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It’s funny how often I’m getting asked this question now that people are hearing that we are moving to three services this fall:

Aren’t y’all getting too big?

My question back (to the mostly well-meaning folks) is: “How do I stop it?”

I’ve been thinking: Am I supposed to make my sermons boring and dull in hopes of keeping people away? Do I just throw together a sermon at the last-minute (Saturday night) and say, “The Lord moved on my heart just last night…and so…here’s today’s message.” Do I hope our Praise Team and choir begin really stinking it up by hitting the wrong notes and playing wrong chords? It’s almost ridiculous to even consider. How am I supposed to stop growth? Can you tell a bean plant to stop producing? How about a tomato plant. Can you cap the plant at 10 tomatoes! That’s it! No more!!! You’ve produced too many!!! Stop it!

What do I do? Do I tell people not to come? Do we put out a notice in the local paper that says, “MPBC has got enough…don’t come!” That’s crazy, is it not? Sure it is! But, it’s really what plenty of folks are thinking.

Sometimes people will accuse larger churches of only caring about the numbers. But, I’ve usually found that’s a criticism coming from folks whose church is on the decline. It’s an easy way to cast stones. I had a lady at a hospital tell me: “You are just stealing other churches members.” I said, “Really? How am I doing that?” She smiled and she said, “I guess you’re just preaching too good!” I actually think she was mostly serious! Maybe that was Peter’s problem and the church in Jerusalem was too big when 3,000 got saved in one day (Acts 2:41).

Get this… People who have never been to our church accuse me of preaching like Joel Osteen or some other “Prosperity Gospel” preacher. And the truth is…they’ve never heard me preach or watched a single sermon online. They say, “He must be preaching a watered-down version of the Gospel! That’s the only reason they’re growing. People are coming who have itching ears.”

Well, anyone who knows me knows that I hoe really, really close to the corn and I’m not afraid to preach the Bible as it is written…giving the full counsel of Scripture. So, those accusations are totally baseless. And if you don’t believe me, then just click on our church website and listen to one of my sermons for yourself. If you think I’m not preaching the truth of God’s Word and I’m tiptoeing around the tulips, please let me know. http://mpbc.ws/media/

Sometimes people unfairly criticize larger churches and say, “Well, their people can’t be growing spiritually. It’s just all about attendance up there!” Honestly, I work on this the hardest of any of the criticisms. Why? Because I never want it to be true. Numbers mean nothing, except they represent lives. However, beyond those individual numbers are those individual lives. I want people to grow in their faith and then be salt and light to the world.

Recently, I preached a revival and a man said to me, “I know some people who go to MPBC and I’ll tell you something preacher…they have really grown in their faith. I have noticed the difference.” Folks, it doesn’t get any better than that! It’s music to my ears!

I’ve heard this one about larger churches: “I bet they don’t look after their people.” Well, we have 15 deacons and they work hard. Our deacons have the Scriptural assignment of looking after families in the church, particularly the older folks (Acts 6…widows). They don’t decide the finances. They don’t decide if we are serving Coke or Pepsi at the next Movie Night. They simply take care of people. We have our deacons listed along with each of their families and their names on a huge board over the water fountains near our restrooms in the auditorium. There is no mistaking who your deacon is at MPBC. The truth is folks have had to get used to the “preacher” not coming to make every visit and handle every counseling session. It’s impossible with a church averaging over 500 people.

One of my favorites is: “I bet if you went up there, you wouldn’t know anybody.” That one is hilarious! And the truth is it’s statistically inaccurate. Did you know that when you go to a church of any size, (according to LifeWay Research) you will not be able to get to know “well” more than about 15-25 people. In other words, if you go to a church of 75 people or 775 people you will only get to know about 15-25. That’s it. That’s all that a person can get to know in a church well. Think about your own church and your own experience. How many people have you gotten to know well? Yep…about 15-25 people… You get out of something what you put into it.

I just wish people would be careful with over-generalizations. Don’t throw stones at what you don’t know or have never experienced. But, here’s the truth. It can work the other way too. People can cast false impressions toward the church that isn’t growing, too. That’s equally unfair.

You see, I believe we are growing because the Lord has had His hand of favor and blessing on us. He’s blessing us in spite of ourselves. Yes, we are working hard. Yes, we try to do everything we do with excellence, because Jesus deserves our best. Churches are notorious for doing things poorly. Just thrown together… Pieced together at the last-minute. Shame on us! We ought to be known for being the most polished and well put-together group of people known to the community. So, the words on the screens should match the music. The transition between the music and preaching ought to be seamless and folks should feel welcome and graciously cared for while with us. Hospitality in action!

So, here’s what I plan on doing. I plan on continuing to give the Lord every ounce that I’ve got. I’m going to study hard. Pray hard. Preach with passion. Mentor. Train. Teach. Counsel. And love people with all I’ve got. And if the church continues to grow, then praise His name! And please understand…a lot of what I believe is so great at our church is the atmosphere of worship. The music is powerful and uplifting and the time of singing is precious to me!

You see, I don’t believe you have to forsake sound theology and orthodox teaching to grow a church. The segments of Christianity that are declining most sharply are those that have moved away from the orthodox Christian position on Scripture. Evangelicals, who far more often embrace the divine-inerrancy of Scripture, are the one group still showing signs of life and growth (Barna.org).

Honestly, I don’t care a whit about the Social Gospel. What I mean is that you can give people bread for their belly and clothes for their back, but if you don’t give them Jesus, they’ll still go to Hell with a full belly. We are not the United Way. You see, there is no reason for the church to exist unless we are teaching and preaching Jesus…Him crucified…Resurrected…on the Throne and calling us to be Disciple-makers. If all we do it give out clothes and food… If all we’re here for is to improve life in the community, we could spend our resources better by supporting local nonprofits. I’m tired of seeing churches who, in an attempt to be more agreeable with their surrounding culture, have forsaken orthodox Biblical teaching. And you know what…they are the ones losing large numbers of members. Funny how that works! Lift up Jesus and all men will be drawn to Him.

