As the Hebrew writer will explain, we need to be more careful than those at Mt. Sinai who heard the words of God through the angels and the holy man Moses, for we have the Son of God!  They listened to the word but did not mix it with faith.  That is not our path.

How prone we are to “neglect?”  It is so easy to treat the things of God as if they were unimportant, to become occupied without comforts and the affairs of this life.  We wouldn’t want to offend others who have their own believers. We don’t intend to deny the faith – we are just taking it a bit easy and being a bit reasonable.  The writer warns us that such an attitude leads to eternal loss. We shall not escape.

Give a more earnest thing to the things we have heard.

We must wholly commit to learning the Word of God.  We do this through personal and congregational study.  However, it is more than gaining knowledge.  The believer needs to proceed further into the application of the Word.  The sincerity of faith will move us past intellectually discussions and empty feelings.  We must seek to live after God as he taught us to in the Scripture.

Push-Through

“Push-Through” is a saying that I grew up hearing.  It was immensely valuable and still is today.   To me, it carries encouragement and challenge.  Let me ask you a question.  How do you approach God? If the Old Testament teaches us anything, it is that there is a right way to approach God.  And, the New Testament echoes it.  Clearly, in the OT this would seem to happen by purity laws and sacrifices, but what we know the New Testament does not focus on these works?  Instead, a connecting theme to both testament, and the through behind the idiom to push-through, is faith.  Faith is the thread, from Abraham to Christ today.  

Let’s look at two individuals who had to approach Christ in faith in their most desperate hour.  In Luke chapter, a man comes to Jesus to heal his sick daughter.  Moved by the humility and hope of this man, Jesus follows him.  However, a woman pushed through the crowd that surrounded these men.  She was there for her own healing.  Read the next passage to see what took place:

And Jesus said, Somebody hath touched me: for I perceive that virtue is gone out of me. And when the woman saw that she was not hid, she came trembling, and falling down before him, she declared unto him before all the people for what cause she had touched him, and how she was healed immediately.  And he said unto her, Daughter, be of good comfort: thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace.  While he yet spake, there cometh one from the ruler of the synagogue’s house, saying to him, Thy daughter is dead; trouble not the Master.  But when Jesus heard it, he answered him, saying, Fear not: believe only, and she shall be made whole.

Luke 8:46-50

 

Did you notice that both of these people are exhorted to have faith?  Verse 49, “Daughter be of Good comfort, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace.  Verse 50, “Fear not: believe only and she shall be made whole.”  Faith from the Greek word πίστις (pistis), and believe from πιστεύω (pistoue) are connected foundational.

The woman with the issue of blood, who was healed, had to push through a crowd to get to Jesus.  It is a picture of what it is like to have faith.  The man, Jairus, found out that his daughter died while he and Jesus were on their way.  No doubt, the advice to not trouble Jesus seemed sound.  But, the Lord said to him to basically push through the grief, shock, and fear.  To keep believing and as we read on, she really was made whole.

 

 

You need to push through.  Keep your faith in Christ. Romans 10:9-14 talks about salvation and makes the statement, “whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.”  Hebrews 11:1 reminds us, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Even during the most challenging situations, we need to keep the faith and push through.  Living as though Scripture is true and God is really real.

Apps for Small Churches

The following list of apps is the “go to” helps for Bible study, communications and social media, and overall productivity.  Some of these tools are a daily part of my ministry.   Most of these apps come with options at different prices, and most have free levels.  Which is great for small budgets.  However, if there was one common theme about all of these apps that I absolutely love is they allow me to be mobile.  Whether at my desk with a laptop or in a waiting room on my phone or tablet, I can enjoy not being tethered to just my office.  Taking my Bible study with me wherever I am, along with all the other techier points of ministry, is a wonderful opportunity.

 

Bible Study

Blue Letter Bible

Blue letter bible has an app to accompanying its website.  I primarily use this site for looking up verses and original language studies.  However, they do have commentaries as well.

E-Sword

When I need to use the computer for a broader period of study, e-sword is the way to go.  I have Logos, but it can be very slow at times.  However, e-sword delivers everything needed for taking those deep dives into Scripture.  There are apps for phones and tablets, along with a software program for computers.

Communications and Social Media

Facebook pages

When it comes to communication, social media is essential, and Facebook is still king of the hill here.  The feed is directly linked to our website, and what is updated on the page is automatically updated on the site.  Facebook pages also make it simple to still manage our churches facebook account without being distracted by my own account and getting them confused.  🙂

Twitter

Twitter is another social media platform that we use for the church and ministry.  Primarily this is for engagement with a different demographic group, usually younger.

