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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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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The Dream Church

I love serving and helping our Kentucky Baptist Convention churches. I’ve been privileged to serve Kentucky Baptist churches for 36 years with 28 years in the local church and 8 years on the KBC staff. I have hope for the future of Kentucky Baptist churches. In this post, I’m going to dream about where our KBC churches are going by asking the question “what if”.

What if we could create places where every person began to discover his or her place and purpose in God’s great big world? Imagine! What if our churches were places where people could be “real” and relationships could go well beneath the surface? Imagine!  What if our churches were places where “second chances” really existed? Imagine! What if you found a place that helped you to be the person God created you to be in one of our churches?  Imagine!

What if? Isn’t that a great question? What if? Imagine…I think I will!…I imagine our KBC churches to be places of diversity where people from all walks of life can find acceptance and fulfillment. I imagine our churches to be a people who are not afraid to believe God for the impossible. I imagine our churches to be a people who embrace the future without forgetting the past. I imagine our churches to be churches who value one’s service over one’s standing. I imagine our churches to be places where people encounter Jesus on a weekly basis and experience real life-change as result.

I believe we are doing well in many of these areas. I commend our churches, their pastors, and their leaders. But, as in all areas of life, we can make improvements. Let’s continue to be open to the leadership of the Holy Spirit, continue to turn our focus to Christ, and continue to seek improvement and excellence for God’s ultimate glory!

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2019 KBC Holy Land Trip

On behalf of staff at the Kentucky Baptist Convention, I invite you to join me on our next KBC trip to the Holy Land on October 29-November 7, 2019. All Kentucky Baptists are invited to join us as we walk in the footsteps of Jesus. You will never read the Bible the same again after traveling to Israel. I have tried to explain it by saying “before my trip to Israel, I read the Bible in black and white; now I read it in living color.”

…before my trip to Israel, I read the Bible in black and white; now I read it in living color.

I am organizing the trip again through Jerusalem Tours. This will be the third time I have personally traveled to the Holy Land with this company—they are among the highest rated in the business!

We invite pastors, church staff, church members, Directors of Missions, along with any believers to join us as we walk in the footsteps of Jesus. We have negotiated a great price of $4,189 per person that includes flights from Louisville or Cincinnati, hotels, touring, meals, tips, fuel charges, etc. We encourage churches to consider sending their pastor(s) and his wife on this trip of a lifetime.

If you are interested or if you have any questions, please email me at [email protected] or contact me at 502-489-3434. Reserve your spot before the trip fills up!

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6 Truths about the Holy Spirit

After serving as a pastor in Southern Baptist churches over the last quarter of a century, I find that the average Southern Baptist is largely unfamiliar with the person and work of the Holy Spirit. As a result, let’s consider six foundational truths about the Holy Spirit:

6 Foundational Truths about the Holy Spirit

  1. The Holy Spirit is God. The Holy Spirit was there in the beginning. He was part of the Trinity as everything was created. Genesis says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters” (Genesis 1:1-2).
  2. The Holy Spirit is a person. Throughout the Bible, the Holy Spirit is referred to as “He or Him.” In John 14:16-17, Jesus said, “….I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever– the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.”
  3. The Holy Spirit plays a key role in salvation. (John 16:8-11)
  4. The Holy Spirit dwells in each believer. Jesus said, “….the Spirit of truth….he lives with you and will be in you” (John 14:16-17). Paul asked, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
  5. The Holy Spirit is given to us as a deposit. What a glorious truth! The Holy Spirit is God’s down payment indicating that He is good for the rest! Hallelujah! “Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come” (2 Corinthians 5:5).
  6. The Holy Spirit produces fruit in the believer. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23).

I personally believe that the greatest evidence that we are truly believers is the fruit of Spirit. If we have the Spirit as a deposit then we are, without a doubt, a true Christian. If we are a genuine Christians who are in fellowship with God, then we will bear the fruit of the Spirit in our lives.

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4 Steps to Forgiving Those I Hate

How can we forgive people we hate? How can we show grace to those we can’t stomach? The honest truth is that we can’t! In our own strength, we are unable to forgive those who have hurt us deeply, but with God’s help it is possible.

4 Steps to Forgiving Those I Hate

1. Turn our hurts over to God. We should remind ourselves that nothing happens that God does not allow. As a result we should acknowledge our hurts and ask God to help us with them. He may choose to teach us through them and shape us into the person He wants us to be. God never wastes a hurt!

God never wastes a hurt!

2. Ask God to transform our hate to love. In time, God will change our hearts to match His heart if we allow Him to do so. We should pray and ask God to start the process of healing and forgiveness in our hearts.

3. Read what God’s Word says about forgiveness. The Bible is replete with verses on this topic. Reading what God says is a major part of how He moves us towards a heart of forgiveness. Here are a couple of passages on the topic:

“Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”  Matthew 18:21-22 (NIV) 

“He said to them, ‘When you pray, say:  Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation.'”  Luke 11:2-4 (NIV) 

4. Remember that we sinned against God. God forgave us when we didn’t deserve it, so we should forgive others when they don’t deserve it. We are never more like God than when we grant forgiveness to undeserving people.

Don’t spend the rest of your life without rest in your life!

If you’re struggling with hard feelings toward someone . . . if you’re mad, hurt, bitter, or all the above rolled into one, then let it go! Forgive! Do it for their sake! Do it for your sake! Do it for the Lord! Don’t spend the rest of your life without rest in your life. Unforgiveness can slow down or even sidetrack your spiritual growth.

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