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Thanks for visiting our website! This month’s picture is from the August 2018 retreat of Colombian preachers in Santa Marta. I was honored to be asked to participate. [Click picture to enlarge.]

Colombian Preachers

Ministry and mission work is a team effort -- Jan and I have shared the work of ministry and missions for 49+ years! Countless people have encouraged us, supported us, loved us, and prayed for us. In addition to the customary "Brother Bob," I am also known as dad and papaw. One of my favorite breakfasts is huevos fritos, frijoles, and tortillas, with a good hot sauce and a cup of rich Colombian coffee! My greatest joy in life is being part of the kingdom; my #1 priority is to advance "kingdom things" and to help develop authentic "kingdom people." I seek to serve and share the good news about Jesus everywhere I go, helping people find Jesus and helping people mature as disciples of Jesus. One of the greatest blessings of my life is to be loved by countless people around the world!


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Archive for July, 2014

It’s Sunday Again: Christ and his church

Sunday, July 27th, 2014

One cannot have Christ without the church; one cannot have church without Christ.
Christ comes with a church. If one wishes to follow Christ, the church is not an optional add-on.
We must restore Christ to all we say and do and are at church.

Three concepts from Ephesians 1-3: the church is the place of salvation, a place of peace, a place of unity.
Ephesians 1-3 is the upper story ideal, “with Christ in the heavenlies.” Ephesians 4-6 is the lower story reality. God’s magnificent goals for the church must be lived out in the torn, broken world of human existence. It is easy to preach the ideal; it is harder to live the reality–every member of the body doing its part, live worthy, live holy (not as the pagans), live in love, light, and wisdom. Relationships hang us up. Be careful about the connection points (ligaments)–that’s where the church often gets in trouble. Be submissive as you deal with others. Be prepared for the difficulties–arm yourselves, and don’t stop reading at 6:17, arm yourselves also in prayer!

How Should We “Do” Church? (3)

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014

In two previous articles, I have suggested some changes that we must make in how we “do church”. These include a renewed focus on Christ, Scripture, and others; a commitment to the world around us and a commitment to discipleship and involvement rather than consumerism.

Because I am a minister, and have spent my life preparing for ministry, studying ministry, practicing ministry, and teaching ministry, I conclude with four observations for my friends in ministry. I hope by sharing these in a more public forum that I can also help the church understand ministry. Such is essential, because we have developed a model of church where ministry is focused at the top of a pyramid in church leaders and paid staff. We have paid lip service to the thought that “every member is a minister,” but we have not practiced it well in most places.

What kind of minister will help us answer the challenges before us? What kind of minister will help the church be church? What kind of minister will help us “do church” effectively. While many answers can be given, I focus on four commitments from my own life.

  • I want to be a minister that helps the church encounter and wrestle with Scripture as the very Word of God. The preacher must preach the word as it is, not as we have always thought it was. Bible study must be fresh and vibrant. We must study to learn, not just to reinforce what we have always thought.
  • I want to be a minister that lets people see and experience Jesus in their everyday lives. This begins in my personal life when I see and experience Jesus daily. The church will not advance beyond its leaders. I must seek the spiritual life; I must model genuine surrender to the priorities and call of God in my life.
  • I want to be a minister that understands and feels with the hurts of the world that God wants to save. I want to speak the language of our world and culture.  I want to be a viable voice in a world of conflicting siren songs. I want Jesus to have a voice.
  • I want to be a minister that releases Jesus to a waiting world. While we live in a secular world where many have rejected the church, there are many in this world who have not turned their back on Jesus. These are waiting for someone who can show them the reality of Jesus. I want to minister in that way, in a church that has caught the vision.

How Should We “Do” Church (2)

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014

[This blog is a continuation from yesterday. Here are some additional items to consider as we ask whether our focus is biblical and healthy.]

3.  We must focus on people more than task. We must know who we are, and not only what we must do. One can do the right things without being the right person. One cannot be the right person without doing the right things. Thus, we must move our focus from rules to relationships. We must focus on intimacy more than issues. People matter to God. The Sabbath was made for us, not us for the Sabbath. This priority will change your life. God is calling us to togetherness in Christ.

4.  We must focus externally more than internally. What we do as Christians, both down at the church house and in our daily lives, is not about us. It is all about God. It is about God’s desire and plan in this world. Thus, we must move our focus from the church (club) to the community. We must see God’s purpose in our world. We must learn to think glocally (both global and local). We must focus on God more than self.

5.  We must focus on genuine discipleship. You can be a member of most churches of Christ by doing nothing more than attending a time or two each month. You may be able to be a member of the church with such antics, but you cannot be a disciple of Jesus Christ! Discipleship is demanding. Discipleship is hard. Discipleship calls us to discomfort, and giving up self, and cross-bearing, and priorities that are not natural is our world. Discipleship calls our focus away from personal needs, possessions, prestige and prominence, power, and even parents. How should we do church? We should say to one another, because it is what the Bible says, that being a Christian is demanding. You cannot just “get by.” You cannot be half-hearted. Faithfulness is not something that is turned on and off. A Christian everywhere, or a Christian nowhere. Ever a Christian or never a Christian. Christianity changes more than our Sunday schedule.