Many churches have turned into brands that try to please consumers…their “target market.” Jesus calls us to preach a Gospel of repentance. It’s a “come and die” invitation to discipleship. Give up your life to gain it. Die to self! That is to say, while we must meet lost people with grace and acceptance at their point of need, the invitation we offer is ultimately a call to come and lay your old life down in exchange for another…the life of Jesus Christ.

As churches, we’ve got to stop buying into “self-help” and the American Dream. Coming to Jesus is the only way to true redemption, healing and restoration. Coming to Jesus is NOT a pathway to personal comfort or the American dream. Salvation is the free gift of God, but there is a tremendous cost to following Jesus. Our society knows nothing of this. And as the culture continues to become more secular, the cost of identifying with Jesus will become greater and greater.

You see, I believe the church will continue to thrive until Jesus comes. The Church will continue on and the gates of hell will not prevail against it. But the church, as we know it, WILL lose people in the years to come, because some will decide it’s easier to leave than to endure the stigma of being a committed follower of Christ and His teachings in the Bible.

Well, Katy has written another great blog! Catch it here… http://heartsonthingsabove.blogspot.com/2015/07/home.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+HeartsOnThingsAbove+%28Hearts+on+Things+Above%29

Hey, did you hear about this? I bet you haven’t. No mainstream media will cover this…

Sex changes in Serbia

A man (like Bruce Jenner) who had a sex-change in 1984 and now has reversed it. This man is Walt Heyer and he said that having a sex-change didn’t bring him happiness. He quotes stats at his website that indicate 41% of those who have had a sex-change attempt suicide. Very eye-opening. http://www.sexchangeregret.com

Finally, take a look at this picture. Do you know what that is?

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You might say, “I have NO idea!!” Well, let me explain. This picture will have a lot to do with our winter. All the red/orange off the west coast of South America is called an “El Nino.” And it’s a big one right now. There’s a ton of very, very warm water and that will feed the southern branch of the jet-stream this winter right up into the Gulf of Mexico. Look at the map again. See that blue in the Atlantic between the Caribbean and the west coast of Africa? That’s cooler water and that’s why we have had zero hurricanes develop in there and why we probably won’t have much of any coming from that direction this hurricane season. In this pattern, we get hurricanes that develop right along the coast of the Southeast or Gulf. Keep an eye out for that. And keep an eye out for an active winter. :)

Walking and Praying

I’ve really had prayer on my mind and heart the last 5 weeks perhaps like no other time in my life. I realize that my prayer life has little fervency and thus, I’d never know power in my life like Elijah. Remember, he prayed and it didn’t rain for 3 1/2 years and he was a man just like us James 5:17 tells us.

We’ve let Satan convince us that we can’t expect anything great from God, so we pray nothing little prayers. We pray in our strength, ability and reasoning. Thus, no power! No miracles. No lives being saved. Country going down the tubes. And we wonder why. We shouldn’t wonder. I shouldn’t wonder. We have not because we ask not. 100% of the prayers we don’t pray won’t get answered. Simple concept, right? And we know all these things, but we still just go through the motions when we pray. We do it out of duty and there is little feeling or burden behind our prayers.

Oh that I would come to the Lord like the little old lady before the judge. She didn’t let up. But, I had. I had gotten to the place of just going through the motions. Have you? This isn’t a guilt trip. It’s just asking us to take a “prayer inventory.” No condemnation. Just like with an annual physical…we need to know our prayer blood pressure. For most of us, it’s bottomed out at 60 over 30.

As a pastor/elder and as a husband/father, I’m done with allowing Satan to lull me to sleep in a lethargic, unexpectant apathy. Therefore, I shared with the church last Sunday that I’ve decided to go the way of the Children of Israel as they circled Jericho, I’m circling my house and the church asking God to cover my family in His presence… Shake us and give us a burden for the lost and seek to get us out of our desire for comfort, pleasure, entertainment and ease into a fervent, expectancy. Lord knows we need this and our country needs this. So this is now me…

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Crazy? Probably to most! But, walking and praying has made me intentional and focused like never before. I’m praying out loud and I’m crying out to God. I feel an intense urgency. This country is going down the drain spiritually. Everything is upside down. What was once deemed good is now deemed bad and what was once deemed sin, is now lauded, accepted and  seen as normal. Our only hope is to cry out to the Lord of heaven and ask Him to change us and have mercy on us.

Folks, we must be salt and light and dispel the darkness. We are running out of time and I am not ready to give up. I’m not ready to dig a hole in the sand and say, “Well, that’s just the way it is. We’re just marching toward the end times. There’s no hope. Just accept it. Get ready for prison.” Well, I refuse that line of thinking. Before I go down…I’m going to go down to my knees and boldly come before the throne of God asking for His mercy, grace and love. I’m praying for the sleeping giant of the Church to wake up and once again go and make disciples of all nations…including this one.

Here’s today’s, 2-Minute Tuesday video on the subject…

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I’ll have to admit to you, after the Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage in all 50 states, I started buying into all that I was seeing and hearing from many Christian circles. What was that? Two words: DOOM/GLOOM. But, I’m encouraged that this is the very thing that was needed for the Church. We needed a wake-up call and I believe it’s working!

Let me tell you three things that I saw from the Supreme Court decision that encourages me. Yes, I said, “Encourages me…”

In one key paragraph, Justice Kennedy makes three major declarations about the importance of protecting religious freedom.

#1 Kennedy made it indisputably clear that those with religious affiliations may live in accordance with their conscience regarding marriage. Here’s what he said: “Finally, it must be emphasized that religions, and those who adhere to religious doctrines, may continue to advocate with utmost, sincere conviction that, by divine precepts, same-sex marriage should not be condoned.”

#2 Kennedy affirmed that this protection (above) is granted by the First Amendment. He also recognized that the view of marriage as a sacred union between one man and one woman has been long-held by many Americans, validating traditional marriage as a legitimate viewpoint. Here’s what he said: “The First Amendment ensures that religious organizations and persons are given proper protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths, and to their own deep aspirations to continue the family structure they have long revered. The same is true of those who oppose same-sex marriage for other reasons.”

