I heard someone say recently that America has been in moral decline since the end of WWII. I have heard similar statements many times from preachers who probably mean well, but they just do not realize what they are saying by making such comments. First of all there was state sponsored racism in the 1950’s and 1960’s and for the most part we have made dramatic progress since the end of the second world war in eliminating such evil practices. To claim that there has been a great moral decline since those days is to claim that it would be better for us to recreate those days. I’m sure the black community would strongly disagree with that notion. The point I’m making is that the good old days never really existed and America, nor any other nation for that mater, has a time in history when there was a “moral” society. Sure things are different now than then, and it may very well be worse today, but if we are being honest we have just rotated the sin of the day. We have traded racism for sexual promiscuity. Churches must be very careful in pointing to a time in history that we are to mimic.
THE MORAL MAJORITY
The whole idea of a moral majority is a myth. There was not a day and probably will not be a day when we live in a moral society. We should not even expect such things, the Bible is quite clear that the world is stained with sin and in need of a savior. Their savior is not a more moral America, but a moral God. Think about the words of John in 1 John 4:5-6, “They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.” To John there is a clear distinction that needs to be made between those of the world and those of God. I just cannot understand why we freak out every time the wold acts like the world.
Just recently there has been outrage at the release of the new Beauty and the Beast movie from Disney. The Christian community is outraged because they heard there was a scene that depicted homosexual affection. I saw the movie, and as always, my beloved brothers and sisters over-exagrated the issue. Why should we expect Disney to do anything other than promote the sin of the day? That’s a better question. It is time for Christians to stop expecting the wold to act like the Church. If we would just devote half of the energy to evangelism that we have given to making America moral again we might actually make a difference in this country.
THE EVANGELISTIC MINORITY
Paul says in 1 Corinthians 5:12-13, “For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.” Corinth had major moral troubles both inside and outside of the church, but Paul sees the bigger problem as internal not external. We are not the judge of those outside the church but rather those who are inside. You often hear people says, “Who am I to judge that person’s salvation, only God can know.” That is simply not a Biblical principle in the slightest. The entire book of 1 John is about testing those inside to see if they are genuine because there is assurance for those who are in Christ. It is most certainly our job to judge those inside. We must worry much more about the moral standing of those inside our churches than those outside.
I am calling this the evangelistic minority. There must be a change of direction for the church in America. Rather than calling out Disney for sins, and threading boycott. On a side note, this is not the first time baptists have boycotted Disney, and we saw how well that worked out last time. Our efforts need to be readdressed, we should not remove ourselves from Disney but rather we should “remove the person from among us.” Our efforts of preserve a moral society should be inward, and at the same time our outward efforts should be evangelistic and just as strong as our inward efforts.
When the apostles reputation was going around as men who “turned the world upside down,” they did not receive that reputation by political efforts. All they did was faithfully proclaim the Gospel. Imagine that, they did exactly what Jesus told them to do and it worked. We need to learn this lesson and stoping trowing the name of God into our political arguments for our personal gain. The church needs to be the church.
One of my favorite stories in the Bible is the feeding of the 5,000. Other than the resurrection, it is the only miracle to appear in all four Gospels. It is obviously a significant event in the story of Jesus. In John, it appears to be the final straw between Jesus and the Jews, and in Mark it marks a geographical shift in the ministry of Jesus. Needless to say, this story obviously has more to it than just a simple children’s story to be told in Sunday school.
I like to look at this story from the different perspectives of the people in it. For example, look at the perspective of the disciples. They had just returned from one last sweep of the Galilean region. They were healing the sick, doing all kinds of miracles, and teaching in all the villages of the region. Now they are tired and Jesus leads them to a place to rest. When they arrive the people were already there. They heard that Jesus and his disciples were coming so they rushed to the other side of the sea of Galilee to make sure they could see Jesus and the disciples. The disciples were not pleased about this, and when the day was long they wanted to send to people away. It seems that they saw these crowds as a nuisance getting in the way of their much needed vacation.
More than that, think about the disciples perspective of Jesus. They have been with him and seen Him do all sorts of miracles. They should know who He is, but they miss it. When it comes time to feed them, they start taking about money and the lack of resources. Do they not know that this is the same Jesus that changed the water into wine? They are totally ignorant of the fact that they walk daily with the Lord of all creation. I wonder if the 12 leftover baskets or even the circumstances of this event as a whole are there to make a point to the 12 rather than the crowd.
Now look from the perspective of the crowd. John’s account gives insight to the fact that the crowd seems to want the food more than the one providing it. At the end they try to make Jesus king by force, and Jesus goes into the great discourse where He declares, “I am the bread of life.” Once again the crowd misses the point. They definitely cannot sing the song “I’d rather have Jesus” with any integrity.
