Archives For Bible

tibbettsTimes of ministry burnout are coming, Heath Tibbetts told leaders gathered in Springfield for the Illinois Leadership Summit. So are areas of weakness. But there is a way to prepare for those inevitable difficulties, said the pastor of First Baptist Church in Machesney Park.

“Spiritual build-up prepares us for burnout and blind spots that we know are on the horizon,” Tibbetts said during his breakout session on the spiritual health of a leader.

One warning sign that spiritual build-up may be lacking, Tibbetts said, is reacting poorly to challenges. There was a time, he said, when his church didn’t plan for occasional obstacles, like losing a Sunday school teacher or facing a bill they couldn’t afford to pay. Leaders can fail to prepare in the same way, if they allow their current plans and level of knowledge to be enough.

“Visionless ministry punches the clock.”

So, how can a leader make sure his or her spiritual health is strong? Tibbetts suggested several ideas, including coaching from other leaders. He recently starting a mentoring relationship with a pastor in another part of the country, which started when Tibbetts read a magazine article about how the other church was utilizing facility space and e-mailed the pastor a question.

There’s also a need for trusted friends who can ask questions like, “How’s your relationship with your wife?” Tibbetts added.

Building oneself up spiritually also comes from time with God himself, he reminded his audience. “Personal devotion is one of the easiest things to let slip in your life.” As a pastor, if sermon preparation is the only study he does, Tibbetts said, and if he isn’t spending devotion time in other parts of Scripture, not only will the sermon be lacking, but he’ll also be missing a valuable build-up opportunity.

When ministry burnout does come, Tibbetts said, there are ways to confront it. Unplug, and “say no a lot.” Leaders need to remember their vision for ministry, even apart from what they are currently doing. “Visionless ministry punches the clock,” Tibbetts said, asking leaders to identify, What defines you separately from your ministry?

And keep building up. Tibbetts said a man in his church recently waited two months to call him for a counseling appointment, because he knew his pastor would ask about his spiritual life, and he wanted to make sure he was reading his Bible. If you’re confronting burnout, Tibbetts said, schedule more times of prayer.

– MDF

Hard issues are heart issues

ib2newseditor —  November 28, 2016

The pulpit is the best place to address difficult topics

Open Bible

I remember a time when I sensed God leading me to go deeper in my preaching, specifically on the topic of racial reconciliation. As I was speaking to the congregation, I felt the level of tension rise almost immediately.

This was confirmed by comments I received later.
­

It’s not easy to preach on difficult topics. The cultural issues of our day can be divisive. They can cause conflict in a church. Pastors tend to know where their people stand on the hard topics, and since they do, many would rather stick to abstract application in order to avoid hitting a nerve with consistent volunteers and faithful tithers. No wonder we tend to shy away.

But we can’t avoid the issues people in our world are navigating every day.

In his seminal work “Christ and Culture,” H. Richard Niebuhr wrestled with how Christians are to relate to contemporary culture. For Niebuhr, the best approach is not to stand against, blend in with, take the best of, or try to sanctify culture. Rather, Christians should aim to transform culture.

There is no doubt that Niebuhr was correct in his assessment. Anyone who has understood the Gospels will affirm our Lord’s purpose and desire to change the heart of man, which invariably leads to a change of culture.

Preaching is an integral part of the process of cultural change. It is during the preaching moment that people are most in tune to the voice of their shepherd, and it is during that moment where the Spirit of God is at work both in the heart of the preacher and in the hearts of those who are listening.

The apostle Paul exemplified this kind of preaching. For him, the gospel removed barriers of race, gender, and religion; it also gave clarity to domestic issues, such as marriage and divorce, as well as matters related to sexual deviance and perversion (Romans 1:18-24; 1 Corinthians 5:1-5, 7:1-16; Galatians 3:28).

Since the church still contends with these same issues, preachers must continue to proclaim and apply the same gospel.

Three reservations
Some preachers hesitate to deal with cultural issues and difficult subjects because that approach lends itself to topical preaching, and away from a more expository method. However, those of us who preach should understand that some of the most effective preachers in Christian history preached sermons that were not expository in the strictest sense. And even still, one can preach expository sermons while addressing key topics as they arise.

Another reason some preachers neglect these issues is a lack of sensitivity. Pastors preach about and congregations prioritize the things that resonate most with them and the areas in which they are most involved. I know a pastor in Laredo, Texas, near the border of Mexico. He spends the majority of his time ministering to illegal immigrants trying to escape the violence perpetrated by drug cartels. Therefore, his view on whether America should build a wall is much different from someone who lives elsewhere in the U.S. The point being, in order to speak to the issues, pastors must gain some level of familiarity with the issues, if not for themselves, for the sake of those they serve.