#3 Kennedy upheld a vital aspect of America’s political and cultural tradition by recognizing the importance of free debate, an activity which is totally central to our nation’s foundation. Here’s what he said: “In turn, those who believe allowing same-sex marriage is proper or indeed essential, whether as a matter of religious conviction or secular belief, may engage those who disagree with their view in an open and searching debate.”

Those three points greatly encourage me. And they should you as well. Why? Because Kennedy recognized the strong protections recognized by the First Amendment for religious organizations and people like me (a pastor/elder).

One other note from the majority opinion as it was written stated this: “…as we deal with the implications of the decision— no matter what happens, religious liberty is a fundamental right that is respected in our country and must be held inviolate.”

The Liberty Institute’s CEO, Kelly Shackelford said this: “Some people think, this case was the end of the battle. This is really the very beginning of the battle as to religious freedom, and I think it’s a battle we can win, and we will win.”

Encouraged? You should be! :)

Hey…staying on the subject for a moment… This ought to be a great movie: Audacity… http://www.audacitymovie.com Anything that Ray Comfort does is excellent. This trailer really piqued my interest.

And for those who are being hit with tough questions and you’re wanting answers to help friends, family and neighbors in a loving and kind way…this really helped me. I’ve bookmarked it. http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevindeyoung/2015/07/01/40-questions-for-christians-now-waving-rainbow-flags/

See this picture…

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This means Josh, Katy and Charlotte are home! Woohoo!! We moved them in on Saturday. It’s a joy having them here and seeking the Lord for a job for Josh. It’s wonderful being on the roller coaster ride with the Lord at the controls. We can throw up our hands and relish in the journey because He knows how it ends. God is good and I praise Him in advance for all that He will do in the future.

And one of the joys in all of this is that I get to take part in all of it by walking and praying fervently to our loving and merciful Heavenly Father! Awesome!! :)

2-Minute Tuesdays

As many of you know, last week I posted a video on Facebook and Twitter that received over 27,500 views (and still counting). I was inundated with emails and correspondence asking me if I would be willing to follow up this week with “How do we do this?”

If you remember, I described historically how, as a nation, we were inarguably founded on Christian Biblical principles. Take a tour of Washington D.C. and all the monuments and buildings (inscriptions) if you don’t believe me. However, through the years (and specifically in the past 30-40 years) we’ve seen a precipitous fall. We are now hurtling toward a sea of immorality that’s dark and murky. So, what do we do? Fold up our tents and dig a hole in the ground and call it a day? No. Of course not! God is still on the throne and we continue to live and represent Jesus Christ as His ambassadors. Not one jot or tittle of the Word of God will pass away and the church will stand forever and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it. So, we march on as good soldiers of the cross with the Good News of Jesus Christ.

With all that said, I posted another video yesterday and I’ve decided to do so weekly on Tuesdays. I’m calling it “2-Minute Tuesday.”

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Lord willing, each Tuesday I’ll post a video that is between 2 and 3 minutes long that will give practical steps and instruction on how we might fight the good fight and keep the faith as believers in Christ during these tumultuous times.

So far, the video from yesterday has received close to 2,000 views. We had 531 people here on Sunday (which ain’t bad for the middle of summer), so with 2,000 views, that’s almost as many people as I can reach in almost a month’s worth of preaching. Wow…the power of technology!

Here’s the video from yesterday…

http://subsplash.com/mpbc/v/d79fac6

My prayer is that it will encourage and strengthen our resolve to teach, train and share the Truth of Jesus Christ. Spread the word! :)

Don’t you just love this picture…

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That’s Clara and Charlotte just before the Fireworks display in our fair city this past Saturday night. What a joy!

Josh, Katy and Charlotte are moving back this Friday! Woohoo! They rejoined the church this past Sunday…

Josh and Katy rejoin

Josh served our country well for the past four years as a Marine and finishes out as a Sergeant. He’s a wonderful man and I’m thankful for him and for my fantastic daughter and precious granddaughter to be coming home!

I look forward to seeing more of this…

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And this…

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Can you say, “Precious!”

Thank you Lord for your many blessings! I’m unworthy of your kindness and favor to me! To You be all the Glory!

 

 

 

 

 

Many of you have asked that I put my video from yesterday (from Facebook) on my blog so that those who don’t have Facebook can see it. Well, here you go.

I never knew a 2 minute, 40 second video would get watched by over 13,000 people. I pray it will draw us closer to Jesus and cause us to spend time in the Word as we seek to disciple and train. Funny how a history lesson can be so popular. Truly, seldom is anything great accomplished without inspiration. :)

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Why We Go?

NOTE: MPBC FOLKS, you’ll be getting the full report tomorrow night during the service of what’s listed below…

Through the years I’ve had people ask me, “Why do you go all the way to Texas to minister to Hispanics? Why don’t you do it right here?” Well, the answer is a bit trite, but it is the truth: God told us to…

Just as Peter was led to Joppa to raise Dorcas (Tabitha) from the dead and he would later go to Caeserea to share the Gospel with a Gentile, centurion soldier, Cornelius… Just as Philip would leave an area of revival to go and share the Gospel with a eunuch from Ethiopia. Just as Jesus would share with Zacchaeus in a tree and a Samaritan woman at a well and a man with a withered hand outside a synagogue… So, we must do the same and follow their example and go share the Gospel.

What’s the example I’m speaking of?

Most often in Scripture we see the Gospel transferring from person to person. Yes, there was a great revival at Pentecost, (3,000 saved in one day) but throughout the Epistles, you see the Gospel traveling mostly from person to person and from household to household. Lydia and her entire household was saved. So was the Philippian jailer’s. Do you see the pattern? Without question, spreading the Gospel can be done by mega churches and mega crusades, but it is most often done by sharing one on one or with households of people.

That’s why we go to Weslaco, Texas. That’s why we walk across the street or over to the next cubicle. But, there is more than just sharing the Gospel. There is the mandate to “make disciples.” Remember this…

Matthew 28:18-20

18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Disciple-making takes time and it’s not easy. It’s a “roll up your sleeves” proposition. Therefore, it’s just easier to stay in our cocoons of safety and not do it. (Sadly, I’m speaking from experience here.) It’s much easier to write a check or fund a ministry than it is to actually care enough about people to do anything.

