Side by Side

Many years ago my wife and I went on a little kayak adventure in Hawaii for our honeymoon. Before we left to get to our guide the instructor gave instructions on how to hold the paddle, how to paddle, and for those who are sharing a kayak how to row together. He said, “this is called the divorce maker for some.”

Alyssa and I kind of gave an awkward laugh and off we went. It was beautiful! Sea turtles, tropical fish, eating pineapple on a secluded sandy beach. It was time to head back to where we started but the weather changed. It was windy, the water became really choppy and it was tough going. The instructor even said if he knew it was going to be this bad we wouldn’t have gone out!

We quickly learned what the instructor meant when he called the tandem kayakers divorce makers. We were striving to make headway against the wind but we kept hitting our paddles together. I quickly was getting frustrated and my new bride saw it.

We finally got back, tired, seeking forgiveness from one another, and so relieved that it was over. It was a trip that left a mark on us as it was many years before we went kayaking again.

I share this illustration to show that in the same way for the church that there can be a lot of gospel work but if we are not working in unity- we are just like Alyssa and I working hard but not getting very far in the kayak. You can actually start working against each other. 

Striving

The Apostle Paul writes to the church in Philippi to stress the importance of unity, “with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel” (Phil 1:27). Unity was something that Paul addresses a few times in this short letter (1:27; 2:1-4; 4:2-3).

The word that Paul uses for striving would be used similar to an athlete, especially wrestling, where one is straining or working hard to win. Instead of wrestling against one another, the Christian strives together.

Christians have the same task- making disciples (Matt. 28:19).

Christians strive together against sin and the devil (Eph. 6:12).

Christians strive together to be gospel lights to this world (Matt 5:14-16).

Already United

Paul wasn’t telling the church to do the work to be united. Because of Jesus, believers are already united together (Rom. 12:5). So in one sense he was saying, remember that you are one in Christ so strive together in unity!

Christian, remember that you are already united because of Christ. Guard that unity. Since the times are so turbulent, even more so, we need to guard our unity. Jesus is greater and bigger than our political affiliations. Jesus is greater than anything we have uncommon with one another. Let us remember that!

Busy Striving Together and Not Bickering At One Another

There seems to be a lot of bickering among Christians, especially on social media these days. What is being bickered seems so small in comparison to kingdom concerns. My hope and prayer for our church is that we will be busy striving together where we won’t have time to bicker at one another.

Race, Racism, and How the Church Should Respond

I had the privilege of interviewing Pastor Elijah Braggs from Harvest Christian Fellowship on race, racism, and how the church should respond. It was sobering yet encouraging as we discussed what it means to be made in the image of God (Imago Dei) and the importance for us to pause, pray, and respond biblically.

You can listen to the podcast here:

Palm Sunday

With not being able to meet in person, we had an opportunity with our small group to sing to the Lord together and share a little from Matthew 21:1-11.

The Church, Technology, and CODIV-19

The ever-changing and improving technology is nothing new to the church. Martin Luther and his 95 theses caught the fire of communication in Europe because of technology. Between 1517 and 1520, his writings sold over 300,000 copies which were something new for differing religious mindsets. Wycliff who was on the cusp of this new technology was unable to use it the same way. (Elizabeth Eisenstein, The Printing Press as an Agent of Change, Kindle Ed., location 7511). Luther was born at the right time as technology advanced. On one hand, this was thrust upon him as others took his writing to be printed and on the other, he saw how it was advantageous of getting the truth out.

Here we are five centuries later and we see how technology has advanced. We have digital books, not just the printed book! We are now able to communicate with more people faster than ever. Many churches use technology to communicate but COVID-19 has forced the church to communicate in these different ways more than ever.

Some churches have wrestled more with this over their convictions of streaming their service compromises on what it means to be the church and some churches already stream their services online. I understand both sides and am thankful for both views. A church that is strong in its convictions and one that utilizes the tools on hand. A couple of thoughts regarding this:

Motivation:

Costi W. Hinn responded to the recent debate of church’s moving to do church “online” on Instagram and said, “Friends, let us spend time this week whether traditionalists think of our online efforts and spend more time proclaiming truth through whatever medium we can: Pound the airwaves, Post to IGTV, go ‘Live’, Light up phone lines, and fill up mailboxes. Unleash the hope in Christ.”

Costi showed the bigger picture. We have an opportunity to get the gospel out so as a church let’s do just that. If we write a letter (old school way with a pen, paper, and a stamp) you are using a form of technology. If you call someone you are using technology. When you use a microphone to make it so people can hear you at church is a form of technology. Using a camera and the internet to share God’s Word with your church is a form of technology. So, let us use the current tool of technology to share the gospel message.

There may be some churches that are unable to stream as it is work upon pastors and staff that probably are already stretched. One must not judge them based on conviction or abilities. I think all Christians would agree that we must live with a sense of urgency (Eph. 5:15-16). I know some pastors, though are not streaming a Sunday service, are busier than ever reaching out to the congregation through texts, phone calls, and video meetings. They are doing what they can!

