Why Christian Baptist? Four Reasons.

Last year I wrote a couple of posts about the Christian Baptist Association (What is Christian Baptist? here & here).  This is the association of churches that I have my ordination through and pastor.  There was a time when I was a member of another group of Churches in the local area, but, the Lord led me to move into the same association that I had grown up loving.

The full name of the group is The Ohio Valley Association of Christian Baptist Churches of God.  You can only imagine the questions people have about this long and unique name.  However, that is not where this post will have its focus.  Instead, the focus is on why I find such a deep love for the Christian Baptist.  There are four reasons given here, among much more that I think will help readers to learn more about the Christian Baptist and to encourage my fellow members.

The Bible is our final authority.

It is our conviction that all things must be brought to Scripture.  Scripture is the revelation of the Triune God and any work outside of it is opinion.  It seems that many denominations are moving away from this standard and have elevated personal experience and emotional biases above the Bible.  I have witnessed outside of our association and a few within it, who receive any teaching that labels itself as Christian and balk at any attempt to reconcile it with Biblical teaching.  However, everything we need to know about worshipping God and living Christlike is found solely in Scripture.

We love God’s Word and are fully persuaded of its integrity.  We do not need to add personal experiences or opinions to Scripture to validate it.  Sure, those things are helpful in interpreting, but the Word of God is sufficient in and of itself.

The Holiness Accent

I am not speaking of stereotypical “holiness” groups.  Instead, we preach and teach that Salvation of the person is complete and perfect for making a person whole.  One reason that I hear many of my fellow members give for being Christian Baptist is that “We have the great doctrine.”  What does this mean?  Are we the only group with the right belief?  No, and I don’t believe anyone in the association implies that as well.  We share doctrines with other denominations that are essential for one to be called Christian.  There is truly only One Church, and it reaches across the globe and throughout time.

This section is labeled The Holiness Accent.  An accent is the”accentuated” or distinctive pronunciation in a language.  So, when I speak of my holiness accent, I am referring to my underlying assumptions and inclinations.  The holiness accent does not relate to our focus on external prohibitions of dress and behaviors (though we ought to have a godly lifestyle).  Rather, we accentuate the fact that believers are saved to the “uttermost.”

God does not justify a person and leaves them with their old nature.  Instead, when we are saved we are made new in Christ, and He imparts His nature to us.  Believers do not sin every day when they are entirely given over to be led by the Holy Spirit.  I heard it recently said, “It is our responsibility to keep from sinning, but it is God who gives us the power to keep from sinning.”

In summary, our holiness accent is that we preach and teach that believers can be fully transformed by God’s grace in this lifetime.

Freedom of Worship

There are many expressions of worship.  Shared in Scripture is that God seeks worship from those that are in spirit and truth.   These Biblical requirements for worship can be seen in both spontaneous and planned worship.  However, with planned worship, it is very easy to write God out of the plan and focus on man’s emotional and intellectual experience.  One thing I love about the Christian Baptist Association is that we are not afraid to worship God audibly and visually.  We are not Pentecostal in several regards of expressive worship, but we are certainly not afraid to express our love and thankfulness to God.

Our Heritage

I was raised Christian Baptist (my wife is from the Churches of Christ in Christian Union). However, I did not join one of the local churches at first.  I joined the Kentucky Christian Conference that was based near Morehead, Kentucky.  After a few years, God directed my path back to the Christian Baptist, and I have been here for last eleven years, pastoring one of the congregations for almost nine years and still there.  Now, I am raising my children in the Christian Baptist.

My heritage is in the Christian Baptist, and a significant portion of my family call this association home as well.  Yet, I also share a great love for our more extensive history.  I have studied the history of its coming together in 1931 and the leaders and laity of previous generations.  Listening to stories of past victories, miracles, and blessings that God has brought to pass in our camp meeting and the local congregation have been and continue to be formative in my spiritual walk.

God’s design of the Church

Regardless of whether you are called to pastoral ministry or itinerant (evangelistic travel), it is important that you understand the Biblical foundation and design of the church. The ministry of the church is astoundingly vital to every believer. For those that are homebound, there must be a ministry to show them the compassion of Jesus. To those that say they don’t need to go to church, they sever the head which is Christ, from the body, which is the church. The believer’s who faithfully attend and those that don’t, need to be disciplined. It is even vital to the sinner because the church brings the message of the Gospel to them and witnesses their conversion. The Church is necessary.