Back to the question. Why do you go all the way to Texas to do ministry? Why not just do it here in North Carolina? Well, Jesus gave us this command and His final directive before He ascended into heaven from the Mount of Olives…

Acts 1:8

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.

I had a man say to me one time, “Before we go anywhere else we need to share the Gospel with everyone in our Jerusalem.” I told the man (kindly) that he was wrong. Jesus was teaching that we must do it all. We must do ministry and share the Gospel in our Jerusalem, (Local) Judea, (State), Samaria (Nation), and to the end of the earth (World). We do it all at the same time…

  • Local
  • State
  • Nation
  • World

If we didn’t do ministry (all-as-you-go-style), we’d never share the Gospel beyond our local communities. We’ll never be able to totally cover our neighborhoods or towns. So, we go as the Holy Spirit directs and do all that we can as we go.

I don’t know if I’ve ever shared with you how the Lord brought us to Texas and Mexico. Years ago, back in 2008 I met a local doctor at our county hospital and he had just returned from doing work in Texas and Mexico. He shared with me and I was so intrigued, I asked him to come to the church and share. He did on a Sunday night about a month later and the church was hooked. So, off to Mexico and Texas we headed in 2009.

This is an aerial view of the mission house (green roof) and the house in front of it (bottom left), which we call the “front house,” where a missionary named Harold Ward and his wife lived.

Weslaco Mission House

Mr. Ward and his wife retired to Texas where they bought that green-roofed building, which was a cantina (bar). He turned it into a place where mission teams could come and live for a week and do work in Mexico building churches for those whose congregations couldn’t afford to do so. This is a screen shot of the old website that was used to describe the work.

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As you can see, the mission house was named after Mr. Ward and it was called, “The King’s Ward.”

I couldn’t find a picture of that 2009 team. If anyone has a copy, can you email me please? Here’s a picture of the 2010 team.

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We went into Mexico and help to build a church for a small church called El Laurel. That’s the pastor, Oscar Martinez to the right.

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As you can tell they were meeting in the front yard of their home. This was their home…

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In the last six years, we’ve gone from this…

3 Progresso Early Stages

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…to help them build this:

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This is the inside of what they call the “Temple” with one of our June teams from last year.

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As you might remember, the mission house went up for sale three years ago and MPBC raised over $90,000 and bought it. Can you believe we bought two houses, three vans and trailer for just $90,000? God is good! But, over the last year or so there has been a transition in the work in Mexico because of the danger from the drug cartels.

There is a tremendous amount of corruption in Mexico. It’s hard to trust the government or even the police for that matter. So, we did not take our team in last week. We stayed in Weslaco and really poured our hearts and lives into this church.

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That’s Jason Church to the right. He’s the pastor of “Church of No Walls.” He and his wife, Katie, left their home here in Wilkes County 3 years ago to go to Weslaco (sight unseen) and become missionaries to the people of Weslaco, Texas. They now have two precious boys, Caleb and Wesley.

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The church has grown rapidly under Jason’s leadership and direction. Jason loves people. He’s a soul-winning machine.

Here he’s praying with a man in a rest home we visited.

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This picture really gets me…

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Here he is with Brent Edmiston praying with a young man named Isaiah. Isaiah has a tough life and doesn’t have a male (father) in his life. Jason is that man. He has a passion for the people of Weslaco.

Kandace shared about the darkness of this town from our MPBC Team site on her blog and on Facebook. Here’s the links:

http://kandace098.blogspot.com/2015/06/texas-mission-trip-2015.html

https://www.facebook.com/pages/MPBC-Texas-June-2015-Team/1443431869295397?fref=ts

Here’s an excerpt of her description of the conditions there:

There aren’t many places that you can go to in America where someone has never heard of Billy Graham or where in the local Walmart there are books with 7 steps on how to overcome Satan’s hold on your life. But, that’s what you’ll find in Weslaco, TX. There is an oppression there that you can feel very deeply. These people desperately need someone to put their hope in (Jesus). 

Jason and Katie have done a great job teaching the Bible and showing love. The people are just so in need of someone to care and love them. I can’t count how many times I thanked God on the trip that Jason and Katie are there to help these people. They finally have a steady place to go to get love and encouragement. So many relationships were formed and made stronger this past week. It was so encouraging to know that when we left, the people have Jason and Katie there to continue this work. 
The Church of No Walls is bursting at the seams. I know God has great things in store. Please pray for Jason and Katie as they continue to try to reach the adults and children in the community. I am so excited to see what God does in Weslaco, Texas. He has already started a great work! 

Here’s the church where we were eating with them in the Mission House last week.

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We were spread out in the dining hall, kitchen, and game room. We used the men’s and women’s sleeping quarters for counseling rooms. It was wonderful! Many, many lives are being touched.

I want to show you a note that one of the teenage girls left for me on my bunk in the men’s quarters. She didn’t know who would be getting it and that’s why she addressed it: “Dear Reader.”

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Now folks, if that don’t light your fire, your wood is all wet! :)

Here’s a letter from this young girl’s mother. Her name is Vanessa and she just gave her life to the Lord about 3 weeks ago. Jason and Katie led her to Christ and one of her sons (she has four children total) made a profession of faith Friday night at the celebration service at the mission house. There’s a total of three pictures showing Vanessa’s letter.

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Isn’t that powerful!

As I’ve mentioned, the growth of the church is so pronounced that we have started investigating renting a building on Texas Blvd (which is main street) in Weslaco.  We are sensing the Lord is in this next step. A building will give the church greater legitimacy versus meeting in a house in a residential area. At this point, the members of the church don’t have enough money to rent a building on their own, so we (MPBC) will have to help support them until they can do so. Yet, our fundraising has been so good over the last year that we should be able to do so with little problem.

I’ll conclude by showing you two of my favorite pictures from the trip.

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Those are some of the girls’ and ladies’ feet from our team and the ladies in Wesalco. That’s the body of Christ folks! And how about this picture of the men and young men…

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Again, that’s the body of Christ in action.

