4 Reasons Why I Delegate Preaching

It’s that time of year when I invite other seasoned preachers to bring God’s Word to our congregation in a more extended way, through a series of messages. I may do so at different times throughout the year, but in January, it is more focused than at any other time of the year. Why is this necessary?

Preaching is one of my greatest passions. As the pastor of a congregation, it is also one of my responsibilities. In fact, I will soon be teaching a Bible institute course on homiletics, equipping others to prepare and deliver Biblical messages. So, why delegate this privilege?

  1. I need to be refreshed and renewed. Yes, I’m human. I get drained and weary at times. Members may think that pastors can go “full throttle” at all times, but it’s not true. Nor is it wise to even try. After one of the most intense ministry seasons (Fall and Christmas), it is important that I catch my breath, and allow other godly preachers to minister to my soul through the Word. It is also a time when I can evaluate the Lord’s work, seek God’s direction for the coming year, and do extended planning that I rarely have time to do.
  2. It is healthy for the church. A congregation can get into a comfortable rut of always hearing the same preacher, the same style, maybe even the same diet. They “enjoy” the preacher, so why listen to anyone else? Even though I seek variety in my preaching content, it is not the same as hearing God’s Word through the heart, life, and experience of another man of God. It expands our horizons, recaptures our attention, and reminds us (as I will point out in a moment) that it’s about God’s Word, not God’s servant. It is also healthy for a church to have a healthy pastor.
  3. We are a Body. The Bible is clear that the New Testament church is a body, made up of many members (1 Corinthians 12). The only Head is Jesus – not the pastor. The early church clearly had a team of pastors (elders, bishops) that ministered God’s Word in local congregations. There were also multiple preachers and teachers. In fact, it is the responsibility of local church leaders to equip the saints for the work of the ministry (Ephesians 4:11-16), and above all, that includes preaching and teaching the Word of God. How are God-called preachers going to exercise their gifts if the Senior Pastor does not delegate any of the preaching?
  4. It’s not about me. It’s about hearing from God. Some members act as if they can only hear from God through the senior pastor, or their favorite teacher. As flattering as that may appear on the surface, it is not a good spiritual indicator. Paul rebuked the carnal Corinthians for focusing on those who were “of Paul” or “of Apollos,” when we are all simply ministers, and should be “of Jesus” (1 Corinthians 3:1-9). We need to remember where our focus should be.

I remember growing up on the mission field, as my Dad planted churches and trained nationals to preach, teach, and lead the congregations. Any time some of the new “preachers” were scheduled to speak, there were members who would not come. Despite the accent, they preferred hearing from “the missionary.” The others weren’t as skilled, developed, and experienced. “It’s just not the same,” they would say. “I don’t get as much out of it.”

But I also remember one church member who would consistently say, “I’m here to hear God’s Word. It doesn’t matter who is the one speaking. I want to hear from God.” He was right. When we all come to church with hearts ready to hear and respond to the Word of God, through the Holy Spirit, God is going to speak and do wondrous things. I’m looking forward to church on Sunday.  Are you?

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The Gospel In A Multicultural World

Romans 1:16

I believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the most powerful force on earth. I believe that Paul’s words in Romans 1:16 are true. The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation, but not to any particular nationality, ethnic group or social class, but to “everyone that believeth,” whether they be Jew or Gentile, male or female, wealthy or poor, black or white, city-slicker or redneck. I believe that when the world sees this unconditional, cross-cultural Gospel at work and on display as it ought to be, it sees the glory of Almighty God shining brightly in a dark world.

You see, the world knows all about division, prejudice and discrimination. Ever since the Tower of Babel, man has been divided by languages, nationalities, cultures and genetic differences – all originated and continued by the sin of pride. Not only that, but the world’s philosophy is all about preserving and protecting your personal preferences, getting things just the way you want it and like it, because “that’s what you deserve.” You can “have it your way,” whether it’s a hamburger or a local church.

But if I understand the Gospel correctly, all those manmade and sin-caused divisions are restored through the cross of Jesus Christ. People that are divided and different from each other come together into ONE BODY, the local, New Testament church (Matthew 28:19-20). In the Great Commission, we, as soldiers of Jesus Christ, have been commanded to make disciples, not just of our own family, nation, culture, ethnic group, language group, but of every people group that has been scattered about the earth, including around our own communities. And that is when God promises His power and presence to the end of time.