Jesus however has the perspective that we are to embrace. Jesus, like the disciples, is very tired. John the Baptist has just been killed, Jesus was thrown out of Nazareth by his own people, and the emotional weight of constantly dealing with people has started to take its toll on Him. This however is all forgotten when Jesus lands on the beach and sees the great crowd. He was moved by compassion for them, despite his own circumstance, because they were “like sheep without a shepherd.” He knew well that they only wanted the miracles and they only wanted the blessings, but He still loved them. He spent the entire day ministering to them, with the great conclusion being this mass feeding. This story, as much as any other, gives great insight to the character of our Lord.
I need to adjust my perspective of those around me. I need to see the needs of people, and see opportunities to minister to them even when things in my life are difficult. This is the call of every Christian. We must open our eyes to see the poor, the hurting, and the outcasted! The song, “People Need The Lord” must be ever on our hearts.
I also need to adjust my perspective of Jesus. He is the one who was crucified in the place of sinners and the one who triumphantly rose from the dead. Who am I to question His ability to see me through to the end when little problems come up in my life? I must always remember that Jesus is Lord!
I love the academic world. I enjoy studying and intellectually pursuing new information. I am still in a season of formal education, and I am grateful for it. I found this passion at Oklahoma Baptist University where I was exposed to thoughts and ideas that I had never heard of before. Needless to say I was hooked. I new that after graduation my education was going to continue, so I went to Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary where I am half way done with my masters degree. I fully intend on pursuing a doctoral degree after I am done there. This education is extremely valuable to me, but it is not enough. The most valuable piece of my education was not found at OBU or Southeastern Seminary, it was in the office of First Baptist Church Okmulgee, in the car with my Pawpaw, and in the pastorate at Immanuel Baptist church Henryetta. Formal education is most certainly necessary, but it only works if it is accompanied by hands on training. Here are some simple ways that churches can provide ministry training to complement theological education.
My first ministry training occurred while I was still in high school by way of an intentional intern program at FBC Okmulgee. My home church made training up young minsters a priority. It was quite common for the church to have one or two young men serving as an intern on the staff. The main responsibilities were focused on the youth group, but they were not limited to that. The internal experience gave insight to the way the church really functions after everyone else goes home on Sunday. I was exposed to real life ministry, to times of joy and times of pain, all of which prepared me for future tasks.
I love the new emphasis on interns and how even small churches are hire interns. It is an opportunity for churches of all varieties to have an active role in preparing the next generation of minsters. All pastors should go through an internship before entering the ministry on their own, and every church should find some way to invest in an internship program.
A new development in the ministry world is really gaining steam and the church is the better for it. Ministry residency programs are gaining in popularity. Churches can now partner with seminaries to provide hands on training while working toward a seminary degree. These programs fill the holes in seminary training. The residents can learn about church budgeting by actually working with church budgets. The class room is limited, but when it is combined with the real experience given in a residency the lid is lifted.
I am currently participating in one of these programs with the Cross Church School of Ministry in Northwest Arkansas. I am still working on my Mdiv, but I am working toward that while serving in the local church. I have the opportunity to experience things I would never get to do if I was doing classroom only training.
Lastly, just serving on staff while in school is a great option for practical theological training. Serving on a church staff or even as the pastor of a church while in school used to be a normal thing, but it is now in decline. I find this to be a major problem. Many churches around colleges and seminaries had a long legacy of hiring students as their pastors. They could invest in the life of a young man and he could really do some great things for their church. I believe that there are many struggling churches who could be revived, but the man who could do it is stuck in a class room.
I was blessed and very humbled by the opportunity to serve as a pastor all the way through college and I would not trade that experience for anything. It was genuinely one of the best times of my life. I could take what I learned in the class room that morning and put it to use later in the afternoon when I got back to the church. I want to see more students looking for churches to work in and more churches take a chance on a young pastor. The future of that pastor and that church could be changed forever.
I think every pastor should have some formal theological training, but I think it should be done in conjunction with practical on the job training. In my ministry I fully intend on investing in the lives of young pastors to give them a good start in ministry, just like people have done for me. I am very thankful, for the men and ministries that are helping me prepare for ministry.
The multi-site movement is a hot topic right now in the church world. I think there are some things to be concerned about, as there are with every movement, but over all I see it as a really healthy thing. There is no doubt that there are a variety of different ways to do it, and some are better than others, but is safe to say that it is working. Here are some of my thoughts on it.
More Than Just a Fad
Some are writing the whole idea off as a fad, but this is just not the case. In fact the whole idea of the multi-site church is far from new. I think that, at least in the SBC, the decline of the local association has left a hole that needs to be filled. I still believe in the necessity of the local association, but I must save that topic for another day. Nevertheless, the decline of the association is obvious, and one of the reasons the multi-site church is becoming so popular is that it is replacing a missing piece to the puzzle.