Why do we go?

We go because I ran into a doctor at Wilkes Regional Medical Center 8 years ago and the Lord has directed us from there. We go because Jesus said to go and make disciples of all nations. And that’s why we’ll be sending people to the Philippines in October and China in January. We go because Jesus said:

Acts 1:8

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.

This blog post is going to be sort of an encyclopedia of information for how to deal with homosexuality and LGBT issues from an orthodox, biblical perspective. I would encourage you to consider bookmarking this post and you can use it now and in the days to come. Why? Because these issues aren’t going away. And we’ve got decisions to make.

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We are at a crossroads as a nation and the Church must give a reason for our hope in gentleness and respect. Therefore, I’m going to share with you insights from well-known, revered evangelicals such as: J.D. Greear, Al Mohler, Focus on the Family’s Jim Daly, Tim Keller, Franklin Graham, Russell Moore and Kevin DeYoung. Their biblical insight to this critical issue is invaluable.

The reason I share this information (all together) is because we all need clear, loving, forthright, gracious ways to counsel people on LGBT issues. As a pastor, I’m getting asked more about these issues than anything else right now. People want answers and they need Biblical answers.

Now I want to say this. Today in our culture, there are people who will give you “biblical answers” but these answers are so off-base and so non-orthodox in their theology that they can hardly be called “biblical.”

At our church I have taught what I’m getting read to share with you several times. In fact, I’m going to be teaching it again on Sunday, June 28th as a part of the series I’m teaching about “Overcoming Temptation.” It’s about how to interpret Scripture (the Bible).

Today, Satan is employing a process of interpreting the Bible that is known as Eisegesis. This is a fancy word for people who choose to interpret the Bible for how it bests suits their needs or their particular worldview. People who Eisegete Scripture are those who read into the Bible what they want it to mean, versus taking out of the Bible what the original writers (inspired by God) intended it to really mean. Eisegesis is an improper handling of Scripture. For Scripture (or any writing of antiquity for that matter) to be interpreted properly it must be “exegetes.” In other words, the we must let the text speak for itself. Let me show you the difference.

Eisegesis asks: What idea do I want to present by finding a passage of Scripture that seems to fit with my idea? In eisegesis, there is no examination of the words of the text or their relationship to each other, no cross-referencing with related passages, and no real desire to understand the actual meaning. With eisegesis, Scripture serves only as a prop and a crutch to the interpreter’s ideas. This is SO dangerous!

Milton S. Terry (1840-1914), Professor of Hebrew and Old Testament exegesis and Theology said: “A fundamental principle in biblical hermeneutics is that the words and sentences can have but one significance in one and the same connection. The moment we neglect this principle we drift out upon a sea of uncertainty and conjecture.”

Let’s review:

Exegesis: Extracting the meaning FROM the text. (What does it mean?)

Eisegesis: Projection of reader bias INTO the text. (What does it mean to me?)

Exegesis and Eisegesis is part of what is called: “hermeneutics,” which is the branch of knowledge that deals with the proper interpretation of literary texts. Take a look at this definition.

Biblical Hermeneutics: is the science of properly interpreting the meaning and application of the Bible. The goal is to point to the correct interpretation, which the Holy Spirit has already inspired into the text. The aim is to discover the meaning of the passage as the original author intended and to protect us from improperly applying a Scripture to a particular situation.

We know God will not contradict His Word and that Scripture interprets Scripture. Therefore, we can use the Bible to help us interpret other parts of the Bible. This will keep us from “proof-texting.” Proof-texting is isolating one verse of Scripture from the rest of the Bible and building your theology or worldview around it.

The reason I share this is because one of the grossest forms of eisegesis being used today is by the LGBT community when it comes to sound biblical hermeneutics. Today we have people from this community who say that Paul said (in Romans 1 and 1 Corinthians 6) that homosexuality was okay as long as the partners were monogamous. Are you serious??? There is no way that a clear reading of those two lengthy passages could possibly construe such a meaning. It’s preposterous to say the least. Yet, this is our culture and this is our world and people are drinking this Kool-Aid as fast as it can be poured.

I’m linking below to the newest Tylenol ad that will show the need for this post. It’s 30-seconds long and you’ll see the need for having good information to share with your children and for the “break room talk” at work.

http://money.cnn.com/2015/06/12/news/companies/tylenol-gay-family/

So, shouldn’t people be allowed to love who they want? Well, Focus on the Family president Jim Daly tackles that critical question here.

http://jimdaly.focusonthefamily.com/shouldnt-people-be-allowed-to-love-who-they-want/?utm_source=nl_dalyfocus&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=280701&refcd=280701&crmlink=content-keep-reading

Daly says:

People who are same-sex attracted are indeed “allowed” to love who they want to love. In other words, it’s not illegal for homosexually identified men and women to love each other or even live together. Therefore, the issue at stake in this country isn’t about two men or two women “being allowed” to love each other: it’s about if we, as a nation, should redefine the millennia-old understanding of marriage as the lifelong union of one man and one woman.

Carrie Earll, heads up the Thriving Values/policy efforts at Focus on the family and says this:

“Like other social issues that deviate from God’s design, same-sex marriage impacts more than the two people who want to get married.  For instance, while abortion and pornography may not impact you directly, the legalization and practice affects the culture you live in by lessening the value of human life and sexuality. It also fosters confusion about what it means to be a boy or girl, man or woman.

“Same-sex marriage hurts children who, according to research do best when raised in a home with their married mother and father, are denied either a dad or a mom. It negatively impacts faith-based adoption agencies that are forced to close their doors when faced with the choice of violating religious tenets or placing children in homes with same-sex parents. Photographers, bakers, inn keepers, florists and others who politely decline to use their talents and businesses to participate in same-sex ceremonies experience harassment, legal challenges and crippling fines. Parents who want a say in what their young children are taught in school about homosexuality find legalized same-sex marriage is a trump card that overrides their parental rights.

“Proponents of same-sex marriage will continue to claim no one is hurt. There’s ample evidence that’s not true, and the track record for protecting children’s rights, religious freedom, free speech and parental rights on this topic does not bode well for the future.”

