13 signs your sermon isn’t going well

from Mike Wittmer

13.  Your associate pastor is warming up in the bullpen.

12.  The praise band begins playing you off the stage.

11.  When asked to read from the King James Version, you involuntarily blush every time you say the word “ass.”

10.  The congregation is filling in the blanks of your outline before you get there.

9.  You think the lyrics to a bluegrass song are really connecting with your audience.

8.  When you pause for dramatic effect, several people giggle.

7.  Your cell phone starts ringing, and you answer it.

6.  The person signing for the deaf just pulled on mittens.

5.  When the children are dismissed to junior church, most of their parents go, too.

4.  Your sermon took shape over a glass of wine and volume three of Left Behind.

3.  Your interpreter just rolled his eyes and put your last statement in air quotes.

2. Desperate mothers are pinching their babies.

1.  The ushers are handing out refunds.

Trying to forget the Jimmy Carter years and President Obama is not helping

It was during Jimmy Carter’s presidency that I was doing the things growing up people do – have a family, buy a home, find a first full time career job. All of which, President Carter made unbelievably difficult.

Unfortunately I had voted for him. I had had enough of the Republicans, Nixon and company. Vietnam, Watergate, cultural confusion, racial tension, petulant Republican leaders who acted more like offended children than grown-ups who could lead and do the hard work of compromise. Carter was not Republican and that was a good thing.

Was I ever wrong!!!! His indecisiveness was maddening. His lack of leadership during challenges was discouraging. His malaise speeches and sweaters in the White House to save money on heating oil made me scream at the TV. His pathetic view of religion made following Jesus just for women (and for that I apologize to the women). He was preachy and cranky.

And the inflation was crippling. No one could afford a house with 17% to 21% interest rates. This is not to mention the gas crisis, the gas lines and only being able to buy gas on odd or even days.

This generation’s bloc of young voters have never seen how badly one President can cripple a whole country economically. You wouldn’t think things could go off the ramp that readily within a two to four years period of time. It can. And it is. The US economy is not too big to fail. A President can cater to our worst instincts, offer something for nothing (or offer something at somebody else’s expense), place the rich man/poor man card, shake the citizenry’s faith in justice, stack the deck in favor of voting blocks, make us remember our failures and forget our dreams, and hang with people most Americans consider crooks.

Welcome to this generation’s Jimmy Carter. I had hoped that in one lifetime I would only see one of him. Not so.

We are in for an economic bruising the likes of which none can imagine. I am betting that there are some who sound the trumpet, stand by the stuff and keep pointing the way out of the valley of the shadow. It is not easy to stand up to the hating, the jeering, the comedic jabbing, the sneering, the condescending elitism.

President Obama has lived a life based on the largess of others. It makes one soft and unaware that the day to day lives of Americans has no such relief valve. It’s work and pay – just work and pay. My hope is that someone will rise up and save the forgotten man and bring justice.

The technology of communications is the new kid on the block. News does not have to be filtered through New York City elites nor be ABC, NBC or CBS. Joe the plumber can write a blog, twitter, and post a video. Democracy is the way through. The battle is no longer fought behind the scenes in sequestered rooms in the White House and the halls of Congress. It is out in the streets. There are strong voices rooted in the Judeo-Christian tradition speaking and offering a way out of the wilderness. This is most hopeful, for now and for our future.

And while we are a republic and not a democracy, we are becoming a republic where the democratic spirit is alive and growing even stronger. I don’t think the trend is going to be reversed. The speaking of the people is going to be louder. A revived, renewing, spiritually strong citizenry is a tidal wave force that White House and Congress cannot resist.

Mainline denominations continue to commit suicide

Here is just another in a long string of indications that the mainline denominations have a death wish.

Presybterians, Lutherans (ECLA), Methodists, American Baptists,Episcopaleans,  etc., are declining at a rate that is stunning. They know it and yet can’t reverse the death spiral. They think that even more “social justice” issues will be the key. As they say, how’s that working out for you?

Of course, Christians don’t choose their theology on the basis of what is popular or ipso facto will make your church grow. There have been plenty of moments when the church had to take a turn that for the time being meant a decline in attendance and money.

But the decline in these denominations has been clear since the 1960s. Americans renewed and revived in their faith have overwhelmingly chosen not to identify with the mainline. The mainline has substituted charity for “coronary Christianity”. It won’t work. Has never worked. It’s a failing formula, simply because it turns religion into something one does.

They might seem to have the Bible on their side, particularly the Book of James. But in the analogy of faith where all the Bible must inform all the Christian, the simple formula of “serve the poor=being right with God” doesn’t measure up. In this case, the mainline has interpreted that the poor equals all classes of oppressed people – the gay, lesbian, transgendered community, etc.

The guy in the pew knows this does not compute. He votes by leaving and going to a church where the Judeo-Christian tradition receives its due.

I know that some leftist evangelicals are hopeful about the mainline. They are jousting at shadows. The mainline is incapable of melding social justice with doctrinal faithfulness. And they are getting too small to even matter. Their microphone has been taken away and they really are not part of the debate Americans are having anymore.

James MacDonald’s rant against congregationalism is why we need congregationalism

Here is MacDonald’s assertion.

You can not only get an idea of what he believes. You get the idea of how he communicates – from the top down.

After years of ministry, my assertion is that for all its faults congregationalism serves the interests of Christ more effectively than does any other form of church government. It has huge downsides. I have found myself on the downsides of congregationalism more than once. But its downsides are “less huge” than other models.

