Wednesday night, April 25, marked the end of our 2017-2018 AWANA year!
Now we have started our youth and children’s summer program.
Here is a little recap of our last year or so with the young people.
Wednesday night, April 25, marked the end of our 2017-2018 AWANA year!
Now we have started our youth and children’s summer program.
Here is a little recap of our last year or so with the young people.
Our ladies would love for you to help with our new project.
We are each picking a Bible verse and writing it on 25 3×5 cards, then decorating the cards with stickers, stamps, etc.
This will give us enough to send a set to each of our missionaries and have a few left over for missionaries who visit us.
Please see the narthex table for a list of verses already used, and write down the verse you want to use. Give cards to Wenonah by Wednesday, November 8th.
If you’d rather not decorate, you can hand Wenonah your 25 written out cards and the ladies group will decorate them.
Thanks for helping us bless others.
Why are so many people who have prayed prayers, professed Christ, and thought they were born again still unsure whether they are saved or not? Many are the people I speak to, who, despite the promises of God’s Word that they can know they have everlasting life (I John 5:13), have no such assurance. They aren’t living for Christ, and they don’t feel like they belong to or with Christ. What can be done to help them? What course should they take? That all depends on what happened to bring them to this point in life.
I see two possibilities in the Bible. The first is that they never belonged to Christ in the first place. I John 2:19, warning about some opponents of Christ, says, “They went out from us, but they were not of us: for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.”
There are far too many people who parroted a prayer without understanding the gospel or genuinely believing it. There are too many who for social, political, or personal reasons claimed to be Christians, but never actually came to Christ in humble faith. When these turn from Christianity or obviously fail in the Christian life, it isn’t because they lost something – they never had it.
Does this mean that every person who doesn’t feel saved, remember being saved, or act like they are saved was never a Christian in the first place? Or is there another possibility in the Scriptures?
There is. Peter describes another situation in which people are not living for Christ, and though they have been saved, they have forgotten their cleansing. II Peter 1:5-9 tells us that people who do not diligently grow in Christlikeness become blind, unable to see what is in the distance, and they forget that they were purged from their old sins. They were purged – they are saved. But they forget it. They forget the knowledge and assurance of their salvation because they do not live in the knowledge and assurance of their salvation. They don’t live it out, so they lose their confidence within. We actually find assurance of our standing in the way we walk. When we walk away from Christ, we can so easily forget that we stand in Him.
So when I encounter someone who had an experience, prayed a prayer, but still doesn’t know whether they are saved or not, I know it can be for two reasons. They may never have genuinely trusted Christ in the first place. Or they may have ceased to live in that faith and so lost the confidence of it.
Unfortunately, since I can’t see their heart, I don’t know which condition applies to which person. Fortunately, God does. And if they want to know where they stand with Him, I believe He will show them. The Holy Spirit reproves the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8); the Holy Spirit bears witness within believers that they are the children of God (Romans 8:16). He can bring the lost to faith, and He can bring the saved to faithfulness – if they are willing to hear Him.
When asked the question, “Do you know for sure where you will go when you die?” the most common answer I get seems to be,
“I don’t know.” Its common companion is, “I don’t think you can really know for sure.” It’s perhaps the most important question to answer in this life – and most people know they don’t know.
I shouldn’t be surprised. Many churches, denominations, and teachers proclaim that a person might become unsaved after being saved, or might not be able to be saved because they aren’t part of the elect. Many seem to think that faith is a good starting place, but we need to do some kind of works in order to complete or keep our salvation. Other major religions I know of leave the question of eternal destiny to be decided at or after death. This thinking usually makes a person’s works the ultimate determiner of eternal destiny, because doing the wrong works, or not doing enough of the right ones, can negate other good works, or even faith. Certainty in this life is impossible, because we don’t really know what we will do or how we might fail in the future.
However, this is one of the beautiful differences between biblical Christianity and other faiths. We believe in a God who is truth and loves truth; He works by faith and knowledge, not by doubt and fear. We may not know how we might mess up in the future – but He knows the future, so when He redeems us, He does so knowing the full cost of that redemption. It’s a redemption that was accomplished with an atonement that paid for all sin – past, present, and future.