The original Greek word for church is “Ekklesia.” It to be “called out” or “separated.” The other Greek word, from which our English word for Church is derived, is “Kuriakon.” It means, “belonging to the Lord.” As a definition, we can define the church as a group of people that have been called out from the world and separated from sin as the Lord’s property. The Bible gives several pictorial illustrations of the Church. It is seen as: (1) the Body of Christ (1 Cor.12:12-31, shows unity and diversity), (2) the building of Christ (Matt. 16:18; Eph. 2:19-22), and, (3) the bride of Christ (John 14:1-3, Eph. 5:25-31, Rev. 19:7).

The church is viewed in Scripture as both universal and local in scope. Universal doesn’t mean that every person in time is part of it, but rather every person that has come to Christ is part of the real Church (Matt. 16:18; 1 Cor. 15:9; Eph. 2:20, 5:23-32). Scripture also recognizes that the real church is divided by geographical locations into individual local congregations. This is evidenced by the various churches in Acts by location, the names of many of Paul’s letter, and the seven churches of Revelation 2 and 3.

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The biblical purposes of the church are first to glorify God (Eph. 3:21). Secondly, it is to edify or disciple believers (Eph. 4:11-12) and purify them (Eph. 5:25-27). Thirdly, to evangelize the world (Matt. 28:19- 20). Fourth and last, to prevent corruption in the world by saturating it with God’s truth and Love (Matt. 5:13-16).

Encouragements for pastors

Pastoring is not a light task or easy role.  It can bring a person to the highest of highs and lowest of lows.  Being a pastor requires a God-given calling.  Paul told Timothy, “This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of bishop, he desireth a good work” (1 Timothy 3:1).  The following provides a few key insights for navigating the pastorate.

Be Aware

Being a pastor is more than preaching.  You have to know what the spiritual and physical state are for the people you lead.  You need to know what is going on in the world and your community.

Be Available

Shepherds smell like the sheep.  That is because they are with them.  Social media means that we can be near people in a virtual environment 24/7, but nothing can replace hugs, handshakes, and physical presence.  With that, not everything requires physical presence.  Sometimes we need to take the call, answers the text, and read the e-mail (or a good hand-written letter).  If you miss one of those, respond quickly.  Let people know that you are not ignoring them and that you are there for them.

Be Approachable

Stay humble and welcoming.  You should challenge your people to grow by your preaching, but if you always speak past your people, they won’t see you as someone they can approach.  Approachability means you are trustworthy and likable.  You can be considered as a teacher of God’s Word that can help people with questions of faith and life if you are approachable.

 

Help for small Church pastors to start 2017.

If you have not already done these three things,  pray, seek God’s will, and start moving forward.

15826583_10154132945531828_7069625561356625094_nAsk God for direction

Scripture is clear that planning and preparation without humility before God are sinful.  James 4:13-17 is one such Scripture that gives us this position.  Paul reminds us that all work is fruitful only because of God’s blessing (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:7).  Again, James gives us the go ahead on planning as long as we keep our eyes on God’s will.

It is my practice to ask God to help me see where we are going.  Where does God want us to go this year?  Once God has given direction, we then need to know what our current reality is?  Once we know where our feet are resting, we can pray and ask God how He wants us to get there.  Check out the follow posts that focus on this type of work from Nehemiah (hereherehere, and here).

Work on the calendar

This year presented many churches with a cultural and religious tension.  What to do on Christmas and New Years.  These both took place on Sundays.  My question to you, do you know when Easter is and what day Christmas will be this year?  What about the other Christian holy days?  Have revivals been scheduled or homecomings?  VBS?

Get a hold of a calendar and with God’s direction in mind, starting filling in that timetable.  If you plan sermon series, you’ll have a better idea of the route you can take and how God can use you to lead the Church.  Once you have at least a tentative calendar made, you can begin to share it with the other leaders in the congregation.  They have helped me to remember many things that I have forgotten and have contributed in shaping my understanding of God’s will for the congregation.

Having the calendar settled makes it easier for the next helpful task…

Prepare the budget

Knowing the yearly and month to month funds is vital in leading a congregation.  You do not want the budget to be fully centered on maintaining where you currently are.  God requires faithful stewardship, and I have seen personal ministries and congregations derailed by debts and non-budgeting.  No one can predict what surprises will happen, but you can budget in preparation for such a time as those.

More importantly, is that you have to plan for ministry.  Outreach efforts can require funds.  Benevolent gifts and help from the church to individual’s in the community can’t happen if funds are going to operate un-evangelizing, non-disciple forming, non-worshipful activities.

