4 Steps Churches & Pastors Should Take Now

Like me, you may be asking, “What steps should we take as a church and what steps should I take as a pastor in light of the Supreme Court’s ruling legalizing same-sex marriage?” Here are four steps every church should take to safeguard the church and the pastor.

  1. Update church wedding policy documents. It is very important for the church to develop a document that addresses the issues of marriage, human sexuality, & gender. Here is a Church Wedding Policy sample that you can use as a starting point.
  2. Update facility use policy. It is equally important for the church to develop a comprehensive policy that addresses the use of church facilities. It is not necessary for the church to eliminate all facility use by non-members, but it is important that a governing policy is in place. Even if the church eliminates facility use by non-members and only allows facility use by members, a policy is still needed. Some of the challenges in the area of facility use may come from those who are members or from family members of those who are members. Here’s a facility use sample.
  3. Update membership policies. It is important to have a document that clearly defines how a person becomes a church member; what the expectations are for a person to maintain church membership; and specific circumstances that lead to membership discipline and/or dismissal. Here’s a Church Membership Policy sample.
  4. Update Pastor’s Personal Wedding Policy. For added clarification and protection, it would be wise for every pastor to develop and adopt a personal pastoral wedding policy. In this policy the pastor should share his Biblical views on marriage giving Scriptural support, personal requirements for officiating a wedding, pre-marital counseling expectations, and a fee schedule. Here is a Pastor Wedding Policy sample.

For more information and help, please check out our Kentucky Baptist Convention resource page. Also, feel free to contact me personally at [email protected] or at 502-489-3434.

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Real Men Needed

“For from day to day men came to David to help him, until there was a great army, like an army of God.”  1 Chronicles 12:22 (ESV)

After King Saul was killed on Mt. Gilboa along with his sons, Jonathan, Abinadab, and Malchishua, the people of Israel gathered around David at Hebron.  There they anointed him king over Israel just like the prophet Samuel had done earlier in Bethlehem.  God began to send men to David to assist him in his new position of leadership.  These men were mighty men!  For example:

  • Jashobeam, a Hachmonite killed 300 men at one time with a spear.
  • Eleazer, the son of Dodo, single-handedly took a stand on a plot of ground in a barley field and killed every member of the Philistine army fighting in that battle.
  • Benaiah, the son of Jehoiada, went down into a pit on a snowy day and killed a lion.

This is the kind of men God sent to David.  Real men!  Men with hair on their chest.  Men with backbone.  Men who could fight.  Men who had an instinct to protect.  Men who weren’t afraid to get down and dirty when the job demanded that they do so.

Real men! Men with hair on their chest.

When I think of the overwhelming need for revitalization in our churches in the Southern Baptist Convention, I’m convinced that the real solution is a simple spiritual solution.  I believe that our churches are THIRSTY for men! Real men!  Men with a spiritual backbone.  Men who know God.  Men who pray.  Men who would die for Jesus and live for their family.  Men who fight spiritual battles with the same intensity that David’s men fought physical battles!

Men who would die for Jesus and live for their family.

PRAYER:  “Oh Lord, send men like this to Your church!  Real men who will battle the spiritual forces of evil to protect your Bride.  Hurry Lord….the need is desperate!”

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Old-Fashioned Church

A while back our Church Consulting & Revitalization Team held a planning retreat in the Southern Indiana Amish country. Although I do not agree with much of the spiritual theology of the Amish, I have always respected them for their commitment to the “old-fashioned ways.” I believe that the modern church should strive to be old-fashioned in certain areas.

Don’t get me wrong, I love technology and would not want to give up my iPhone, iPod, iPad, iCloud, GPS running watch, or any other smart device. I also love a lot of the new music being written for the church today. I prefer indoor plumbing over outhouses, air-conditioning over funeral home fans, and padded pews over pews that make your body go numb, but old-fashioned is still sometimes preferred.

An old-fashioned church is a church fashioned after the Book of Acts!

So, where should the modern church be old-fashioned and what is an old-fashioned church? An old-fashioned church is a church fashioned after the Book of Acts. It is a church with the same priorities of the early church. It is a church that, at it’s core, has the same purpose and focus of the church in the 2nd chapter of Acts.

