Truth in a Culture of Noise

We are a people clamoring to be heard. Everyone seems to have a grievance they want to air, and it seems someone else will be offended by those complaints which only compounds the outrage. When their voices are drowned by the flood of protests, many people will raise their pitch and resort to all kinds of deceptive strategies to get people to pay attention. Even journalists have degraded their profession by using misleading headlines to coax us into clicking their links. Contrary to Thoreau, many people are no longer living lives of quiet desperation, instead, they broadcast their desperation like a distorted siren. I suppose the world has always been this way; after all, there is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9). Still, with the introduction of the internet and social media, it all seems amplified these days.

As the world continues shouting for attention, truth has fallen in the streets (Isaiah 59:14). Our culture has replaced reason with emotions. Instead of talking about issues, we voice our feelings, trumpet our offense, and label those who disagree with us as evil. Personal attacks rule the day. We judge people for their judging, unaware of our hypocrisy. In a world that believes truth is relative and autonomy is the highest value, anything and nothing can be stated as truth, and those who disagree will be labeled as bigots.

He who shouts the loudest is the winner. We shout on television, we shout on online, we shout with our pocketbooks, and more and more we seem to see people starting to shout with violent protests. Since we can no longer reason, anyone who believes in truth and threatens the dogma of relativism will be bullied. Might makes right is the only logical outcome in a culture that denies reality.

It should not surprise us that many people use the word “hate” like a bully uses his fists: to dominate and intimidate. If this culture does not like what you say, it will try to silence you with trigger warnings and accusations of micro-aggressions. They sneer, “We will not listen to reason because you were found wanting the moment you violated us by failing to celebrate our narrative. If you do not bow to secularism’s subjective dictates, we will beat you into submission with social pressure and slander if we can gain enough power.” They will work to destroy your good name and subject you to cancel culture. These days, he who shuns evil makes himself a prey (Isaiah 14:15).

Despite the noise of this fallen world, the word of God never fails. Truth does not bow to pressure because truth cannot be altered. The word of the Lord is firmly fixed in the heavens (Psalm 119:89). Though the light goes out into the world, and men love darkness rather than light (John 3:19), the word of the Lord will not return void (Isaiah 55:11).

The grass will wither, and the flower may fade, but the word of the Lord endures forever (Isaiah 40:8). It is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one stroke of the law to fail (Luke 16:17). We, as His children, have not been born of corruptible seed, but incorruptible, we were born again through the word of God which lives and abides forever (1 Peter 1:23), and we have nothing to fear because our lives are hidden in him (Colossians 3:3).

Every word of God is pure, and he is a shield to those who put their trust in him. Those who add to his words, or take away words, he will rebuke, and they will be found to be liars (Proverbs 30:5–6). The word of God is the rock upon which we must build our lives, for all other ground is sinking sand (Matthew 7:24-27). As believers, we do not need to compete with the noise of the world by raising our voices and playing its games of desperation, but we must speak, whatever the consequences (Acts 4:20). We must speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).

We have been commissioned by the Word of God himself, Jesus Christ, to go into all the world with his truth. It will not be our ingenuity or our volume that gives the word of God its strength. Its power is inherent. It is truth, and it will stand forever. It will be a light to our feet and a lamp unto our path (Psalm 119:105). If we abide in his word, we are truly his disciples, and we will know the truth, and the truth will set us free (John 8:31-32).

For Christians, temptations surround us to silence us. The enemy will whisper that scripture is dull and no one will listen to you. It will not earn you likes or shares so why bother. If you resist that warning, the threats will begin to be muttered reminding you that you will lose friends. You will become irrelevant. You will be labeled as narrow-minded, and the accusations will not be fair or truthful. The attacks on your character will be amplified to distortion, and they could leave you unemployable if you live our faith in public.

In light of all that, what will you do? At the end of the day, all Christians must answer the following question. Do I trust the word of God enough to continue speaking truth in a culture of noise?