So He tells us in I John 5:3, “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.” This is consistent with the themes throughout Scripture of God’s truthfulness and faithfulness, and of His call to us to respond with reckoning, confidence, and trust.
When we simply take God at His Word, having answered the call of His Word to faith, we can know.
What if I mess up too badly or for too long? Can I lose my salvation? Many believers who take an honest look at the mistakes they make after they profess Christ ask questions like this. Many who look at the disturbing warning passages in the New Testament come away with the same questions. And that’s before we even consider our more judgmental moments looking at other people who claim to be God’s, but live like the devil’s.
But maybe, “Can I lose my salvation?” isn’t quite the right question. I think we might be focusing on the wrong transaction when we ask the question that way. I think the question may only even get asked because of the way we think about being saved.
If I went fishing on vacation without a life jacket and fell out of the boat because I wouldn’t let go of my fishing rod, I might need to be saved from drowning.
Maybe after being saved that first time, I would learn my lesson and always wear my lifejacket and care more about safety than my fishing gear. But anyone who knows me is probably already rolling their eyes at the likelihood of me always making the smart decision when it comes to fishing. It’s quite possible that having been saved from the water on Monday, I might fall back in on Thursday and need to be saved again. If we just see sin or hell as a peril that we need to be rescued from because of our behavior, then it’s easy to think that the same decisions that got us in trouble last time could put us right back in trouble again. Then we might “lose our salvation,” because we’d need to be saved again.
However, salvation is not the only thing that happens when we trust Jesus Christ. That glorious transaction is also described as redemption, justification, sanctification, sealing, indwelling, glorification, quickening, and more.
The Bible passages that talk about this moment are almost too numerous to go through in a single simple blog post. One of my favorites, though, is John 5:24. There Jesus says, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.”
Grammar isn’t many people’s favorite.
Verb tenses matter, though. John 5:24 doesn’t say that the person who comes to faith through the Scriptures “will have everlasting life” – it says “hath everlasting life.” That is, it’s not a future possibility, it’s a current reality. The moment we trust Jesus Christ, we pass from death into a life that can never end. (And don’t even get me started on the implications of that Greek perfect tense there!) If we could “lose our salvation” (to mix the other picture back in), that life wouldn’t be so everlasting, would it?
And then there are the verses that say we are justified – declared righteous by God Himself. Would God go back on His word, change His mind, and declare unjust what He has already declared just? (Remember that when He declared us righteous, He knew every sin of the future and declared us just anyhow.) Of course, He can declare us righteous, because He has actually made us righteous – sanctified, and even glorified. (I Corinthians 6:11; Romans 8:30) We are already seated in heavenly places in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:6) – shall we be torn from the hands and body of Jesus and cast out of heaven, when we have already been made righteous in Him?
And that’s before we get to the work of the Holy Spirit, which seals us “unto the day of redemption” (Ephesians 4:30) and is the down payment on the blessings we have in Christ (Ephesians 1:14). Will God go back on a deal He has already made the down payment on?
Then there’s the declaration that God will not fail in us. Philippians 1:6 says, “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” Once saved, it is our destiny to become like Jesus Christ. (Romans 8:29) Even though WE fail in that in this life, GOD will not fail in that throughout eternal life.
I think we fear losing our salvation because we think too small about salvation. It’s not just a rescue from peril; it’s not just a change of forwarding address for the soul. It’s a birth – and birth can’t be undone (and death can’t happen after this birth). It’s a sealing with a seal that can’t be broken. It’s a contract with a being who can’t go back on His Word. It’s a relocation. It’s a transformation. It’s a change of nature and destiny. None of that can be lost, or it never happened in the first place.
It’s not just “once saved, always saved” – it’s “born again, never dies.”
A hearty thanks is in order to all who helped make our Wild Beast Feast what it was.