Instagram

Instagram is quickly becoming the most engaging social media platform for our church.  It’s fun and centers around pictures and short movie clips.  It can also be linked directly to our churches website in a way to make an instant photo gallery.

HootSuite & Buffer

With so many different social media accounts, it can become tedious to post the same thing, or even different things, to each account at a time.  HootSuite and Buffer both do the same thing, scheduling out your posts so that you don’t have to sit in front of the screen all day.  You can schedule way in advance and find even more metrics to evaluate the effectiveness of your posts.  I’ve used both and really can’t say there is much difference except interface.  HootSuite is my preference, but I have nothing against using Buffer again.

MailChimp

Sometimes, using email is the way to go.  For that I use MailChimp.  With this website (and app) you can build your mailing list through sign-ups.  Then you can either use a template or create your own email layout.  When you send the email, you are provided with real-time metrics of engagement.  Also, you add your personal email to the sender, which helps avoid junk mail.

Click2Mail

There are also times when snail mail is most beneficial still.  For mass mailers, Click2Mail is a great option.  I upload my letter or flyer, the address list, and the printing and mailing are done for a small fee.  Its great and the quality has been high.  It saves my ink, paper, stamps, and time.

One Call now

One Call Now is a mass calling line.  Previous to finding this gem, our church had a prayer chain.  It was a pass it on to the next person on the list.  The horror stories of playing the telephone game and the message being lost in transition are real.  However, we can record our message, text-to-voice, mass text, or even email to our entire congregation.  We can also create thousands of sub-group combination.  This tool alone has saved us thousands of hours.

Zoom

I have used Zoom interface for both board meetings, conferences, and classes.  It is amazing.  Being able to see and hear every participant at the same time in a “facetime-like” technology is a great way to save time and miles.  I am able to share my screen and for teaching and planning sessions is a great addition.

Productivity

Google Drive

I use Google drive every day.  Whether it’s creating a document, spreadsheet, or slideshow, every tool I need for ministry is here.  This is the essential tool.  In fact, if I wanted, I could do everything in Google Drive that we also have in Planning Center.  It would be a little more work to get everything transferred over, but it really is this good.  It does not have as much capability as Word, Excel, and Powerpoint, but there is very little that I can’t do with Drive.  Also, it is one of the ways that I have access to all my files wherever I am.

Planning Center

Planning Center is a great website and app that we use for Church Management.  It is a record keeping hub.  There are a few options you need to pay to use, but the basic people management (contact information) is free and secure.  We utilize this with our online giving options at church and is highly recommended.

Switcher Studio

We put the Sunday morning sermons on Facebook Live from the Church.  To do this, we are now using switcher studio instead of directly through facebook live.  There is a free trial period and then becomes a monthly fee.  However, I am able to use up to ten cameras from iPhones, iPads, and Apple Computers.  The app allows seamless switching and overlays to provide a very professional touch.  The app also includes interaction with those on the Facebook feed.

Wix

I am recommending two website hosting and builder options.  I use both of these hosts because of different needs.  Wix is excellent at building a professional website quickly and easily.  They have very affordable pricing, state of the art software, and can be linked to Google Drive and Email to give you a complete online solution.

WordPress

I use WordPress for my personal website.  Mostly, because of the blogging capabilities that are associated with it.  It is another excellent and affordable option for blogs or websites in general.

WordSwag

This final app is a lifesaver.  With so many copyright issues, the easiest way to stay clear this is to create your own media.  Wordswag is an excellent app that allows you to create captioned pictures.  Whether it is inspirational or informational, WordSwag is a quick and easy tool to create professional looking media for your website and social media posts.

Holidays

When it comes to holidays, both sacred and secular, I’ve heard the statement, “I don’t need a certain day to tell me to observe something.” For example, with a day like Thanksgiving, some well meaning person may quip, “We need to be thankful everyday. Not just one day out of the year.” While this sentiment is true, these observances do serve a purpose. First, let’s take a look at Scripture to get our bearings. Then, we will look at the practical implications. Maybe, holidays can be under stood as more than time off. Then again, maybe I am thinking to much.

Religious Feasts of Israel

In addition to the weekly Sabbath, Old Testament Israel observed seven feasts: Passover, Unleavened Bread, Firstfruits, the Feast of Weeks (Pentecost), the Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, and the Feast of Booths (Tabernacles or Tents). The question of “so what” may be asked.

First, God said so in Leviticus 23:1-2, “And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, Concerning the feasts of the Lord, which ye shall proclaim to be holy convocations, even these are my feasts.” However, if you continue to read you will see repeated a call to teach on these days their unique meanings. This was done to pass on the generational values and for the people of God, the theological underpinnings of God’s work through sacred actions.