D. Eaton

Pastor Dies Shortly After Preaching These Words

Watch this servant of God fulfill 55 years of ministry. The preacher in the video is Earl “Buddy” Duggins, former pastor of Forest Home Baptist Church in Kilgore, TX. He is preaching on Easter morning, 2020, and two months earlier, he had lost his wife. What do you do when your rib is gone? You lean more firmly upon your Staff.

What you are about to watch is Pastor Duggins’ final few minutes of his last sermon. He would die unexpectedly within the next couple hours. What you are witnessing is a faithful pastor going the distance amidst grief.

In 2 Timothy 4:5, Paul uses some of his final words to address Archippus with this warning/encouragement, “As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” In the video, you saw every aspect of that verse on display.

First, pastor Duggins had been watchful. He knew his enemy was prowling around like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. His enemy was not only trying to destroy him but his flock also. There is only one message that can overcome those dangers, and that is Gospel. It is easy to wander off into all kinds of topics that tickle the ear, and entertainment is what many people desire to hear, but Pastor Duggins preached the word.

He was also sober-minded. He did not let the condition of his broken heart pull him away from his calling. To answer his pain, he did not resort to worldly stimulants; he went to his Savior, who fortified him with the strength he needed.

He endured the suffering. Even amid grief, he did not lose faith in his Heavenly Father, and he did the work of an Evangelist. Through constant and faithful teaching, He pointed them to Jesus Christ, the resurrection and the life.

In all of that, he fulfilled his ministry. The idea of the word “fulfill” carries with it two thoughts. The first and most common is never to give up; preach the scriptures until the day you die, and this is what Pastor Duggins has done. However, there is a second idea in the word as well, and that is the idea of proving. It is only by patiently enduring afflictions, continually preaching the word, and never drifting away that a ministry validated. All these characteristics show pastor Duggins to be a good and faithful minister in Christ.

There is now no question about his faithfulness. He has run his course; he has finished the race. Shortly after he preached these words, he kneeled before Jesus, who said, “Well done good and faithful servant, enter into joy today.”

What about us? We never know when a gospel presentation will be our last. There is so much in this world working to pull us away, and, internally, we are prone to wander. Whatever your profession, our Lord has called all believers to be fishers of men. Be watchful of your enemy, be sober and diligent, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, and fulfill your ministry. The only way this will happen is by staying close to our Savior. Jesus, keep us near the cross.

Pastor Duggins, who was kept by the power of God through faith, has now entered that great cloud of witnesses. Since they surround us, let us lay aside every weight, and sin which easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.

Well done Pastor Duggins. Your ministry continues to bear fruit even while you are present with the Lord. We cannot wait to join you and your beautiful wife and praise Jesus who accomplished it all, but for now, your example of faithfulness will encourage us all to stay the course and finish the race.

Well done good and faithful servant.

-D Eaton.

Online Worship is Good, But it is Not Church

I am thankful for the option of online worship in times like these, but we need to be clear, it is not church. During this time, when we are sheltering at home to slow the spread to coronavirus, having the option for watching our local churches conduct some kind of worship program is a good thing. I recently wrote a post that argued that deciding on temporary online gatherings is a matter of Christian liberty during this unprecedented time. Each church must make its decisions based on its context and convictions. However, church is much more than watching worship leaders and pastors over the internet. Yes, we can listen to the music, and some might even sing along. We can also listen to the word preached, but there is way too much we are missing out on online to call it church. Here are some of them.

1. Fellowship and Accountability

The Bible is clear that iron sharpens iron, and so one man sharpens another. If you have never been intimately involved in a local church, you may not know what I am getting at. It is difficult to put into words, but if you have experienced it, you will immediately understand. If you have attended church virtually for only one or two weeks, I know you are already missing it.