Many of you helped in many ways: praying, setting up, taking down, cooking, advertising, planning, decorating, providing door prizes, and more. And it all paid off. We had over 130 people here (the largest event we’ve had in years), including more than 80 guests (people who don’t normally attend Dexter Gospel Church). Many of them were unchurched and as far as we know unsaved, and they heard the gospel clearly presented. We also ended up with 21 wild game dishes featuring 12 different creatures. In all, it was a terrific time, Christ was honored, and the gospel went out. All glory to God for raising up those who worked to that end. We’re already laying the groundwork for next year, scheduled for March 16, excited about what God will do then!
It is impossible to truly love Christ while rejecting His body. The church is Christ’s great love and the greatest work He is doing in the world right now; should we refuse to be a part of it, while claiming to receive His love and work in our lives? I thought about writing a post about church membership, but Matt Chandler covers many of the points I would have made, so I’ll just give you what he says for the moment.
Though it should perhaps go without saying, I’ll say it here just to be clear. Sharing an article or quote from someone else doesn’t mean I agree with everything else they do or say (or even that I completely agree with everything in a quote or article itself), but that I see something of value, something worth considering there.
Pastors disagree about a lot of things. We can disagree about how big a role the sovereignty of God plays in salvation compared to the free will of man; we can argue about how missions should be supported; we can dispute what kind and how many songs should be a service; we’re even prone to disagree about what ought to be at a potluck (just get a northern pastor and southern pastor in the same room!)
But there is one thing that every pastor and preacher I’ve ever met agree on:
Out of all the doctrines, practices, and preferences involved in ministry, why would something that seems so trivial be the one massive point of agreement? I’ll bet there’s a pretty important reason for it.
And just as strange, although every preacher I’ve ever heard address seating asks people to move forward, not back, in nearly every church I’ve ever been in, more people sit in the back than in the front! I’ll bet there are reasons for this too.
Since I’ve been in both the pulpit and the pew, perhaps you’ll let me carry some thinking from the pulpit to the pew. When pastors ask people to do something, there’s usually a reason for it. Sometimes, the reason is so obvious to us that we don’t think it needs to be explained – but I’ll bet you’re more likely to go along with something, or at least not look so funny at someone who asks it, if you understand why they are asking.
A pastor who is doing his job is thinking about the church’s reasons for gathering, what his purpose is in preaching, who is there, and who the church wants to be there. From every one of those vantage points, he sees that sitting close together toward the front benefits everyone. How so? What are some of the perspectives that a pastor is looking at when he asks his church members to move up?
The Churchmember’s Chair. Let’s start with you, regular attender, stalwart of the sanctuary. You’ve probably been coming so long and spent so many hours in the same spot on the same pew that there’s an invisible but perfect you-shaped indent there, and anyplace else just wouldn’t feel like your seat. You’ve found the precise angle and distance from which the preacher looks as tolerable as you can make him. Why should you move up? Is this just an ego trip by a near-sighted preacher who feels like the crowd is bigger if it’s closer? Or is there really some benefit to you in moving up as close as you can get without tweaking a disk in your neck? Why does the preacher want you up front?
He knows you get more out of the service if you do. He probably went to college. And here is one of the things they told him when he was the guy in the seat trying to learn from the guy behind a podium: the closer you sit to the front, the better you grasp the material, and the better you do in the class. Although you may have never been in the pulpit, he has been in the pew, and he knows this is true. Studies have shown this repeatedly – the farther people get from the front, the less they get out of the class. Here’s a quick summary of one such study:
The closer you sit, the fewer potential distractions there are. You can hear the preacher more clearly, catching nuances you otherwise miss. You get the most benefit from nonverbal communication. When you are close to someone who is talking to you, you get more of what they are saying.
Where you sit is part of the preparation of the heart to receive the Word (a la the parable of the sower). It’s being deliberate about getting as much of the message as you can. When you choose not to, especially knowingly, you send a message to the next person’s perspective.
The Preacher’s Pulpit. What did you hire the pastor to do? What is his primary role?
I’ll give you a hint: you know how people sometimes say that a pastor only works a couple hours a week? Those are the hours he spends preaching or teaching the congregation.
Peter told elders (another title for pastors in that passage) in I Peter 5:2, “Feed the flock of God which is among you.” When you considered hiring him, you probably got his doctrinal statement, so you would know what he would teach, and you probably asked for recordings of his sermons, so you would know how he would do it.