The fact is that all churches are congregational, no matter what their outward structure is. People vote – with their feet and their pocketbook. If they choose not to participate in your church in enough numbers, you don’t exist. Now there’s congregationalism for you. MacDonald is fooling himself. He can draw the flow chart of decision making any way he wants to, but the Spirit of God moving the hearts of the people in the pew is how it gets done. It’s messy, hurtful, and with lots of blood on the floor.

I have learned to distrust leaders who get visions from God, complete with vision statements and organizational charts that will turn a sleepy church into a sleek, lean, soul-winning machine. Their charisma and efficiency runs smack dab into the reality that grandma Jones and uncle Earl, both of whom spend too much time at the donut table in the fellowship hall, can stop a perfect elder plan dead in its tracks. How frustrating. Clearly grandma Jones and uncle Earl are of the devil. They are immature, selfish, don’t know Greek and Hebrew, get too many of their outfits at the Salvation Army, keep people from higher socio-economic levels from attending and could use a few tips on grooming. How could it be that a whole church can’t get by these corks in a bottle? So lets just change the system of government to make them irrelevant.

Much of the problem here, folks, is that pastors are too afraid of going out and finding a church, or forming a church, whose philosophy of ministry gels with their own. They would rather wrestle to the ground the church where they are than just admit that there is a point where the church’s identity works at cross purposes to where the pastor wants to go. At any point, he is free to make peace and leave gracefully. But does he do that? Noooooooooo!!!!!! He is God’s anointed and the beginning of a new age for the church.  And his first move is to change the church constitution so that Jones and Earl are leveraged.

Of course, we know that the Bible is capable of defending any number of different leadership structures. If it was so clear on one, there wouldn’t be other ones. The bottom line for me is that I trust the guy in the pew more than I trust the man in the pulpit with his vision. If you force me to choose, I know which one I will choose.

But I don’t have to choose. We can have both – with the understanding that the fact remains that churches will have their way.  Whatever happens in a church happens because the people allow it to happen. Even the pastor who glories in his elder-led congregations is being supported by congregationalism.

And when pastors start talking about the devil in the church, watch out. It ain’t himself he is talking about!!!!

A note on religious persecution from Ramez Atallah is the General Director of the Bible Society of Egypt

John Piper posted this note form Ramez Atallah:

June 15, 2011

Dear friends,

When a million ordinary and non-violent Egyptians from all walks of life camped for 18 days in Liberation Square, the world was mesmerized by their remarkable and unprecedented show of courage and willingness to suffer for the human rights of all Egyptians.

Yet none of those who were in Liberation Square could have imagined that their defiance would not only result in undermining most authority in the country, but would also pave the way for radical Muslim groups to begin restricting true freedom and equality for all Egyptians.

Breakdown of Authority

If you challenge the President and win, you no longer fear any authority. One logical—yet unintended—result of this successful show of defiance is that nearly every sector of society is now challenging those in authority above them. . .

  • Students challenge their teachers or educational administrators
  • Employees challenge their bosses
  • Ordinary citizens challenge civil authorities
  • There is little respect for the police
  • Even the respected and formerly- feared Army is now being challenged

The many acts of violence, burning of churches, shops, and factories—not to mention the spate of kidnappings for ransom and increased petty theft—are partly the result of a misunderstanding of freedom and a lack of fear towards anyone to whom these people could be held accountable!

A sad example of this is when criminals are arrested to await trial, their friends and relatives come in the hundreds, storm the jail, overcome the police, and free the prisoners. In the past, respect—or fear—of the police’s authority would have made such acts inconceivable. Now, they are frequent occurrences. Another example is that the two men who plotted to assassinate President Sadat in 1981 have been released from jail and are now popular talk show guests!

Potential Takeover by Muslim Brotherhood

Another unintended result of the Revolution has been the paving of the way for the new Parliament to be overtaken by the well-organized Muslim Brotherhood. Having officially renounced violence many years ago, this group will protect Christians from the violent attacks we have been experiencing lately. But in establishing an Islamic state, they will undoubtedly seriously curtail what Christians can do outside their houses of worship. Undoubtedly they also will allow even less freedom than was previously available for Muslims to have religious freedom of choice.

“Christian” Rights or “Human” Rights

Many human rights groups in the West are speaking out on behalf of Christians and their security in Egypt. We are grateful for their concern, but I firmly believe that the possible establishment of an Islamic state in Egypt would most greatly affect moderate Muslims (especially women). It is their freedoms and lifestyles (dress, customs, freedom of expression etc.) that would be most restricted. Who is speaking on their behalf?

It would be much better for us if the media and human rights groups were to boldly speak up for genuine freedom of choice for all Egyptians. This would also radically reduce resentment felt against Christians when outside groups speak up on our behalf. . . .

For progress updates on our Rebuild Egypt Campaign, please click here: http://www.rebuildegypt.tenbibles.com/

There is something so right about this!!

John Piper reflects on the way John Wesley handled money. (Here) Wesley’s pattern seems so right.

There are a lot of preachers who aren’t paid enough to live decently. There are precious few that are paid more than enough to live decently but choose not to increase their standard of living. I have commented upon this before. Does no one among Protestant preachers take the vow of poverty? Why are so many of our evangelical stars also multi-millionaires based upon receipts from their ministries, not upon inherited wealth?

Someone mentioned to me the example of Randy Alcorn. A good example indeed.

Avarice is as quick to destroy one’s reputation as sexual immorality. That a man would use the Gospel in order to make a living is a despicable thing. That he should be given a living so that he can preach the Gospel is a good thing. How diligent he ought to be, seeing that the very people to whom he preaches sacrifice and do without so that he may be set free to herald Christ.

Long live the Wesleys among us.