 

Handling Conflict

We live in a world of constant tension.  When we are around others, there is always a chance of conflict.  Here are my tips for handling conflicts.

Seek to make much of Jesus even in Conflict.

1 Corinthians 10:31 – Whether therefore ye eat, or drink or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.”

Our whole purpose is to glorify God and lead others to a relationship with him.  It’s hard to do that in conflict, but it is possible.  You can always direct others to Christ, Bible and private teaching, upbringing, and church studies into any conflict that you mediate.  If Jesus lives in you, then he will stick out somewhere.  Let them see it in your actions and reactions.

Diffuse tension.

Proverbs 30:33  – “Surely the churning of milk bringeth forth butter, and the wringing of the nose bringeth forth blood: so the forcing of wrath bringeth forth strife.”

There will not be any resolution until all parties involved have cooled down.  Caution should be used when diffusing because there is a fragile line between diffusing and igniting.

Remain calm regardless of the situation. Understand that how you answer can create solutions or create more conflict.

James 1:19 – “Let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.”

Proverbs 15:1  – “A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.”

We must have peace in ourselves, or we might be prone to rage. Before it can be seen in the situation, we must have peace within our own soul.   Some people will argue for the sake of arguing. Those with that attitude will pick any word of phrase apart, fill it with meaning, and start another argument.  It is important to consider how each word we speak can speak life into the resolution or add more fire to the tension.

Listen to the opposing side or sides if a mediator (walk in their shoes).

Proverbs 18:13 –  “He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him.”

Having the ability to listen to the other side is a skill and art form. It is a skill to look and pick up on those things that are critical to promoting a resolution.  It is an art as to listen in a way that shows you actually do care. You cannot advise, diffuse and guide if you are not listening. Sometimes, all sides need to be separated before you may clearly hear the entire reason for the conflict.

Seek to understand why conflict is happening (my issue vs. your issue).

Proverbs 3:30 – “Strive not with a man without cause, if he has done thee no harm.”

Sometimes we argue and forget what we are fighting about.  There is always a reason for conflict, be it lack of understanding, misunderstandings, different positions, and so on.

If possible, take the time to respond to be concise and clear.

Proverbs 17:27 – “He that hath knowledge spareth his words: and a man of understanding is of an excellent spirit.”

If the conflict is taking place over e-mail and text, this is simpler to do (and even better since we can become more aggressive behind a protective screen).  You must understand the situation from both sides.  Speak calmly but candidly.

Seek to overcome any language barriers.

Proverbs 26:4-5 – “Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him. Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit.”

At some point, people may start talking past each other. They may use the same terms but use different definitions.   What the speaker said, may not be what the receiver hears.

If you feel yourself becoming angry, do what is necessary to calm down and recollect.

Romans 12:17 “Recompense to no man evil for evil.”

Again, if you are at your computer or texting, it is easier to take a few minutes to regain your composer (and probably should try to meet face to face if possible).  You may seek to be excused to think and to calm down.  If not, then it would be important to learn some quick breathing techniques or other ways to reflect anger positively during a time of uncontrollable anger.  You cannot think and react wisely while angered.

Transform through conflict.

Ecclesiastes 10:4 “If the spirit of the ruler rise up against thee, leave not thy place, for yielding pacifieth great offences.”

Only because a conflict has arisen does not mean that your position is not necessary. Progress requires conflict.  Transformation comes when we move past difficult areas.

Holding on for Change

G.K. Chesterton said, “The Bible tells us to love our neighbors and to love our enemies probably because they are the same people.”  In Nehemiah, the neighbors from on all four sides became opposition to progress.  Nehemiah 4:1-23, details the situation and the adjustments Nehemiah had to finish the building project.  For Nehemiah and us, one of the hardest things to fight against during the change process is to become discouraged.  There are several sources of discouragement that we need to aware of.

Ridicule

Nehemiah 4:1-3 and other places, records Israel’s opposition taking verbal jabs at them.  Lies and accusations are part of the Devil’s devices.  Using ridicule, the enemy belittled Israel’s qualities, derided their ambitions, mocked their optimism, attacked their enthusiasm and undermined their confidence.

Force

The next source of discouragement came from the actual threat of brute force (vs. 7-8).  For us, despair may originate from a decrease in our health, the lack of resources, or the abandonment of our help.