Perhaps the most common reason pastors shy away from difficult topics is that preaching on these issues can cause conflict within the congregation. This, of course, is a pastor’s nightmare, one I faced head-on when I felt the tension begin to rise the Sunday I preached on racial reconciliation. But remember, people usually come around.

In our case, after some time had passed and those present had the opportunity to prayerfully consider what was said, their testimonies and changes in behavior demonstrated to me that spiritual growth did occur, enabling several people to move a step closer toward true healing.

Four suggestions
What then are some helpful tips for pastors who want to move forward in preaching on cultural issues and difficult topics? I offer four:

First, be sure to always revert to overarching principles in Scripture, such as love, justice, reconciliation, grace, and forgiveness. In his book “Principle-Centered Leadership,” Steven Covey argues that leaders do better to maintain focus on principles, rather than values. Values change and may differ between people and organizations, while principles remain constant.

The same prescription can be applied to pastoral leadership and preaching. Take for example issues such as abortion, the death penalty, and health care for the elderly. The reality—even in Southern Baptist circles—is that there are differences of opinion when it comes to these issues. However, the overarching principle is the sanctity of human life. Approaching any of those issues from that perspective will remind people that all life is precious in the sight of God—in the womb, the nursing home, and everywhere in between. This is where the preacher is able to deal with the issue while helping people see beyond their personal values, and lead them to submit to a higher theological principle—in this case, God’s value on life.

Second, consider the idea attributed to Karl Barth, that sermons are best prepared with the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other. Pastors must be aware of the conversations taking place. Understand the arguments. The people you preach to on Sunday are looking for answers to the pressing concerns of the day. They are trying to figure out what position is the right position.

If pastors fail to search the Scripture and provide a biblical perspective, there is the risk that church-goers will fix their moral compass on the thoughts and opinions of Sean Hannity, Oprah Winfrey, or the panel of “The View.”

Third, after listening well to the issues, do not be afraid to deviate from a 10-week sermon series you’re currently preaching in order to tackle a difficult topic. When the entire world is talking about human trafficking, a terrorist attack, or protests and issues of race, Christians want to know the heart and mind of God on such issues.

Some are questioning where God is when tragedy strikes, and if your people are not asking these questions for themselves, it is likely they know someone who is. Imagine the witnessing opportunities members of your church will have when you have equipped them with a sound biblical perspective for the discussion that is sure to take place in the cafeteria at work or at the student union on campus.

Finally, use other venues that allow your congregation to hear your voice on crucial matters. In my experience, some of the deepest theological discussions related to culture have taken place during our mid-week gatherings. There are a couple of advantages to using a Sunday evening or Wednesday evening to preach or teach on difficult topics: If the topic is published beforehand, church members who normally do not attend may, and they might even invite a friend who does not attend church at all. And, I have found, difficult topics and current cultural issues often make room for seasons of focused prayer.

If evening or mid-week services are not an option, look for another opportunity, like a written article distributed to your congregation. For example, I wrote an article titled “The Ministry of the Peacemaker” based on Matthew 5:9 in response to violence in Africa, the Middle East, and our own city of Chicago. In the article I challenged the congregation to live incarnationally within their own sphere of influence, allowing the peace of God to emanate from their lives as a means to bring about change.

A close examination of the words of Jesus in John 17 reminds us that to isolate ourselves from culture was never our Lord’s intent. Our responsibility as pastors is to facilitate disciple-making. One way we do this is by equipping the saints to share their faith and make disciples wherever they go.

With the ever-increasing presence and influence of social media, our challenge is a culture that is constantly bombarding those who God has placed in our charge. For their sake, we must be careful not to shy away from difficult topics. Instead, we must speak clearly and authoritatively from the perspective of God’s Word.

Bryan Price pastors Love Fellowship Baptist Church in Romeoville, the congregation he started in 2003. This article was originally printed in the Spring 2017 issue of Resource magazine published by IBSA.

The BriefingAmericans most thankful for family & health
When Americans count their blessings at Thanksgiving, God will get most of the credit. And money might be the last thing on their minds. Most Americans are thankful for family (88%), health (77%), personal freedom (72%) and friends (71%). Fewer give thanks for wealth (32%) or achievements (51%), according to a new study from LifeWay.

Top Bible verse, topics of 2016 election
On Election Day, more people were searching the Bible for topics involving the end times than for praying for government. And the top Bible verse of the 2016 presidential election: 2 Chronicles 7:14.