Well, what about this… What if someone in your family makes the decision to choose the gay-lifestye and they ask you to come to their wedding with their same-sex partner? What do you do? Here’s Kevin DeYoung’s take on that question. This video is about 2 1/2 minutes long.

R. C. Sproul Jr summarizes by saying:

“It is true enough that there are plenty of reasons why Christians are called to object to some heterosexual marriages. Those unbiblically divorced are not in fact free to marry, and Christians should not attend such weddings either, for the same reasons. The argument isn’t that both parties are sinners, and therefore we shouldn’t go. All those who marry are sinners. The question is, is the wedding itself biblical? … there is no such thing as homosexual weddings. You can no more witness a homosexual wedding than you could draw a square circle. Weddings are between men and women. That said, those participating in these events believe they are participating in a wedding. Our attendance, no matter how well intentioned, encourages them in their delusion. Which is one key reason why they so object to our not attending their weddings, or our not beautifying them with cakes and flowers. If we won’t admit that the naked emperor is dressed to the nines, the state will be called and we will be ruined.”

But what about those who have same-sex attraction? What do we do to help folks who have this attraction? How do we show love and kindness for their struggle?

J.D. Greear, pastor, author and theologian from Summit Church in Raleigh shares here:

http://www.jdgreear.com/my_weblog/2015/06/is-same-sex-attraction-wrong-if-so-why.html

Here’s the upshot:

There are six passages in Scripture that address homosexual behavior directly. And every mention is negative, either prohibiting or condemning such behavior. First Corinthians 6:9–11, for instance, refers to “men who have sex with men” as a vice that would prevent a person from entering the kingdom of God. The two Greek terms he used, malakoi and arsenokoitai, were the common terms of the day to refer to a broad range of homosexual relationships.

Many today object to this reading, insisting that what Paul had in mind was not the same as homosexuality as we know it today. He was, they argue, thinking of male prostitution, rape, or pedophilia. Committed same-sex relationships didn’t exist in Paul’s day, so Paul’s words don’t apply.

This is, simply put, not true. Historian Thomas Hubbard (not a Christian), wrote an exhaustive (and exhaustively long, nearly 600 pages) work on homosexuality in the ancient world, entitled Homosexuality in Greece and RomeHe demonstrates that homosexuality existed in a wide variety of forms, much like today. And that included committed, lifelong, same-sex partners. Had Paul wanted to distinguish between valid and invalid forms of homosexuality, he could have done so.

Or consider Romans 1, in which Paul talks about humanity’s rejection of God’s authority. Because we rejected God’s authority, “God gave them [that is, us] up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another” (Romans 1:26–27). As Richard Hays says concerning this passage, Paul depicts gay and lesbian activity as an outward epitome of the inward posture of sin—rejection of the Creator’s design.

I agree with Geear as a pastor when he says this:

It doesn’t delight me to have to keep revisiting this question. Talking about homosexuality is not a way to grow a church, and I’d love nothing more than to abstain from the conversation. But as a church, we can’t simply remain silent. Jesus rebuked the church in Thyatira for tolerating someone whose teaching led people into sexual sin (Rev 2:20). Jesus is not only opposed to false teachers, but to those who allow their falsehood to go unchecked.

In the end, we’re going to have to offend someone on this issue—either the world or Jesus. And I choose to offend the world. Ours is not the first generation to be offended by the teachings of Jesus. It won’t be the last. And while the specifics of what offends the culture changes from age to age, every generation has to choose whether our allegiance is to culture or to our Savior. I pray that we may all stand firm.

Amen Brother!

Well, what about those who want help to come out of the homosexual lifestyle? Can reparative therapy help them? Dr. Russell Moore is the President of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and he discusses in this short 3 1/2 minute video.

http://www.churchleaders.com/pastors/videos-for-pastors/177069-russell-moore-on-reparative-therapy.html?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=cl_topvideos&utm_content=CL+TodaysVideo+-+20150616+6/13/2015+12:19:36+AM

The upshot is this. Yes, there is healing and help for any sinner. There is help for me in that I struggle with anger and lust at times. There is help for the drunk and drug addict and for the porn addict. There is help for the adulterer and there is help for the homosexual. But, the answer is not making them heterosexual. The answer is helping them to identify with Jesus and not their sin. They may struggle the rest of their life with same-sex attraction, just as I know that I will be tempted by the lady in the Hardee’s commercial in a bathing suit eating a hamburger. I will fight against my flesh and seek the Lord Jesus just as a person with same-sex attraction can CHOOSE to resist and fight against their inclinations and temptations.

We are all sinners and we all need help. We all need the love, mercy and grace of Jesus Christ. Yes, some people can be totally delivered from homosexuality and never look back when they come to Christ. I’ve known men who were alcoholics who came to Christ and they never desired another drink again. Yet, I’ve known others who continue to this day to fight the temptation to drink. Therefore, they choose not to go to bars. They don’t put themselves in a position to act on the temptation or sin. It’s the same for me when I travel and I’m in an empty hotel room by myself with a TV with all kinds of garbage on it. I CHOOSE, with the help of Jesus, to never even turn the TV on (and I don’t when I travel alone). In fact, I unplug it from the wall and I read instead. It’s a choice.

Tim Keller, pastor and theologian has perhaps one of the best articles about homosexuality and the Bible I’ve read to date.

http://www.redeemer.com/redeemer-report/article/the_bible_and_same_sex_relationships_a_review_article

Here’s an excerpt…

In Genesis 1 you see pairs of different but complementary things made to work together: heaven and earth, sea and land, even God and humanity. It is part of the brilliance of God’s creation that diverse, unlike things are made to unite and create dynamic wholes which generate more and more life and beauty through their relationships. As N.T. Wright points out, the creation and uniting of male and female at the end of Genesis 2 is the climax of all this. 

That means that male and female have unique, non-interchangeable glories — they each see and do things that the other cannot. Sex was created by God to be a way to mingle these strengths and glories within a life-long covenant of marriage. Marriage is the most intense (though not the only) place where this reunion of male and female takes place in human life. Male and female reshape, learn from, and work together. 