Characteristics of an Old-Fashioned Church

   42  And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. 43  Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. 44  Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, 45  and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. 46  So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, 47  praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved. Acts 2:42-47 (NKJV)

1.  Doctrine. The church “continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine” (Vs. 42). Several translations choose the word “teaching” instead of the word “doctrine,” but they can be used interchangeably. The apostles taught the people the Word of God. An old-fashioned church focuses on teaching God’s Word accurately, consistently, and thoroughly. The apostles knew that it matters what you believe, so they led the people to believe God’s Word and sought to teach how Jesus the Messiah was revealed throughout the Old Testament.

2.  Fellowship. The word koinonia in the original language was used several times by the Apostle Paul, but Luke used it only once in Acts 2. The word is usually translated “fellowship” and it indicates that the early believers had an uniquely close relationship because of their connection through the Gospel. Their “fellowship” served as a witness to the world that something was different about them that greatly affected their relationships.

3.  Obedience. The early church continued in “the breaking of bread” (Vs. 42).  Many commentaries believe this included observing the Lord’s Supper together. Although the Passover meal was a long-standing Jewish tradition, connecting the symbols of the bread and juice to the body and blood of Jesus was new. Jesus told the apostles to continue the practice so they obeyed this new command.

4. Evangelism. The passage tells us that “the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved” (Vs. 47). This tells us that they were sharing their faith on a regular basis. Many modern church problems could be solved if church members would regain a passion for sharing their faith with those who need to hear the Gospel.

I fear that many churches today do not possess these first four Biblical characteristics. Instead of teaching doctrine, they teach the opinions of man or woman. Instead of experiencing fellowship, they experience conflict and division. Instead of obeying all the applicable commands of the Word of God, they pick and choose the preferable commands that best fit their compromising lifestyle. Instead of focusing outwardly on those who need to hear the Gospel, they focus inwardly on their own wants and wishes. Is it any wonder that many modern churches are not experiencing a mighty move of God’s Spirit like the churches in the Book of Acts? May God help us possess the characteristics of an old-fashioned church.

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3 Keys to Improved Worship

Have you ever thought about ways to improve worship? Much has been written on the subject recently. Allow me to share a few thoughts I’ve gleaned from my study over the last few years.

3 Keys to Improved Worship

1. God is the audience. When you hear the word audience associated with worship, what comes to mind? Do you picture the preacher, the praise team, the choir, the organist, the pianist, and various soloists on stage at different points with the congregation looking on as the audience? This is what comes to mind for many, but it is not a biblical model.

In biblical worship, the audience is God!

In biblical worship, the audience is God! The person seated on the back row of the balcony is “on stage” in God’s eyes just as much as the soloist and the preacher. God watches all of us as we worship Him. Those in the congregation must understand that those on stage are not there to please them; they are there to please God!

2. Every Christian should prepare for worship. Through the years, I have taught that we should come to the services “prepared” to worship God. We can’t worship if we’re worn out or hung over from a late Saturday night. We can’t place God first on Sunday if we haven’t given Him a second-thought during the week. Worship is a seven-day-a-week proposition and it takes special preparation to be ready for Sunday worship. Many get nothing out of worship because they’ve put nothing into worship during the week.

We can’t place God first on Sunday if we haven’t given Him a second-thought  during the week.

3. Preaching is a two-way street. Every week I look out and see a plethora of reactions to my preaching. I see some on the edge of their seats, making mental notes and often taking written notes. Sitting near them, I often see someone fighting back sleep. Now I realize that some people have medical issues that cause them to sleep any time they get still for a minute or two, but I suspect that some are just dulled to the message because of their lifestyle. My preaching would improve in their eyes if they would improve the way they live.

Challenge:  I challenge you to a little experiment. Spend one entire week preparing for worship on Sunday. Read your Bible and pray every day. Ask the Lord to help your pastor to hear His voice as He shows him what to say. Go to bed early on Saturday and get to church a little early on Sunday so you won’t feel rushed. During the service, remember that God hears your expressions of praise and knows your heart. I am confident that worship will “come alive” for us like never before when we make it a true priority in our lives.

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5 Mistakes During Conflict

A couple of years ago I read a good book entitled Redeeming Church Conflicts: Turning Crisis into Compassion and CareTara Klena Barthel and David V. Edling did a great job in the book defining conflict and uncovering what the Bible says we should do when conflict arises.

In the first chapter, they shared five mistakes that most people make when conflict happens. These mistakes are the beginning of a tragic downward spiral.