Christian colleges grapple with election, views on women & minorities
Exit polls suggest 81% of white evangelicals voted for President-elect Donald Trump. But support for him may have been less decisive on Christian college campuses, where most students are also white evangelicals. Internal polls from some Christian colleges before the general election showed weaker Trump support than among the evangelical community at large. At Wheaton College in Illinois, 43% of respondents said they would vote for Clinton.

University: Religious volunteering doesn’t count
Two students are suing a Wisconsin university for denying them mandatory community service credits for work they did with a local church. The university claims their service projects violate a policy excluding hours that involve certain religious activities. The students, who filed a lawsuit in federal court, argue the policy is viewpoint discrimination and unconstitutional.

Protests at FBC Dallas draw spotlight
Protesters picketing First Baptist Church in Dallas will have no effect, pastor Robert Jeffress. “Look, these people, these protesters, aren’t opposing me or our church,” he said of the 50 or so protesters who picketed the church because of the pastor’s apparent public support of Trump during the contentious presidential campaign. “When I see these protesters, it kind of reminds me of a flea striking its hind leg against Mount Everest, saying I’m going to topple you over.

Sources: Facts & Trends, Christianity Today, Religion News, World Magazine, Baptist Press

The Curse is Gone

ib2newseditor —  November 4, 2016

What one Illinois pastor (and Cubs fan) learned from the World Series

cubs-logoEmotions in Wrigleyville soared high in the late innings of Game 7. With a three run lead, coming off a blowout win in Game 6, victory seemed inevitable. But then, there’s the curse.

The night before, Aroldis Chapman had been controversially brought in to prevent any hope of a late game rally, and ensure there would be a Game 7. As Chapman took the mound, the Cubs were only four outs away from reversing the curse. And then it happened. Ramirez scored on Guyer’s double, then Rajai Davis’s two run homer tied the game, and as the rain began to fall one had to wonder if the heavens were weeping over the unshakable clutch of “the curse.”

In 1945 William Sianis was asked to leave Wrigley Field after complaints were made about the odor of his pet goat, Murphy. It was Game 4 of the World Series, and as Sianis and Murphy departed Wrigley, Sianis uttered the words; “You are going to lose this World Series and you are never going to win another World Series again. You are never going to win a World Series again because you insulted my goat.”

The Cubs lost the 1945 World Series to the Detroit Tigers beginning Major League Baseball’s longest championship drought and the legacy of the “Billy Goat Curse.” For the next seven decades, the Cubs would not even appear in a World Series.

The Bible, also, warns of a curse. It is a curse that came as the consequence of open rebellion against God (Genesis 3:14-19). It crushes all hope of victory. Our inability to tame our addictions and carry out what we know to be right creates endless cycles of crippling frustration, guilt, and shame.

But the “Curse of the Billy Goat, “it is no more. Ben Zobrist’s opposite field double off Bryan Shaw put the Cubs ahead for good in an 8-7 victory that clinched the World Series and crushed the curse for good.

But what about our curse? What can bring an end to the curse, its frustrations, guilt, and shame? When will we experience the catharsis of victory over sin? Perhaps, just as Ben Zobrist’s bat provided the answer to the Cub’s curse in Game 7, maybe his words can be the catalyst for deliverance and hope from the Curse of Sin:

In a 2013 interview with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Zobrist made the following statement, “We all need grace. We all need Christ. I still have a lot to learn about what the love of Christ is like. That it’s not just knowledge, but it’s allowing the truth to change you, allowing Christ’s message of grace and hope and love through the cross, that that message is the message that changes the way we look at everything in our lives.

The Apostle Paul said, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree’” (Galatians 3:13). Now, for those who place faith in him, he has crushed the crushed the curse for good.

Major Dalton is pastor of First Baptist Church in Winthrop Harbor, IL.

The BriefingTransgender student wins restroom case appeal
In Virginia, federal appellate court has “for the first time ever” held that a public high school may not provide separate restrooms and locker rooms for students on the basis of biological sex alone, according to dissenting judge’s opinion. Although gender identity is not mentioned explicitly in Title IX, the judges said Supreme Court precedent requires that the Department of Education be allowed to interpret its own regulations where ambiguity exists.

#BoycottTarget reaches 500,000 signers
Less than a week after Target, the nation’s second-largest discount retailer, announced that transgender customers may use the restroom that “corresponds with their gender identity,” nearly 500,000 people have signed a #BoycottTarget online petition launched by the American Family Association.