6.  We must focus on involvement. We must move our focus from consumerism to involvement. The question is not, “what will the church do for me?”, but “what will I do for the church?” (to paraphrase the famous phrase of John F. Kennedy). We are not here to be consumers, and we must not guide our outreach and evangelism by encouraging others to become religious consumers. Church is not about getting comfortable. Jesus came to afflict the comfortable and to comfort the afflicted. We should call people to become Christians, and to live that out daily. Discipleship is daily.

7.  We must focus outside the building. This is not easy. We have built religious centers that attract few. We have put up steeples to say, “Here is religion; here is the church.” God is calling us to be light and salt and leaven in our world. He is not calling us to see how many people we can get inside a building; he is calling us to see how many Christians we can get into our communities and world to provide an example of transformation and spiritual reality.

I hope we have the heart to learn how to do church right. If we fail in answering the call of Jesus in our contemporary world, I fear that we are destined to nothingness, and that more quickly than we can imagine.

How Should We “Do” Church? (1)

Monday, July 14th, 2014

A preacher friend of mine and I were visiting about the greeting program at the church where he ministers. He wanted to make some changes to insure a better contact with visitors. His problem? The same deacon had organized the greeters and the greeting program for a long time. It was generally ineffective. My preacher friend couldn’t make any headway against some strong opposition to improvement and change. The only solution we saw was to let the current program continue to function and institute a new parallel program that would do essentially the same thing, only better.

In the course of our conversation, he mentioned a conversation with a minister friend. His friend works in ministry outside the churches of Christ. His friend was trying to help him understand why the churches of Christ are plateaued or declining in growth and are generally ineffective in touching our current world. The comment of his friend was revealing: “You guys have the best preaching in the world. You know how to preach; you know how to work with the text. You just don’t know how to do church!”

You may not agree with this objective assessment from a person who understands ministry and is able to see us with unbiased eyes from a vantage point outside us. My worry is that he may be right. How should we do church? When we come together for worship, are our shared activities informed by Scripture (we would like to think so), by the world about us (God forbid!), or by a body of tradition and habit that has arisen over a long time (the most likely answer).
That this is generally true of our churches becomes more obvious when one spends a little time on the mission field. Our brothers and sisters in other places do a lot of things differently than we do. Visiting the mission field is fresh and vibrant. When I visit other places, I am challenged and encouraged.

Think with me. How must we change?
1.  We must focus on Christ. We must move from our historic focus on church to focus on Christ. Our allegiance is to Christ. He will never disappoint us. He is always the answer–to a whole host of problems. Christ is perfect; the church is imperfect. We are human. The church is not the goal, Christ is the goal. My little children, I suffer the pangs of birth for you, until Christ be formed in you. We conform our lives to Christ. He is our example and model. The model is not the NT church; the model is Christ. The church is the means to the end. This doesn’t mean we never talk about the church. You cannot have Christ without the church. But our focus is Christ. We must focus on Scripture more than tradition. We read the Scripture through the rose-colored glasses of our heritage and our traditions. We cannot change the slightest thing. We have lost freedom in Christ, exchanging it for a box of our own making.

2.  We must focus on others more than self. We must move from self-centeredness to others-centeredness. Christ did not come to the healthy, but to the sick. He did come to rescue saved people; he came to seek and save the lost. Frankly, what we do is mostly for us. We do what we do because we like it and are comfortable doing it. I could make a long list of things that we could do that would not contradict Scripture, but we will not do them because they contradict our traditions and move us outside our comfort zone.

Answering the Call: Surrendering to what counts

Sunday, July 13th, 2014

You will never be worth much to God in your Christian life until you learn to surrender to what counts. The spiritual disciplines must include surrender.  In fact, surrender may be first, the foundation of every other discipline. Surrender is the ultimate expression of thinking like Jesus (Philippians 2:5). Until we learn the lesson of complete surrender, we will continue to think it is about us and that success depends on us.  Until we learn the lesson of complete surrender, we will not likely become effective servants (slaves) in Jesus’ kingdom.
Do not be confused.  I am not talking about surrender to the minutiae, trivial, or urgent. These are hardly ever worth being the focus of our lives.

Surrendering to what counts is not easy–because a plethora of tasks, good projects, and commendable activities call for our attention. The choice of the best over the better or the good is seldom seen or done without extraordinary effort. Can you see reality, what is really #1? That is the only thing worth giving our lives for.
Surrendering to what counts will cause us to discard as unimportant the things the world teaches us to value. Cross-carrying: that is how Jesus defines surrender. Cross-carrying as Jesus describes and demands will demote self-promotion, possessions, reputation, and the accolades of others.
Surrendering to what counts opens new doors of genuine service and effectiveness in the Kingdom, because all that matters is the business of the King.

God, help us this day to surrender ourselves fully. Help us to identify the things that really matter in life. May we surrender ourselves to what counts, because of the majesty of the One we know as Lord, through whom we come before your throne, Amen.

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