Oh, you expect him (and he expects) to do all kinds of other things too. He might shovel snow in the north and crush cockroaches in the south. He probably prays, counsels, disciples, visits, and administrates in varying degrees. But the man who stands in the pulpit on Sunday morning was fundamentally hired to feed you by explaining, expounding, and applying the Scriptures. He was hired to tell you something effectively.
When you sit close to him, you make his job easier. When you sit farther away, you make his job harder. Most good sermons are actually conversations. You may not speak out loud, but you are still reacting to what he says, speaking to him with body language and facial expressions. He can have the conversation better with you if you are closer.
When you have something important to tell someone, how far away do you want them to be when you tell them? If their life depended on them understanding, wouldn’t you want them close enough that you could tell from their expressions that they were getting it? The condition of the souls of the people in the auditorium may depend on how well they understand and apply what the preacher is telling them – but they often make him shout the crucial truth from 50 feet away. (And then sometimes wonder why the sermons go so long, with so much repetition. Of course he repeats himself, if he believes the truth is crucial, and he can’t tell who has gotten it yet.)
And there is a subtle effect here too that comes right back to who gets the most out of the service. An attentive shepherd gets to know his flock. He knows what they enjoy most and benefit from best. A pastor who pays attention to his congregation will begin to pattern his feeding after the responses that he gets.
The meaningful responses usually aren’t the, “Great message, preacher,” on the way out the back door. What shapes the message are the raised eyebrows at the startling statement, the widened eyes of surprise, the scowl of confusion, the body language showing loss of interest as something familiar is rehashed – the tiny expressions he can see from the people closest to him as he preaches the message. So as time goes on, the sermons are tailored more and more to the people whose feedback he can actually see. The people who sit up front get fed better, because the food is specifically tailored to their reactions to it.
I suspect most pastors have had someone leave their church and give as the reason, “I just wasn’t being fed.” I can’t claim to have a sample size of hundreds or even dozens. But of those who have left the churches where I was pastor or close enough to him to know the reasons people gave for leaving, not one of those who left because they “weren’t being fed” sat in the front and center of the church. Every one of them sat a long distance from the pastor, often in a back corner. Perhaps it’s true that they weren’t getting as much as they should have – and perhaps it’s true that they weren’t getting as much as they could have. This grieves the pastor, because he truly wants the flock to be well fed.
In fact, you might be surprised how this can affect the preacher. We might preach from a pulpit, but most of us don’t want a pedestal. We’re human. We can be discouraged and disappointed. Think about your job for a moment. Supposed you were hired to do something, but when you showed up to do what you were hired for, your employer showed little interest in you actually doing that. Suppose your employer constantly put up little obstacles to you doing effectively what they hired you to do. And then suppose they blamed you for not doing it well enough. This is the situation many preachers feel they are in. They can feel betrayed by the message the congregation gives them.
We know we were hired by the church. (Oh, I know we are commissioned and commanded by God, and we truly work for Him – but that’s supposed to be true of every Christian in every occupation. I know we are the overseers of the church, not simply its employees. But still, the church consists of the humans who called us there and employ us.) We know the people said they wanted us to tell them the Word of God and how it applies to their lives – but then when we actually try to do that, they edge away from us and make it harder for us to do it. Then some complain that we don’t do it well enough, while they are doing things that make it harder for us to do it well!
And on an even more basic level, when you back away from someone while they are talking, you are sending a very strong message. You are rejecting either what they are saying or the person who is saying it. (Whatever the reason for the rejection – boredom, disagreement, busyness, dislike, whatever – distance still says rejection.) And having either himself or his message rejected is pretty rough on a preacher. Just from looking at where you are sitting, he can’t tell if you are rejecting him, Christ, God’s Word, his illustrations, his breath, his ugly necktie – he just knows that there is rejection when you back away from him as he speaks. If the only time you keep such a distance is when he is preaching, then he starts to get a sneaking suspicion that you don’t really WANT to hear the Word of God spoken, explained, and applied. And given how much he loves you and the Word of God, he’d probably rather you were rejecting him.