Therefore, in one of the great ironies of late modern times, when we celebrate diversity in so many other cultural sectors, we have truncated the ultimate unity-in-diversity: inter-gendered marriage. 

Without understanding this vision, the sexual prohibitions in the Bible make no sense. Homosexuality does not honor the need for this rich diversity of perspective and gendered humanity in sexual relationships. Same-sex relationships not only cannot provide this for each spouse, they can’t provide children with a deep connection to each half of humanity through a parent of each gender. 

So, you and I have a single choice to make. Will we stand on 200o years of orthodox teaching of God’s Word on the matter of sexuality or will we chuck it all for a 1960’s forward view of sex? Al Mohler, President of Southern Seminary in Louisville, KY says this:

http://www.albertmohler.com/2015/06/10/which-way-evangelicals-there-is-nowhere-to-hide/

This is a moment of decision, and every evangelical believer, congregation, denomination, and institution will have to answer. There will be no place to hide. The forces driving this revolution in morality will not allow evasion or equivocation. Every pastor, every church, and every Christian organization will soon be forced to declare an allegiance to the Scriptures and to the Bible’s teachings on marriage and sexual morality, or to affirm loyalty to the sexual revolution. That revolution did not start with same-sex marriage, and it will not end there. But marriage is the most urgent issue of the day, and the moment of decision has arrived.

In this season of testing, Christians committed to the gospel of Christ are called upon to muster the greatest display of compassion and conviction of our lives. But true compassion will never lead to an abandonment of biblical authority or a redefinition of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I was contacted yesterday by Sarah Pulliam Bailey of The Washington Post. She asked about these very developments. As I told her, this issue will eventually break relationships — personally, congregationally, and institutionally. This is the sad reality and there is simply no way around it. No one, especially in a position of leadership, will be able to fly under the radar on this issue.

The last two days have been very revealing. The present moment is very demanding. The issues before us are compelling and urgent. The Bible is clear. Are you ready to give an answer?

That’s the entire reason I’ve written this lengthy post. I want us all to have Biblical answers and not be afraid to stand on the authority of God’s Word. God is not dumb. He stands outside of time as the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. His Word and His principles are just as applicable today as when they were written thousands of years ago. Why? Again…God is not dumb! What He breathed into 40 men will stand forever. Not one jot and not one tittle will pass away.

So, time keeps marching forward and as you have probably heard by now, at the end of this month, the Supreme Court is likely to offer a ruling on so-called “Same-Sex Marriage.” I like what Jim Daly of Focus on the Family said about this earlier today:

As the Church we need to recognize that, no matter what happens, God is still in charge. Therefore, if the Supreme Court doesn’t rule as we hope it will, we must not lose hope. Our marriage mandate will continue to compel us to promote and advocate for God’s design, and to seek to model it well in our lives.

Even if the Court rules in our favor, we can’t take a moment’s rest. We have to realize that the nation is deeply divided on this issue and there is much we can do to show our fellow citizens – especially the younger generation – that one man, one woman marriage is not only God’s design, but it’s also a model that simply makes sense.

Whatever the case, let’s not forget real lives are touched by whatever the Supreme Court decides. One of the primary reasons we care so deeply about the outcome is because we care so deeply about the welfare of the people personally impacted by bad law.

We grieve for the child who won’t have both a father and a mother.

We empathize with the woman whose husband divorces her in order to pursue “marriage” with another man.

Our hearts break for the florist who sits on the verge of bankruptcy because she refuses to provide a bouquet for a same-sex “wedding.”

We ache for the conflicted same-sex-attracted individual who won’t find peace in his heart because of this ruling.

To be sure, there are those who misinterpret our stand for marriage and ascribe false motives to our beliefs. They may hurl the “hate” and “bigot” epithets for political gain or to silence debate.  Likewise, I must admit, some claiming the Christian label have been cruel and harsh toward the homosexual community and that is equally wrong.

So as we prepare for this historic decision, it’s good to remember to speak with words seasoned with salt. Let us “live a life worthy of the calling we have received” (Ephesians 4:1) and serve as humble, loving witnesses to our Lord Jesus Christ and His truth. Remember, it’s “God’s kindness that leads us to repentance” (Romans 2:4), so let us show that loving kindness as we engage the culture on this important issue.

I think Franklin Graham sums it up best and I’ll close our “encyclopedia” with his words, (taken from a recent Facebook post):

“…while I believe millions of Americans share my views on this matter and my beliefs about same-sex marriage, I also realize, based on polls and trends (and the pending Supreme Court decision), I might soon find myself in the minority. Even so, my position is not based upon polls or trends, political winds or Supreme Court wisdom. It is based upon God’s word, the Holy Bible, written more than 2000 years ago, and that document is not subject to amendment or revision.” 

Friends, if we truly love people, then we will tell the truth. That’s what the Church of Jesus Christ does. We’ll bear the truth bearers. We’ll administer the truth. If we don’t, then we can’t really say that we love at all. People need Jesus. We all need Jesus. Jesus + nothing. He is the truth, the way and the life and no one comes to God except through Him (John 14:6).

I love this picture…

image

That’s my granddaughter on her daddy’s lap in church. Can you tell she is paying attention. That’s a six-month old sport fans! You tell me that a child can’t learn to be in church. Sure they can. You want to know when kids learn? When we expect them to learn. Too simplistic. It’s really not that hard.

Parents train their children to learn in their homes and the same is true in church. Truly, from the moment a child is born and entrusted to his or her parents, the job of teaching and training that child begins. We teach our children things as elementary as holding a fork or drinking from a cup and progress to how to handle money and become responsible. We don’t wait to teach children how to hold a fork until they are eight or nine. The same is true for our children spiritually. We must begin teaching them when they are very young.

Have you ever asked yourself if the first church 2000 years ago had a nursery? What did Jesus do when He taught? When Jesus taught and delivered his sermon on the mountain, did he teach just the parents? Did Jesus tell Peter, James and John to take the children down to the bottom of the hill and play with them or have a children’s church, so he could teach, without distraction, at the top of the hill? Did Jesus do this on any occasion? Not that I can find in Scripture. How about the Apostle Paul? In the Ephesians 6 passage he addresses the children in verse one and then just three verses later the fathers. Were the children siphoned off somewhere else when the letter was being read to the believers in Ephesus? No, without question children were included in the church meeting and they were physically present.