The music and preaching of the word are necessary means of grace in the life of a believer, but there is another thing the Holy Spirit uses just as much as those two things to keep us walking in his ways; I do not want to let my fellow church members down. We have covenanted together to place our lives under the lordship of Christ Jesus, and when we gather, I know we will interact with the scriptures and pray together. When temptations surround me during the week, my mind often imagines what it would be like to look at my brothers and sisters in Christ in the eyes and act like I have been living holy during the week. It is unbearable. I also know that when I do fall, they will be there to point me to the nail-scarred hands to find forgiveness. Online worship misses out on this aspect entirely.

2. Undivided Attention

We need to be honest here; we are easily distracted people. Even in church, the enemy tries to pull our thoughts away from our good and gracious King, but, remotely, on a device with so many notifications ready to alert us to other shiny things, it is almost impossible. We also must admit that we rarely take “corporate” prayer seriously when watching online. You may be better at this than I am, but for me, there is no comparison to my level of engagement when I am at church and when I am sitting in front of a live stream.

3. Encouraging Your Pastor and Other Leaders in the Church

Pastors and church leaders need the corporate nature of worship just as much or more than we do. They face the same temptations we face and need us to be there for them just as much as we need them to be there for us. There are also temptations to despair that pastors face that we laypeople may never know because the enemy is after them. Teaching online is a way to keep ministering during a time like this covid-19 pandemic, but it can quickly steal their strength.

I currently teach a class at the church where I am a member, and since the students were not able to meet this week, I sent out a quick video covering the material in the curriculum. I was glad I was able to do it, and several people responded with appreciation, but I assume, if they are like me, they probably did not spend much time with the video. A few may have watched it all the way through, but most of them probably just clicked on it for a few minutes to see what it was all about and then went on to something else. Please, do not get me wrong; I am not blaming them for anything. I know this is how most people responded to the video because that is what I do with many similar videos. We cannot encourage our pastors and leaders virtually like we can when we gather, and the enemy will tempt them to discouragement. Perhaps we should all email our pastors today to tell them we are thankful for them.

4. Bearing the Burdens of Others

When we gather, we are not only nourished by our fellow believers, but we nourish them as well. They have time to let us know about their praises and their pains, and we can speak the word of God to them. They may already know what the scripture says, and they might have read the verses themselves earlier that week, but when they know that someone else understands and can comfort them because they have been through it too, it is priceless. Though this may happen to a small degree in virtual communities, it does not occur as frequently or as profoundly as when it is face to face.

5. Ordinances

I am sure in all the worship services you have watched online; you have never been served communion by your church leaders. Biblically, two of the most important means of grace are word and sacrament, and the latter is always missing online worship. This point alone to should be enough to convince us that an online service is not church.

6. Putting Our Gifts Into Practice

As believers, God has given all of us spiritual gifts, and most of the gifts, like service, encouragement, helps, and showing mercy, among others, do not happen when the people of the church watch the leaders online.

7. A Taste of Heaven

Finally, corporate worship gives us a small glimpse of heaven. In this fallen world, we may only get that glimpse as through a dark glass, but it is a glimpse none-the-less. Hearing the other voices singing with you when you sing praises to your God, reminds you that you are not alone. To borrow an example from the life of Elijah, God has kept thousands of others who have not bowed the knee to Baal. Someday, all believers will gather in Christ’s presence in heaven. Corporate worship should remind us of this, and that is missed when we are unable to come together to praise his name..

I, for one, am thankful for the technology we can use in these trying days, but the time cannot come soon enough for me when we will all come together and enter his courts with praise.

-D. Eaton

Church and Social Distancing: Not An Issue of Faith Over Fear

To say the decision to cancel church or not because of coronavirus is an issue of faith over fear is uncharitable, or at least unthoughtful. Dealing with covid-19 has us in an unprecedented time, and local congregations must decide how to continue to worship, protect its people, and be good citizens as well. Too often, people speak of this issue as a matter of whether the local church has enough faith, or if they will fail to trust God and let fear control them. Though fear may have played a role in some congregations’ decision to cancel its worship service this weekend, to speak of this issue in this way in general, exposes a failure to think deeply about what we are facing.