5 Mistakes People Make During Conflict

1. We think our evaluation of the situation is always right. I’ve made this mistake and you have as well. It’s easy and natural to do, but it’s not best to do. In order to resolve conflict, we must be open to listen to the “other side” and be willing to consider that we are not totally right on the issue.

2. We treat people differently than God treats us. God treats us with love and grace. He forgives us when we don’t deserve it. During conflict, we often treat the other person with contempt and disrespect which leads us to disdain their perspective.

3. We assume that God is on our side. Although we may accept that those on the other side of the conflict are believers, we believe that we uniquely have God’s attention, care, and blessing more than our opponents do.

4. We become defensive. As soon as we become defensive, we become closed and narrow. We believe that God takes our side on the issue and condemns those on the other side of the conflict in the same way that we do.

5. We are marked by pride and selfishness. These characteristics are not from the Lord. Instead, Christ wants us to be marked by humility and love which leads toward reconciliation.

Conflict is a normal part of life. No one is exempt! But, as believers, God calls us to respond differently than the world and to DO OUR BEST to resolve the conflict.

If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Romans 12:18 (NKJV)

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Preaching is Important

A few years ago I hosted my friend Dr. Gary L. McIntosh for a conference that discussed assimilation principles taken from his book, Beyond the First Visit. Fortunately, while he was with us, Dr. McIntosh unveiled the findings of a recent national survey he conducted.

…I was somewhat surprised by the overwhelming importance of the pastor’s preaching.

I knew that the pastor played an important role in reaching and keeping people in a local church, but I was somewhat surprised by the overwhelming importance of the pastor’s preaching. Consider these findings from the study:

  • 90% of respondents said that the pastor’s preaching influenced their decision to attend a particular church.
  • When asked to rank the order of reasons why they chose to attend their church, the preaching of the pastor ranked #1.

To examine the specifics of the pastor’s role, the survey asked, “What factors of the pastor’s ministry influenced your choice of this church?”  Below are their responses listed in the order of their ranking.

Top 4 Influential Pastoral Ministry Factors:
  1. Preaching that teaches and applies to my life.
  2. Authenticity of the pastor.
  3. Pastor’s convictions.
  4. Pastor’s leadership skills.

This study confirmed what most of us already suspected–the pastor must play a pivotal role if a local church is to experience genuine growth and/or revitalization. Somewhat surprising was the overwhelming importance of preaching.

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Being Like Jesus Is the GOAL

“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” Colossians 2:6-7 (NIV)

As believers, our ultimate goal is to become like Christ. He is the bulls-eye. He is the mark. He is the goal! Here are 5 keys I see in this passage to becoming more like Jesus.

WE BEGIN TO BECOME LIKE CHRIST WHEN WE . . . .

1.  Turn over the steering wheel. God doesn’t want to be co-pilot; He wants to be pilot. The Apostle Paul said, “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord….” (Vs. 6). When I ride with someone else, I find myself wanting to grab the wheel, hit the brake, or stomp the accelerator. Similarly, I sometimes do that in my Christian walk, but Jesus deserves to be Lord in my life as well as yours. I must continually turn the wheel of my life over to Him.

2.  Dig in with Christ. There were a number of false teachers in Colossae, so Paul emphasized the need to be “rooted and built up in Him” (Vs. 7). One way to be rooted is to dig into God’s Word. Common sense tells us that we can’t watch television 5 hours a day, then read the Bible 5 minutes a day, and expect to grow spiritually!

3.  Build our lives in Jesus. Paul said that we are “built up in Him” (Vs. 7). Construction takes time. Some building projects take longer than others. The same is true in our Christlikeness. Discipleship is a lifelong, exciting journey.

Discipleship is a lifelong, exciting journey.

4.  Pump up with teaching. Several years ago two famous Saturday Night Live characters regularly said, “we are here to pump you up!” Paul told the Colossian believers they were “strengthened in the faith as [they] were taught” (Vs. 7). Paul connects the teaching of the Word of God with spiritual strength. We should “pump up” regularly with good Biblical teaching.

5.  Spill thankfulness everywhere you go. Paul concludes verse 7 by reminding us that we should be “overflowing with thankfulness.” I remember a couple of times a waitress accidently filled my glass so full that it overflowed. As mature believers, we should intentionally be so full of thankfulness that we overflow for others to see. I believe that genuine thankfulness is a mark of spiritual maturity.

The Lord Jesus is our model and we often fall short. But, always remember that “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:6, NIV).

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