That is the beauty, glory and purpose of the Church of Jesus Christ, the power of the Gospel of Christ in a multicultural world. God wants His saved, regenerated, redeemed people to come together as one, to worship Jesus Christ, and to take His message to a lost and dying world, near and far. When the Gospel is transforming lives as it should, the church will be a church where “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). The walls come down!

So why don’t we see more of this in our local churches? The tragic reality is that this is simply not the norm in most churches. As I look all around me, at church ministry all over, we rarely get to see this on display (even in my own church). When you look around, you see:

I. A Divided Christianity

It is true that many churches have no genuine burden to reach other nations through world missions (no Faith promise program, no missions support, or it is a very low priority). But even more churches have no genuine burden to reach other ethnic groups and cultures that exist all around them. It’s like these people don’t even exist! I have observed that there is often just as much racism and prejudice within the Body of Christ as there is in the world. We tend to justify this or conveniently work around this sinful perspective by saying, “Well, those groups don’t like our kind of music. They prefer to worship in a different way. They speak a different language than we do.” So what do we do? We go about starting separate churches for whites, blacks, Hispanics, Asians, wealthy people, poor people, traditional people, contemporary people, younger people, older people. Everybody with a church that looks like them, sings like them, dresses like them, talks like them, worships like them – and nobody has to deny themselves or sacrifice their personal preferences to reach someone for Jesus! ARE YOU KIDDING ME? No wonder Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “It is appalling that the most segregated hour of Christian America is eleven o’clock on Sunday morning.” Where is that in the Bible? How can we pretend that this pleases God? How in the world does that bring glory to Jesus Christ, or display the true power of the Gospel, and send a message to a lost world that Jesus Christ forgives and unites? It’s every group for themselves.

By the way, that is not what it will be like in Heaven. In Heaven the worshipers will be singing about Jesus, saying, “Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation” (Revelation 5:9). You will look across a sea of faces and see “a great multitude, which no man [can] number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, [standing] before the throne, and before the Lamb,” praising and worshipping “our God for ever and ever” (Revelation 7:9,12b). And that is how it ought to be here on earth – in the Body of Christ: local churches that reflect the world to which we minister.

But churches have always struggled with this. Despite understanding the Great Commission, God’s people, God’s soldiers, from the early days of the church, have been more about staying close to home, within our comfort zone, building ministry kingdoms and buildings, and building a name for themselves, instead of taking the Gospel to a multicultural world. We gravitate to what I call:

II. The Jerusalem Syndrome (Acts 1:4-8; 2:38-41; 5:27-28,42; 6:7)

The church at Jerusalem was the first church, by far the largest church, and the most blessed church when it came to an abundance of leaders. However, when it came to fulfilling the Great Commission of Jesus Christ, it was a poor example for us to follow. The church in Jerusalem was told to make disciples of all nations and ethnic groups (once they received Holy Spirit power), commanded to be witnesses unto Judea, Samaria, and the uttermost parts of the earth.f Yet the church in Jerusalem grew bigger and bigger and bigger (some estimate between 60-100,000), reaching their own people only. Numbers were good! The church was growing! They were being faithful to preach and teach in their local Jewish community, but were neglecting the Great Commission. The Commander had given the orders, but the soldiers weren’t fully obeying. That is, until God had to wake them up and shake them up by putting their very lives in danger and sending a persecution that literally scattered them around the world (Acts 8:1). Only then did Christians go out to spread the Gospel – yet still only to the Jews, people just like them. Their churches, for the most part, looked the same. They were Jewish churches.

Too many of our churches suffer from the Jerusalem Syndrome. We are faithful to preach and teach the Bible (even have growing numbers), but primarily to people just like us. We may even send money to reach other cultures in other places, but we are unwilling to reach other cultures in our own community. If the community around us begins to look different than us, we get so uncomfortable, we will either relocate to find a community that looks and acts like us, or we will dig in our heels to preserve our likes, culture and preferences, even if it means watching our churches wither and eventually die. I’ve seen it; you’ve seen it. Meanwhile there are real human souls that desperately need to hear of a Savior that loves them. They need to hear that in Christ we can be one. They need to see that we may have nothing else in common (humanly speaking), but if we know Jesus we are brothers and sisters, part of the family of God. We can come together to worship and serve the same Savior. They need to see people of genuine compassion, willing to do things differently if it means reaching people for Christ. The Jerusalem Syndrome can destroy the Lord’s work, and keep the glory of the Gospel from truly shining.