Building the Museum of the Bible
When finished in 2017, the Museum of the Bible will be 430,000 square feet of exhibits dedicated to the Bible. The total cost will exceed $1 billion. The Green family, the same clan that owns the Hobby Lobby retail chain, has put up the seed money behind the project, including about $50 million to purchase the real estate on which the building sits in Washington, D.C.

Pro-abortion baby-shaped cookies
Pro-choicers go to great lengths not to use the term “babies” when it comes to unborn children. Which is what makes it ironic that a University of North Georgia pro-abortion group decide to feature cookies in the shape of said babies to promote keeping abortion legal.

Ga. fires physician for lay sermons
First Liberty Institute has filed a lawsuit for a bivocational lay minister and physician Eric Walsh, alleging the state of Georgia fired him because of sermons he delivered in the pulpit before his employment as a district health director. The termination violates Walsh’s rights to free speech, free exercise of religion and freedom of association guaranteed under the First Amendment, the suit asserts.

Sources: Baptist Press, Religion News, World Magazine, National Review, The Guardian, Baptist Press

The BriefingBans on travel to Miss., N.C., called ‘ridiculous’
At least nine U.S. cities and five states have banned non-essential travel by government employees to North Carolina, Mississippi or both, claiming religious liberty bills adopted there discriminate against homosexual and transgendered persons. Pastors and other Christian leaders call the bans “ridiculous.”

Women share abortion stories with the Supreme Court
Twenty-five years ago, two women found themselves in the same position: freshmen in college, pregnant and scared of derailing all they had worked toward. Both women walked into a Dallas abortion clinic. It’s what happened when they walked out, and in the weeks and decades that followed, that places them on opposite ends of the most significant abortion case to be heard by the Supreme Court in a quarter of a century. These and other women are sharing their abortion stories through friend-of-the-court briefs in the case of Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt.

Colleges welcome diversity, except evangelical Christians
San Diego State University recently withdrew official on-campus recognition from an evangelical sorority and an evangelical fraternity, stripping them of the privileges that all other on-campus student organizations possess. The problem according to the university was that these Christian student organizations were engaging in discrimination because they restricted their members to Christians in agreement with their statements of faith.

The footnote that could split the Catholic church
Some believe a footnote in Pope Francis’ new exhortation on marriage and the family, Amoris Laetitia could cause fractures in the Catholic church. There is an ongoing debate in the church about admitting remarried couples to the Eucharist. The footnote could further inflame that debate. Francis wrote, “In certain cases, this can include the help of the sacraments. Hence, ‘I want to remind priests that the confessional must not be a torture chamber, but rather an encounter with the Lord’s mercy’.”

Bible makes list of books most challenged
On the latest list of books most objected to at public schools and libraries, one title has been targeted nationwide, at times for the sex and violence it contains, but mostly for the legal issues it raises. The Bible.

Sources: Baptist Press, Washington Post, World Magazine, Gospel Coalition, Fox News

The BriefingGeorgia governor to veto pastor protection bill
Georgia Governor Nathan Deal said he will veto legislation shielding opponents of same-sex marriage, after a groundswell of opposition from companies such as Coca-Cola, Disney, and the NFL threatening to boycott the state if it became law.

Crosby 3rd candidate for SBC president
Louisiana pastor David Crosby will be nominated for president of the Southern Baptist Convention, former SBC President Fred Luter announced. During the 20 years Crosby has pastored First Baptist Church in New Orleans, the congregation has given between 7 and 15% of its undesignated receipts through the Cooperative Program, Luter said.

Indiana bans Down’s Syndrome abortions
Indiana Governor Mike Pence signed a new pro-life bill into law that will, among other things, prevent the abortions of babies diagnosed with a disability or defect. “Some of my most precious moments as governor have been with families of children with disabilities, especially those raising children with Down syndrome,” said Pence.

Suspects, arms seized after attack on Pakistani Christians kills 72
Security forces, hunting for suspects in the deadly Easter Sunday bombing targeting Christians in a Lahore park, raided locations in three cities overnight and arrested suspected terrorists. A splinter group of the Pakistani Taliban, Jamat-ul-Ahrar, claimed responsibility for the attack and vowed more such attacks.

4 Wycliffe Associates Bible translators murdered
Four Wycliffe Associates workers have been killed in an attack by radicals in the organization’s office in the Middle East. Two of the Wycliffe workers were apparently killed by gunshots, while two others laid on top of the lead translator and died while “deflecting bludgeoning blows from the radicals’ spent weapons,” and managed to save his life.

Sources: Time, Baptist Press, MRCTV, CNN, Christian Post