All through church history we can observe churches networking together in one way or another, whether through the bishop in the Roman Catholic Church, Methodist districts, or the churches of Galatia to which Paul wrote his letter. The multi-site movement is not a continuation of any of those models verbatim, but there are undeniable parallels. The point is, the concept is not new, and it is not going away any time soon.
One of the healthiest things about the multi-site church is the possibility it presents for healthy church planting. Rather than taking a core team and starting from scratch, the multi-site church can use its resources and people to make a new campus. These campuses should be designed to eventually become autonomous. When the time to let go of the church comes, there is already a stability that could not have been achieved otherwise.
This will not only help the new church get on its feet, but it will provide missional momentum in the sending church. Both the new church and the old church will benefit from the fact that a new missional DNA will be ever present in the life of the church and the individual lives of its members.
Along those same lines, the multi-site church can be utilized for the revitalization of declining churches. Imagine how great it would be if healthy churches would respectfully adopt struggling churches to prevent closure and bring new life. I am not suggesting that big churches should take over small churches like a business merger, but I am suggesting that healthy churches could give a little extra boost to the struggling church. They can make this struggling church a campus for a season, and just like I mentioned with the plant, that campus would be released as an autonomous revitalized church.
One of the greatest benefits of the movement is probably one of the most under utilized. I believe that each campus of the multi-site church needs a live preacher/pastor. The video venue is working, and great things are being accomplished for the Kingdom. I just see an opportunity that is being missed in this model.
The benefits of having a real life preacher on every campus are numerous, but I will focus on the fact that young pastors could be trained up in healthy environments with great leadership and mentors. These campuses have the benefit of strong leadership from the sending church, and they can take a risk on a young pastor just starting out. This campus pastor role can be used to train up an entire generation of young pastors and preachers for the glory of God, and the result will be a healthier church in the long run.
Network of Neighborhood Churches
Jimmy Scroggins is the pastor of Family Church (formerly FBC West Palm Beach) in West Palm Beach, Florida. He, over the course of many years, led this SBC legacy church to become a thriving multi-site congregation. They have chosen to call their method, “a network of neighborhood churches.” The idea is that every neighborhood in south Florida will have a church to minister there. Rather than pushing for a regional mega church where people drive from all over to attend, they have chosen to take their people and start smaller congregations all through the region. In so doing, they are training up new pastors, they are reaching people who otherwise wouldn’t be reached, and they have successfully revitalized an old downtown first baptist church.
This is my preferred model, and there are no limits to its possibilities. This method does not require great financial support, it cuts out the need for large scale building projects, it can be done in smaller towns, and normal sized churches can put it into practice. Their method is not perfect, but it does seem to have great potential.
In conclusion, I am not completely sold out for the multi-site movement. I am however encouraged by its ability to reach the lost, plant new churches, and rescue the dying church. I am currently working in a multisite church and have seen first hand the good it can do. I am looking forward to see what the future holds for multi-site churches.
-Brayden L. Buss
America has become quite attached to tv personalities Chip and Joanna Gaines. The American people love the show Fixer Upper, where this fun loving couple takes old neglected houses and gives them new life. This phenomenon has started a national trend. Young couples aren’t wanting to build new houses or move into new suburban neighborhoods, because they would rather bring new life to an old house with character. It is my hope and prayer that such an emphasis crosses over into the church world, and we once again see abandoned congregations filled with new life.
Every pastor has a pet topic or an issue about which they are very passionate. I have shared previously that I have a passion for preaching, but I am also very interested in church revitalization. I can remember the day when my heart changed and was bent toward these congregations. I was speaking with my pawpaw about a local church that my friend was thinking about pastoring. I told Pawpaw that I didn’t think he should go there because that church had problems. He gently but sternly told me that it may not be the church for my friend, but that didn’t meant that a pastor shouldn’t go there. He said the Lord did not say, “I am not going to send a pastor there because they have wolves,” but rather, he reminded me that it is those churches that need a pastor the most.
My heart breaks for all the churches in this nation that have long left the glory days, and find their greatest joy by looking back at the way things used to be. These churches have been in decline for decades, and have largely been neglected by capable pastors only fueling the slow cycle to their closure. I cannot help but wonder if we have left the one to enjoy the comfort of the ninety-nine. There are hundreds of churches who want to move forward, and they are just waiting on someone to lead them into the future.
The County Seat Church
Most guys my age that are entering ministry don’t really care about the county seat church. In fact, I have talked to some that don’t even know what that phrase means. There was a day when the county seat church was the place every young seminarian dreamed about, but those days are gone. For the most part the county seat churches are in great need of revitalization.