But I believe there is another church, that truly models and illustrates the Great Commission in action. It shows the true glory of the Gospel of Christ in a multicultural world. Instead of gravitating toward the Jerusalem Syndrome, I believe we need to be stirred and challenged by:

III. The Antioch Model (Acts 11:19-26)

Antioch was the third largest city in the Roman Empire, located about 500 miles north of Jerusalem. It was a Greek cultural center, on the Orontes River, close to a Mediterranean port (Seleucia), in the province of Syria (modern day Turkey).

It was here where we first see the glory and power of the Gospel in a multicultural world. The Jewish believers were forced to scatter and carry the Gospel to their Judea and Samaria, but they still had their cultural blinders on. They still only witnessed to Jews only (vs. 19). Some were Hellenist Jews, speaking Greek, living around the Roman Empire, but they were Jews nonetheless. Now these Christians began doing something new. They shared the Gospel of Christ to Gentiles. These “Grecians” (from what the context implies) were not Greek-speaking Jews (like in Jerusalem). They were actually Gentiles. Christians finally began to witness to other nationalities and people groups around them.

When this breakthrough in outreach and evangelism took place among God’s people we see God bless in extraordinary ways. When they stepped out of their comfort zone, stopped trying to reach only people just like them, they found that “the hand of the Lord was with them” and they experienced, not a revival, but a spiritual awakening (vs. 21). It was so incredible and amazing that word began to spread, and word reached the church back in Jerusalem. God was doing something out-of-the-box for them, something they had yet to experience, and they went to check it out. They were seeing the Romans 1:16 Gospel on full display. They were seeing the Great Commission carried out before their eyes. “The grace of God” had been poured out upon them (vs. 23).

It is no wonder that this church, with its culturally diverse ministry and leadership (including Jews, Africans, Italians), would be the church that would launch the first missionary movement (Acts 13:1-4). They had a true burden for the world, near and far. From this moment, from this church, the Gospel began to spread to the world, reaching nations, languages, people groups, and bringing together as one bodies of believers that virtually had nothing else in common; nothing, that is, but the blood of Jesus that has cleansed us from our sin, delivered us from the power of darkness, and transferred to the Kingdom of God’s Son. That is the glory of the Gospel in a multicultural world. It’s a little bit of Heaven on eart!

God has given me an ever growing burden to see God build more churches like Antioch, and for God to do so in the congregation where I serve. It grieves me to see such diverse cultures all around us, by the thousands, and yet most of our churches look nothing like any of them. When we do try to reach them, we want to keep them separate, apart, so they can do things their way and we can do things our way, and never truly becoming one body in Christ.

What is it going to take for the glorious Gospel to shine in our multicultural world? Persecution? Suffering? Divine discipline? Do we need to find ways to build better ministry bridges? To reach people that are all around us, yet seem invisible to us? To reach them, and not keep them isolated, but seek to integrate them as part of the Body? Do we need to be willing to leave our comfort zone? Do we need to seek God’s forgiveness for our prejudices, stubbornness and indifference? Do we need to be more flexible in our styles and attitudes? I don’t have the answers. But I know the heart of our Savior for a lost world, and, like Paul, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.”

Lessons Learned

 I believe it would be fitting for me to share some personal thoughts and lessons learned from the opportunity our church, Vandalia Baptist Temple, recently had to host the World Baptist Fellowship Fall Meeting. The emphasis of this “semi-annual” meeting is always world missions, which is very close to my heart. My wife Megan and I accepted the opportunity with “fear and trembling,” and wanted to give our best for the Lord and His servants. We felt so inadequate, but trusted God to put people in place to help accomplish the task.

It was an overwhelming experience to see God at work. And that reminded me of some important truths:

  1. Planning is important, but God has to meet with us. We did our best to prepare and organize what we thought would be a blessing to God’s servants. Not everything came about the way we wanted or planned. But we knew that if anything of eternal value was to happen, God had to do it, and anoint every speaker, song and service with His Holy Spirit. I believe He did – to His glory!
  2. Prayer makes all the difference. If God has to meet with us and do a supernatural work, then we have to seek Him in prayer. Not just talk about it, but do it. Each service provided us the opportunity to pray over our pastors, college leaders, and missionaries. What a thrill to hear the voices of God’s servants joined in intercession! I believe God’s presence was tangible during those sacred moments.
  3. Teamwork is essential. I know the host pastor often gets much of the “thanks,” but an event like this is never the work of one person, just like every other ministry for the Lord. I could not have done it without my wife, our staff, and our amazing church family. But beyond that, we received constant encouragement, advice and assistance from our Mission Director and fellow pastors. Teamwork is indeed essential, and it is something which I believe God blesses.
  4. There is so much to be done. As I opened my heart and shared ideas for our fellowship to engage the next generation of missionaries, I seemed to have “hit a nerve” (in a positive sense). There is a growing sense of urgency to take whatever steps are necessary to be more effective in world evangelism and in reaching the next generation for Jesus Christ. We face many challenges as churches and as a fellowship, but God has not called us to a task for which He will not equip us. May we work together, pursue excellence, and focus on the cause which unites us all as Great Commission pastors, missionaries, and churches.