Should preachers react by feeling betrayed and discouraged? There are definitely more profitable, spiritual reactions that we can have. But don’t delude yourself (or let a smiling Sunday morning preacher delude you) into thinking that the congregation doesn’t affect the preacher as surely as the preacher affects the congregation. We all have feet of clay.
Yet listening to preaching isn’t all we do in a church service, and those other things are affected by where we sit too.
The Singer’s Seat. The attentive pastor is paying attention to the whole worship service, not just the time when he is talking. If it were just about getting a sermon, a video or audio recording might do the job (though not as well as a personalized message to a specific congregation). But we are gathering as an expression of corporate worship. We are saying that we are coming together to praise God and edify and encourage each other. Sitting closer together reinforces the idea of singing as part of the corporate worship service. You get more out of it, and so do the other people clustered around you. Spreading out subtly undermines the expression of unity in worship and in service. Your voice may be nothing special (and it may even be especially bad!), but we all benefit spiritually and emotionally when we join in unity. Sitting scattered and in the back, you feel alone, and you make the song leader feel alone. You rob the other people in the congregation of the encouragement of your closeness.
But the regular church-goer and the preacher aren’t the only people the pastor has in mind.
The Visitor’s Vantage. We all want visitors to come and stay, right? And while we might not buy into “seeker sensitive” approaches or building church services around the unsaved rather than the actual church, it would be foolish to want them to come, then not take them into consideration. When a visitor walks into a church and sees a gulf between the preacher and the people, that gap will speak as loudly as the preacher could shout. It says there is something to be feared or rejected, not desired, up front. It makes it look like we are not at unity and don’t like each other.
Then when they have to walk forward past rows of full pews to an empty one toward the front, they get the feeling they are being sacrificed to the wolves, shoved up toward something no one else wants to get close to.
The visitor can be expected to sit in the back at first. Sure, we can invite them to sit up front with us (which would be great!) But they may not be churched, may not feel a sense of unity with complete strangers in worship, may not know the import of the teaching of God’s Word, and they’ve almost certainly never heard all this. They are still examining and evaluating, so they may want to sit where they can observe the whole congregation. And what will they see? People who value being close with each other and receiving what is given from the pulpit? Or chilly distance?
The Special Needs Situation. Some people really need or benefit from those precious seats behind everyone else. Some parents have small children, and they don’t want to distract everyone, but they may want their children to learn to sit in a service. They may have to get up quickly to take a child out. The pastor doesn’t want them to have to climb over people or walk the gauntlet of an aisle of stares during a service. Latecomers, especially visitors, disrupt a service and embarrass themselves far less if they can simply slip into an aisle seat toward the back. Then there are those few with medical conditions that prevent them from sitting for an entire service.
The pastor knows that all these people exist, and he wants the church to minister to them the best while disrupting its ministry to others the least. And that means moving everyone who can up to the front, so there are open seats, especially aisle seats, toward the back. Otherwise, the church is quietly but firmly saying that it cares more about sitting in its comfort spot than it does the needs and concerns of others who might benefit from those seats more.
Now let’s go back to what you’re paying the pastor to do. A pastor is literally a shepherd – it’s what the word means. Here I have double experience, because I grew up taking care of all kinds of livestock, including sheep.
When someone with livestock goes to feed the animals, the healthy ones crowd up front, to get as much of the food as they can. If he sees some hanging back, not showing interest in the food, he knows there is something wrong with them. The sheep isn’t healthy. The shepherd may not know what the sickness is, but if there is no eagerness for the food, displayed by an effort to get as much as possible, to get as close to the source as possible, he knows the sheep is sick. He is concerned. He does everything he can to get it eating, to get it to show a healthy interest in the food.
So why NOT sit up front? Are you one of those with special needs? If so, that’s understandable, and I’ll bet your pastor understands too. But is it just because you’re not comfortable up there? Okay, that may say something is wrong. But it doesn’t tell us what. Do you not want to get the full impact of what the preacher is saying? Are you not willing for him to see your reactions? Have you not taken into account how your seating choices affect the rest of the congregation? Is there some reason I am missing here?