The Church:

There should be a clarification of what is the church? Does doing church this way constitute “doing church?” No, the church is the gathering of God’s people together living within a community with each other. But, here is a time that people are more open to listening to the gospel. This is the time that this world has many questions and fears and the church can point them to the Savior, Jesus Christ who conquered sin and death. The one who made it possible for us to have peace with God so we can have the peace of God.

This is a tool to get the message out and we are longing to be able to meet in person one day again. This is a longing that is a good longing to have. This is something that should be on the heart of every believer, to gather with other believers, to give hugs, handshakes, and high fives as the local congregation assemble together. There is longing to sit next to other believers singing to God out loud through the poor pitch and deaf tone singers along with those that sing elegantly. I long for that day to come again to be able to place my hand on the shoulder of the brother in Christ as I pray for him. This is the church which is more than just listening to a sermon, it is the living out of God’s word. We have been given the gospel doctrine which lived out which makes a gospel culture.

Though we are called to keep distant from one another, we know that because of Christ we are one and united together. Though we have social distancing for protection and to help curb this invisible enemy, we look to Jesus who defeated the invisible enemy sin, death, and the devil through life sinless life, sacrificial death, and his glorious resurrection.

Can You Do Church the Wrong Way?

Photo by Chris Liverani on Unsplash

Is there a right way or a wrong way to do church? The church has been defined as not a building but the assembly or gathering of believers. The location and building of a church do not matter as much as what goes on in the church. You can argue that just because a group of people gather together, does that make a church? No, it is the gathering of saints (faithful and holy, believers) who come together in the name of Jesus Christ to worship him and be unified together in faith.

I am not wanting to define what is the church as I am more so wanting to say the service and goal of the church can be done the wrong way. I do believe Scripture gives some guidelines in how a church should function (Acts 2:42-47). With that, we also have some flexibility within those guidelines as Scripture may not be specific. For example, the building, music style, and the frequency of the Lord’s Supper is not in specified in the Bible. The Bible does not tell one how to adjust to contemporary culture yet is relevant for one to live in context to ones culture. On the other side, there is a danger of being innovative while missing these guidelines that are presented to the bride of Christ, the church. Granted, I would be amiss to assume that my approach to church is the best way or right way.

I think there is a great responsibility for the pastor to study the Word of God, seeking to apply Biblically what Scripture gives as those guidelines with the desire to proclaim the whole counsel of God. Continue reading “Can You Do Church the Wrong Way?”

Technology and the Gospel

Technology &
Photo by Simon Abrams on Unsplash

Christians have always adapted to the advancement of technology to be able to spread the gospel in different ways to reach more people. It was the Romans who created the road system which made it possible for the early church to travel with the message of Jesus Christ to the known world.
It was Johannes Gutenberg who created the printing press in the fifteenth century, which paved the way for the Bible to go from the hands of the affluent to the common person, from the hands of the religious elite to the peasants. The printing press made reading possible for so many people, which meant more people could read the Bible. The printing press paved the way for the Bible to be translated and mass produced for people to read in their native tongue. This was huge! It literally changed the world and how it communicated. Pastors now were able to print their sermons as pamphlets. Christians were able to adapt to this technology with the work of evangelism.  Continue reading “Technology and the Gospel”

What Should Be the Most Influential Institution?

what is the Most Influential Institution?When one thinks of an institution they may think of education, government, the church, marriage, family, and even state correctional facilities. What is considered an institution? Which institution holds the most influence? Which one should hold the most influence? Each holds its importance. Marriage and family are rooted at society and carry a lot of influence but not most important. Education, good and does it molding of children and influences (negative and positive) should not be the most influential in our society. The government which has its own institutions within it, and holds power, is not the most influential.
Pastor and teacher Ray Ortland defines an institution this way, “An institution is a social mechanism for making a desirable experience easily repeatable. An institution is where life-giving human activities can be nurtured and protected and sustained.” Here there can be many institutions that fit this definition like sporting events but where more than ever can human activities be nurtured, protected, and sustained the strongest? It is the church. (The church in this meaning is the Biblical church made up of Bible believing Christians. Pastor Mark Dever defines the church as “The church is that collection of people who are hearing the Word of God, responding to it with their lives, and who have obeyed Jesus’ specific commands to be baptized and proclaim his death in the Lord’s Supper.”)
Continue reading “What Should Be the Most Influential Institution?”

Are You a Healthy Pastor?

I just hit my mid thirties this year! Though I am not a Senior Pastor at the church I serve at, I realized that being in a sedentary job was catching up to me. As a kid I was always skinny or fit. I played sports. I could eat whatever I wanted and it didn’t matter. Things changed in my twenties when I wasn’t as active but still ate whatever I wanted. After having some different health challenges that took place in my early thirties I know I needed to change but why? It goes beyond what the mirror revealed when I looked at it.
Continue reading “Are You a Healthy Pastor?”