It was our honor to serve the World Baptist Fellowship through this meeting. The 26 missionary families and dozens of pastors who came were such an encouragement to our people. God even used this meeting to lead our congregation to its highest Faith Promise commitment in our church’s history! I appreciate every word and expression of gratitude and encouragement that we have since received. God has branded these truths on my heart, and for that I praise Him. Let us “SO RUN” (I Cor. 9:24).

Giving … People?

 

We are in the early stages of an exciting ministry journey at the church where I serve. God has been leading us to begin taking steps toward planting a church in our region. And that is where we are: the beginning. I have challenged our congregation to join me in praying for God to show us the community where He wants us to begin.

As exciting as beginning a new work is to talk about (What is more exciting than having a baby?), there is another emotion that some are struggling with: fear. When I first laid out some steps that may come down the road, I mentioned the possibility of recruiting 15-20 church members to commit to helping in the new work for six months. As a second-generation church planter, this seemed logical, natural, even understood. But for many, it struck a nerve.

The main question that began to surface went something like this: “If we lose 15-20 people, won’t that hurt our church?” If our point is to grow as a church, it would seem like we would be taking a step backward, and losing some dedicated workers (which are greatly needed!). How can giving people away be a positive thing?

This fear is nothing new. I remember talking to a veteran pastor whom I greatly respect and admire. He told me that in his early years of ministry he would continually challenge people to surrender to full-time ministry. But when a handful of his most faithful families all decided to move away for Bible college, it left a large void in the congregation, and he stopped challenging people like he used to. This is a real fear.

This is why it is imperative that we stand on biblical principles, and allow God’s promises to strengthen our faith and overcome our fear. Most fundamental Christians fully understand what the Bible teaches about giving. But we forget that the same holds true, whether we are talking about giving money or giving people. Think about it:

Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom” (Luke 6:38).

It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).

Honour the LORD with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase: so shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine” (Proverbs 3:9-10).

But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work” (II Corinthians 9:6-8).

I have all, and abound: I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, wellpleasing to God. But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:18-19).

God blesses when His people give of their resources to further the Great Commission, to build the Kingdom of God, and to reproduce New Testament local churches. When we give money by faith, God meets the need and blesses in abundance. When we give people by faith, God also meets the need and will bless in abundance. In fact, churches that give people in church planting and ministry experience excitement, momentum, and growth that never existed before.

The hope of the world lies in God’s people getting serious about the Great Commission: churches planting churches until Jesus comes. Let us not be paralyzed by fear, but driven by faith.


Keys To Reaching Others For Christ

The vision of our local church is to build bridges to knowing Christ, maturing in Christ and reaching others for Christ.  This third “ministry bridge” is the ultimate bridge we want to cross as Christians.  But how?

1. Nurture your own relationship with Christ.  If you are not in love with Jesus, passionately obeying and following Him, connected with fellow believers in worship and a Bible study class, serving others in a ministry, what is there to share?  What do you have that will be a magnet to the unchurched and unsaved?  It all starts here. The genuine product. The real deal.

2. Limit your involvement.  Yes, you need to be involved in church ministry and faithful to all services.  But the faithful core often get overextended and overcommitted with no time to build bridges with the lost.  Too busy reaching in, no time to reach out!  This is often the fault of church leadership.  We feed the beast!  We stretch people too thin.  We encourage the vicious cycle.  But if are serious about reaching others in our community for Christ, we must be intentional about avoiding this, especially in a growing church.  Two or three ministry areas max.

3. Connect in the community.  Build relationships with the lost!  Join a sports team, art club, craft class, volunteer organization.  Meet other parents, athletes, artists, business people.  Build friendships and trust.  Serve them and love them.  Model Christian behavior and Biblical priorities (in the world, but not of the world).  Share Christ!  Give away a tract, outreach card, book or sermon series.  Invite them to church or a Bible study.  Take time to invest in them.  As someone has said, you never win your enemies to Christ, only your friends.  And friendship takes time, effort and intentionality.