If the issue is discomfort, it raises questions: do you listen to the Word of God to be comfortable or to be challenged? Is your comfort the primary factor in what you do in the church, or is ministry to others? Jesus, our Great Shepherd, was far more concerned with feeding the flock than keeping its individuals comfortable – and most pastors are too.
To address what I mean when I call myself a fundamentalist, I’m going to have to take a little time off from my busy schedule of political ranting, working on my AK-47 spray-and-pray form, and building bombs. Having to take time off from angry destruction to have rational discussion makes me mad enough to blow something up!
Oh, wait. I don’t mess much with politics, especially in my role as a pastor; I don’t own an AK-anything; and I’ve never built a bomb. (Well, that egg-drop project back in high school might have come close… but nobody got hurt, aside from the smell. The fire wasn’t really all THAT big.)
Despite the impression you may have gotten from media (which often does’t make careful distinctions – it’s hard to clarify who really is what in a 600-word article or 2-minute television news report, even if you’re inclined to, let alone a Tweet or Facebook post), Christian fundamentalists have virtually nothing in common with the Islamic fundamentalists or Hindu fundamentalists who have done such violence in recent years.
The reason people can apply the term “fundamentalist” to some Christians, Muslims, Hindus, and more is that we each have people who take what they believe seriously enough to put it into action and are deeply attached to core tenets of their faith. But our faiths with their core tenets are radically different, which means that when we put them into action, they are much different from one another.
I don’t know of a single self-professed or accepted-by-the-community Christian fundamentalist who has committed any act of violence in the name of his faith. We don’t kill people for God, and we don’t blow things up for God. We’re willing to die for our faith – but we would never kill for it. That would be a denial of the very fundamentals we stand for.
So if I’m not defined by crazy politics or violence, what makes me a fundamentalist?
A Christian fundamentalist is one who holds to and stands up for the basic truths of Christianity. The exact list of fundamentals and their implications may differ from person to person. (The Fundamentals, a collection of 90 essays which helped define the movement in its early years, was written by 64 different individuals representing nearly every major Protestant denomination at their time.) But all the lists from all the early fundamentalists pretty much boil down to the essential truths for salvation, and those revolve around Jesus Christ: how we know Him, who He is, what He did, and how we respond.
Even though the name is only about a hundred years old, it’s a biblical idea. The Apostle Paul repeatedly told people to know doctrine and to be willing to separate from (not work with or fellowship with) people who denied core truths or who lived in blatant sin. The Apostle John nailed it down in I John 4:1-3. The person who believes the truth about Jesus Christ, whatever else they may be wrong about, has a relationship with God. The person who hasn’t believed the truth about Jesus Christ, whatever else they may be right about, has no relationship with God. When a person teaches the truth about Jesus Christ, whatever else they may get wrong, they are helping the cause of Christ in that at least. When a person teaches error about who Jesus is and what He did, whatever else they may get right, they are hurting the cause of the gospel of Christ.
Am I a fundamentalist because I hate people? No! I’m a fundamentalist because I love God and want to do what He says. (This is the test of love for Jesus, after all: “If ye love me, keep my commandments,” Jesus said.) I’m a fundamentalist because I believe the gospel of Jesus Christ to be the most important truth this world has ever heard – so important that I can’t pretend my faith is the same as someone’s who rejects it.
That’s what makes me a fundamentalist – believing the fundamental truths of Christianity and being willing to take a stand for them. In recent years, many people in fundamentalism have gotten tangled up in a lot of other things, some of which I agree with and some of which I don’t, and too often, the movement gets defined both from within and without by those other things. Because the movement sometimes seems to have lost its way, or at least its clarity, I’ll occasionally use the term “historic fundamentalist” for myself. I’m defining the name more like its inventors than some of its modern adherents. At its heart, though, fundamentalism is about the gospel of Jesus Christ – and so am I.
Now I think I’ll go and make another … sandwich, a sandwich! What, you thought I was going to put together something explosively dangerous, just because I’m a fundamentalist? Well, okay, that description might suit any food item I make. But as a fundamentalist shaped by the identity and message of Jesus Christ, it doesn’t describe me or my ministry.