Education & Refocus

So, while we may know the importance of of a particular value or theological typology, the same can not be said of everyone. Holidays stand as days to educate children and outsiders to a culture. It also serves as an opportunity to refocus our lives with what is important. No one is above the distractions of life and getting pulled away from what is essentially the right things in life.

Or, again, I am just thinking to much. 🙂

Basic Church Ministries

In every church, there are some primary ministries.  The size of the congregation or the purpose of a new pastor to come in doesn’t matter when it comes to these essential activities.  In a way, the following four types of ministry describe much of what groups of believers do in the world.

Ministry of the Word in Discipleship

As a foundation, the Word of God is the starting point for everything else.  So much Scripture attests this point (for example Mt. 4:4; 28:18-20; John 21:15; Acts 6:4; Eph 4:11-12; 2 Tim. 2:15; 3:16-17).  The great commission found in Matthew 28:18-20 focuses on our teaching the Jesus’ word to all nations.  The Scriptures are to be used in evangelistic and discipleship efforts.  Everything the church does is to be biblically-informed.  Our worship is to be in spirit and in truth (John 4:24).  Second Timothy 3:16-17 tells us that the Scriptures are sufficient in fully equipping people to do the work of God.

Christan Caregiving

Christian caregiving is not something that only the pastor does.  The whole congregation should be involved in the care of souls.  The pastor should take the lead here to model before the congregation and equip them to provide care for one another.  Acts 6, Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, and Ephesians 4 each demonstrate that all believers have a place of service in God’s assembly of believers.

Worship

It was already stated that worship is to be done in spirit and truth (John 4:24).  This is more than musical experiences in congregational services.  Worship is both personal and congregational.  In both settings, the character, position of the heart, and development of the believer in Jesus is essential to true worship.  Worship is coming before God in thanksgiving and praise (Psalm 100).

Sharing the Gospel

Evangelizing is another essential component of church ministry.  The church is supposed to teach the Gospel, pray for sinners, help individuals develop a personal ministry of evangelism and incorporate them into the larger outreach ministries of the church.  Sharing the Gospel as found in Matthew 28:18-20 notes that all the people in the world are the scope of our mission.  We are to go global and go local with the Word of God.

If you are a new pastor, church leader, or a new believer, these four essential church ministries make up the foundation everything else we in the Church.  Make sure they are Biblically-based and give honor to God and not man.

A great history.

One of my favorite things about things about family reunions is hearing the history of our family.  Even now, I will pull out a video of my grandfather telling stories about his youth and the history of our family.  Some of the most memorable are the funny ones.  Then there are the ones that are hard to believe and amazing.  Some stories that are embarrassing, but they are essential to understanding the dynamics of our family. 

We could say the same thing about our Christian heritage.  Sadly, it seems that many people want to neglect anything that has happened between the end of the New Testament and their personal walk.  Some may include the history of the local church or perhaps even the network or denomination of Churches that they might belong.   

Some might believe that the Old Testament is not relevant to know since we have the New Testament.  You might hear them say, “We are New Testament Christians around here.”  Or, when they do go into the Old Testament, there is an awkward sense of unfamiliarity.  

You may know several of the critical stories.  The problem is many could not put these stories in order.  Instead, they have a disorganized mess in their mind when it comes to our family history.  Yes, the Old Testament and the New Testament, along with the almost two millennial between us is our Christian family heritage.  All of it is our story. 

Why is it essential to have a basic understanding of our history?  For one, it helps us know our place in the family.  We have a long family history that is rich in wisdom.  Read the next few verses to get the sense that the Church is our family. 

“For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named” -Ephesians 3:14-15 

“As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.” -Galatians 6:10 

“Jesus has been counted worthy of greater glory than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself. For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything. Now Moses was faithful as a servant in all God’s house,a testifying to what would be spoken later. But Christ is faithful as the Son over God’s house. And we are His house, if we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope of which we boast.” -Hebrew 3:3-6 

“And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” -Galatians 3:29 

“Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all” -Romans 4:16 

The family is prominent but so is faithfulness to God’s Word.  Knowing what Scripture teaches is vital to the Christian life.  Essential to our personal walk and our local churches is an understanding of Church history.  Many things in our extended family tradition teach us how to be faithful in uncertain times and the consequences of straying from Scripture. 

Themes that run throughout history also helps us understand the nature of God.  Ideas like redemption, holiness, faith, love, and justice run through Scripture and history as the threads of a tapestry.  They weave together our point in time with others in the past and future. 

By gaining a better sense of our Christian heritage, you will be humbled by its immensity and beauty.  Use what you learn to be a better decision-maker in your Christian walk and local Church.