Burnout

The last source is personal burnout (vs. 10-12).  Burnout is when our passion for living and working is gone.  The people’s burnout came from fatigue, frustration, and fear.

Our response

Nehemiah knew that they could not quit now.  We can be sure that when we are moving forward for God, that opposition will come.  Change sometimes requires confrontation.  During those times it is important to endure.  Calvin Coolidge said, “Press on. Nothing can take the place of persistence. Talent will not. Nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not. Unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not. The world is full of derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are the overwhelming power!”

How did Nehemiah overcome?  He prayed to God (vs. 4-5, 9).  Nehemiah knew that the work could not be done without God’s help.  The work that was happening was more than just their work; it was God’s work.

Nehemiah also made adjustments as necessary (vs. 13).  It becomes necessary in our plans to make changes at certain times.  We must keep the mission in the center but realize that God may have us approach completion in a different fashion than what we first imagined.  Persistence is not doing the same thing over and over expecting different results.  Instead, it is keeping the goal in mind while using different methods to achieve this aim.

Prayer: Father, we desire to do your work, but we do not see a way forward.  The opposition has come to frustrate the work, and we are feeling the brunt of the attack.  We pray for your guidance to open our eyes to see a path forward.  Give us strength and refresh our passion.  Amen.

Strategy for Change

Strategic planning is a place some will not venture.  In the Church, it is the pseudo-spiritual that see no basis for the practice of the organization.  Addressing the Church’s unique ministry context is required for Church leaders.  Proverbs 19:21 states, “There are many devices in a man’s heart; nevertheless the counsel of the Lord, that shall stand.”  We can make a lot of plans, but God’s purpose stays the same.  Our challenge, to keep the God’s purpose as the mission in our plans.

Seeking God’s purposes are the first part of strategic planning.  Knowing what we are supposed to be doing (mission and vision) is important.  Why are we planted in this particular area?  Are there specific needs that we are to meet here?  What does God want us to look like in the end?  These are the important questions to ask.  Once those plans are established, we can then move to the operational strategy.  It’s one thing to know where we are going; it’s another to know how God wants us to get there.

If you are not convinced that strategic planning is for Christians, let’s look at several scriptures from Proverbs.

Proverbs 14:15: “The simple believeth every word: but the prudent man looketh well to his going.”
Proverbs 15:22: “Without counsel purposes are disappointed: but in the multitude of counsellors they are established.
Proverbs 16:3: “Commit thy works unto the Lord, and thy thoughts shall be established.”
Proverbs 16:9: “A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the Lord directeth his steps.
Proverbs 20:18: “Every purpose is established by counsel: and with good advice make war.

Nehemiah is an example of strategic planning.  He had a burden (1:4), and he had faith (1:18).  But, did Nehemiah have a plan?  Yes, and we see the steps he took to refine it and bring it to a completion.  He knew what God wanted him to do and what the finished product would look like.  He was to rebuild the city of Jerusalem (2:5).  He knew that it would take supplies and secured them with the signature of King Artaxerxes.

Where we are, where we want to go, and how to get there.

When Nehemiah came to the city, he went out and saw the actual devastation for himself (2:12-16).  In planning, we need to know where we are.  What ground our are we currently standing on?  A vision will show us where we are to go, but we won’t know how to get there until we are aware of where we stand.  If you go to Google maps to find a route to travel, you have to find out where your start and end points are.  Only when those two points are known, can a pathway forward be found?

Will your original plan be full-proof and perfect?  Probably not.  Even Nehemiah had to make adjustments to keep moving forward to fulfill his mission.  Chapter four begins to detail the opposition that came to derail their progress.  Nehemiah had to adjust his plan (3:9-23).  Change comes with planning, action, adjusting, action, adjusting, action, and so forth until completion.

With God’s blessing, Nehemiah was able to complete the rebuilding of the city wall in fifty-two days.  An astounding feat, indeed.  There is a saying attributed to Ignatius, “pray as though everything depends on God, and work as though everything depends on you.”  In this perspective, we have full faith that if something is not of God, it will fail.  Still, God wants us to put our hands on any work he would have us to do.  We are to serve God with the best of our ability, whatever level that is.  To ensure we are doing are best, strategic planning becomes a necessity.

Our prayer, “Father, we are burdened for our local Church and community and You have shown us what You desire of us.  Now, we pray that You would open our eyes to see what path we are to walk.  Open the doors that we are to enter.  Supply us with our needs that we may bring You glory and build Your Kingdom. Amen”