These churches once had great influence in their regions. The other churches in the area could look to FBC County Seat for advice and help when things weren’t going well. The county seat church always led in baptisms, cooperative program giving, and they called/produced some of the greatest pastors in the nation. What has caused this dramatic change? That is a discussion for another day, but what I can say is these churches need pastors.
It is my desire to pastor a county seat type church one day, that is a church that was once influential and successful but now has fallen into decline. I want to pastor these churches for an entirely different reason than men of days past. I want to go here because the Lord’s words burn in my heat, “it is the sick that need the doctor not the healthy.” The Lord has burdened my soul for these neglected churches, and I am confident that God is not done using them. He can restore them, making them the great pillars of the American church once again, and I want to be a part of that movement!
-Brayden L. Buss
Due to the great response to last week’s blog post, I have decided to honor my beloved wife again. This time I have done so by asking her to write the post for this week. I was thoroughly impressed, and I know you will be blessed by her words.
My First Love.
Next week is Valentine’s Day and although I really look forward to the romantic gestures, lovely smelling flowers, delicious treats, and my personal favorite: sparkling jewels! I must say that I have realized something much more important than these fun aspects of this pink and red holiday. I have forgotten something so monumental.
I have forgotten my first love.
In Revelation chapter 2, Jesus is commending the church in Ephesus for all these awesome, wholesome, and amazing things that they are doing and have done. Then in verse 4 he says, “BUT, I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.” Woah! When I first read that a while back I kind of just glazed over it thinking “yeah, they forgot about God.” and I kept going on with my life. The irony is I did the EXACT same thing. Then While Brayden was teaching our small group one Sunday morning, we read this verse and yet again I thought, “Man! They keep forgetting their Love for God, how horrible!” and I kept going on with my life. Even this morning as I participated in Bible study with a group of ladies going through the book of Hosea, we referenced this verse and I even quoted it! Then it dawned on me, BUT, I HAVE FORGOTTEN MY FIRST LOVE. I am blessed with knowledge and understanding about God. I can tell you many facts about Him and quote numerous scriptures to you. I can sing you the children’s song “Jesus Loves Me” and I know in my head it is true, but sometimes I think we take knowledge for granted and even sacrifice it for intimacy. We know God loves us, but do we know God intimately? Verse 5 of Revelation chapter 2 goes on to say: “Remember therefore where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first.”
Remember from where you have fallen.
I do not deserve the gift of salvation that God has given me. I did absolutely nothing to earn it. In fact, I deserve the opposite; I deserve to be separated from God forever. But, I will be the first to admit that I sometimes take His gift for granted. I feel a sense of entitlement, like I earned my relationship with Him – I did not. I believe that if we lose sight of the place from which we have fallen, then we cannot fully appreciate the redemptive grace God has bestowed upon us.
As a girl growing up I made mistakes and would get in trouble and my favorite word to my parents, sisters and friends was “Sorry”. Then the next day I would make the EXACT SAME MISTAKE. Was I really sorry? No. I was just saying “sorry” to get out of the consequences created by my actions. This is not repentance. When you repent you take a 180 degree turn and go the opposite direction. Yes, there are still times I make mistakes because I’m human and have a nature bent towards sin. That’s why we sing, “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love.” Repentance is a decision that is made daily. And when you decide to repent you can sing the next line, “here’s my heart Lord, take and seal it. Seal it for thy courts above.”
And do the works you did at first.
Or as Jennifer Rothschild said when referring to Gomer and Hosea, “Do what you did when you first said ‘I Do’.” Most weddings end in a honeymoon, a getaway trip for the bride and groom to know each other in the biblical sense. This honeymoon is usually followed by a ‘honeymoon season’ in which the bride and groom live in this land of bliss and flower petals on the bed, beautifully designed and clean house, artful dinners, and the perfect addition to any newly married couple is a brand new fur baby. Of course, all of this is brought to you by Pinterest. In this season of perfection we are still, in a way, dating our spouse. We are sweet, kind, on our best behavior, and still afraid to stink up the bathroom while they are home. But, all of that goes away. Schedules start back up and there’s no time to make that dinner you pinned earlier. The fur baby ruined your new designer rug, and you just really needed to use the bathroom.
Jesus is asking us to remember, remember where we came from, repent from those ways and return our hearts, and in turn our actions to the way it was when we confessed our love for God. Our actions are an outpouring of our heart. I know I don’t always, but I want to seek God first. I want to rekindle our love. I want to worship Him, glorify Him, and honor Him. So for this week, next week, and the weeks to come I will challenge myself and all who read this to remember your first love, rekindle your first love, and put God first. This is how He will use you for His kingdom and glory.
Thanks be to our God,
Lauren A. Buss