This fact seems almost strange in our day and age when, in many churches, we send our children off to “Children’s Church” to eat snacks, color and watch videos. Yet, as we study the Scriptures, we can’t find any verses in the entire Bible where the children were pulled out of the meeting. It would have been completely unorthodox to do so. There is never a time or an instance in Scripture when the children were separated from the parents/family when the people of God met together. At this point, I’m reminded of Jesus and his rebuke of the disciples for not allowing the children to come to him recorded in Mark 10:13-14:

And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.”

I know for many churches, the idea of having young children in our services is very counter-cultural. Many church leaders and members say the children are too noisy and disruptive and people can’t worship the Lord. Yet, when we say these things, we are much like the disciples when they tried to shoo away the children. Consequently, in our day, we have lost the blessing of the full body being together in the meeting. Sadly, we have become comfortable with some of the body missing. How have we gotten to this point? The Church wasn’t this way in the New Testament or even 40 to 50 years ago. It has happened, because it’s convenient. Many years ago, it would have been unheard of to have a nursery in the church. Ask someone who went to church in this nation in the 1950s or 1960s. There were very few, if any nurseries in our churches, until well after WWII, when many women entered the workforce. Yet today, we would rather not be bothered with children, ours or someone else’s, because they may make noise in the service or can be disruptive. However, pulling the children out of our meetings was simply not a normative practice in Scripture.

Think about it. When we go to a restaurant, there is not a place for the children to go sit and eat by themselves with people to help them cut up their food and feed them. So, what do we do when we go out to eat and order food for our children? We go through the process and the inconvenience of cutting their food for them into bite-size portions. We teach our children how to behave in a restaurant. If we go to the movie theater, there isn’t a section of the theater where we send the children to watch the movie with other children, while someone else watches them for us. No, we take care of our children and teach them how to be quiet and listen during the movie. We help them through these seasons of their lives. I call these times seasons because they will quickly pass and we’ll wonder where the time has gone. The same is true at ball games, concerts, recitals and the like. We are with our children and we help them at each of these events. We teach them. So, why do we hesitate to do so at church? We can just as easily help the children digest the meeting or service, just as we would help them with cutting their spaghetti into bite-size pieces at a restaurant or even at a meal at home.

We should want our children to experience being in the presence of the Lord, being taught by a shepherd in the church. I know that I want my children to experience everything in the meeting of our people at church. Children miss so much when they are in a room somewhere watching a video, eating snacks. They miss seeing the body worship together. My children experience seeing people raising their hands in praise to the Lord as they lift their voices in song. They get to hear testimonies of those who have come to Christ at the end of our services. They see people weeping under the conviction of the Holy Spirit at the altar. They see fathers praying over their families. They get to hear the Word of God taught by men whom the entire church trusts to teach them. Why shouldn’t the children hear this teaching corporately as well? Why should this job be handed off to someone else in another place in the church? Certainly, there are always reservations. Children are messy. They talk out loud. They cry and make noises. Well, you name it and they’ll do it. Yet, over time something wonderful happens. They learn. Yes, they learn to listen and be still and, oh do they listen! They are sponges taking in all that the body gets to see and hear. Those experiences will stay with them for a lifetime.

Let me show you this six-month old again…

image

I’ve shared this before, but it’s been a while. When we brought Andrew, our son, home from China he was 3 1/2 years old. We got him home to America on a Thursday and we had him in church on Sunday. He couldn’t speak a word of English. In fact, he could barely speak any Chinese. He had never been out of the orphanage in China until two weeks prior to meeting us. He had never been in a car, a bus and certainly not on a plane. He was taken out of everything he knew and thrust into a brand-new, frightening world. He had club feet and numerous other health issues that had not yet been addressed. Yet, we had him in church on Sunday, four days after his arrival in the U.S. and if that wasn’t enough, we had him on the front row! (That’s where my family and I sit in church every Sunday).

Do you want to know how he did that first Sunday? He was terrible! No, he was worse than that. He was absolutely awful! He talked out loud! Broken Chinese at that! He crawled on the floor, under the chairs, on us; you name it, and he did it. Was it embarrassing? Yes. And the same was true when we brought Clara home as a one-year-old, three years earlier. But, thankfully our church welcomes children and understands this behavior as being a part of the learning process. The next Sunday Andrew struggled again, but he was learning. Slowly but surely, he was learning how to act as we taught him. By the fourth week, you couldn’t even tell he was in the building. Literally in just one month, you couldn’t even tell he was there. What happened? He had been trained and taught to know what to do and how to act in church. Certainly children will have moments of restlessness, (I know some adults who are like this too :)); however, we all adjust and acclimate over time.

It’s true that a child will learn anything in life, when we make up our mind and decide to teach them. It doesn’t matter if they are three years old and from a foreign country. It seems around the age of four years old, most parents don’t have a choice but to train their child to be a part of the church. Most churches tell parents their children can no longer come to the nursery at that age. So, it seems many children learn to behave in church at age four, unless there is a children’s church. If there is children’s church, they get a few more years segregated from the body until they must learn to be a part of the church family. Yet, at some point in time, we teach the children what to do in church. Sooner or later they learn. Children are a blessing of a growing church, not a nuisance.

I am grateful for a church that is literally willing to suffer for the children. I’m grateful for my granddaughter’s church, Parkview Baptist, in Morehead City, NC. They allow Charlotte to be with them. Thank you Pastor David Mills!

Yes, a church should allow families to worship together as a part of the one family. Churches have the opportunity to tell the body, (a family of families), that all are welcome at the Lord’s Table, even our youngest. I know for many reading this, seeing church life in this way is a total paradigm shift and would be a significant change in philosophy, church culture and practice at your church. But, I promise you what I’ve described to you embodies biblical patterns that can successfully be integrated in the fabric of any church if we’ll take the risk of being biblical versus convenient. :)

 

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