It would be just as wrong to say that all churches should opt for virtual services as it would be to say that all churches should gather as usual. Each church has a different context. Some are large, and some are small. Some are in rural settings that are naturally socially distanced, and others are in urban areas. Each church must evaluate what to do based on their context. To assume if a church opts not to gather, they are letting fear rule them, not only disparages our brothers and sisters in Christ; it is patently untrue for most congregations.

For those who say altering a church service due to covid-19 is a lack of faith, it is easy to point out their inconsistency by asking them some questions. Did you cancel your greeting time? Did you provide hand sanitizer for those in attendance? Did you ask the sick to stay home? Did you make any changes to protect your people? If they answer “yes” to any of these questions, simply apply their argument to them and ask why they failed to trust God? Of course, we need to do it in love. We must do it in a way that lets them know we care for them. We do not want to be uncharitable ourselves.

It is not a matter of faith over fear; it is a matter of where each congregation needs to draw the line to protect its people and society as a whole. Christ calls us to love our neighbors, and if it is in the best interest of those around us to keep our distance, it would be unloving to meet in person. Each church needs to make the decision that best fits their situation. If anything is an example of Christian liberty, this should be it. Hopefully, with a little more thought, we will stop speaking of this as a matter of faith over fear out of love for our brothers and sisters in Christ. They are only doing what they need to do to be wise stewards of what God has entrusted to them.

-D. Eaton

The Role of “Happiness” in Leaving the Faith

It is common these days to hear people who appeared to walk close to the Lord, announce to the world that they are embracing a sinful lifestyle, or that they have doubted their faith and are moving on to other things. Usually, these announcements involve a discussion of their happiness. They will allude to the fact that they were in a time of sorrow, but now they are happy. What should we think about such an announcement? Should we not be glad they are happy? Do we want them to be depressed? What we should think about when we hear these claims is the deceptive nature of sin.

Scripture says that our enemy prowls around like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour, and much too often, we do not take this warning seriously enough. Now, I do not claim to have insight into the exact reasons why each person would decide to grab on to their lusts and forsake their obedience to the Lord, but there are a few general contours which usually take place in all these cases.

First, it does not happen overnight. Falls of this nature usually progress from what we sometimes consider lesser sins. We are prone to wander, and we must always be on guard. Thoughts enter the mind, and instead of dealing with them, we begin to dwell upon them. Then those thoughts progress into small acts of compromise, and years later, there seems to be no way of reversing the trend. The warning here should be clear, with whatever sin we are dealing, one of the critical battlegrounds, if not the key battleground, is the mind and affections. We must take every thought captive and not wait until they manifest in other ways.

What does this have to do with happiness? Following Jesus disrupts our pleasure in pursuing sin even in our thought life. What we watch on TV, the music we choose to listen to, and what we spend our time looking at online are all free game. For the true Christian, once the Holy Spirit enters our life, a civil war between flesh and spirit begins. This struggle is not easy. For those who merely profess Christianity, it is even worse. Christianity disrupts their desires for sin, but they lack the Holy Spirit’s work in their lives to have any victory or find any joy in it. Talk about a recipe for depression. Though they experience common grace during this time, without a heart changed by the power of God and saving faith in him, failure is inevitable. You cannot subdue the flesh in the power of the flesh.

Second, comes the questioning of God. “Did the Lord really say?” is the question that inevitably comes to mind. During this point, whether consciously or unconsciously, something begins to cause them to put scripture in a place of lesser authority. Unfortunately, what usually takes its place, and causes revision to the clear interpretation of the word of God, is “happiness.” Some make this such a point in their announcements that they will admit that before they walked away, they had to take anti-depressants to cope. However, according to them, the good news is that they are happy now. So why would they bring this up? Though they often do not state it explicitly, it is for the simple reason that they want us to make the same logical conclusion they made. “If I am not happy, something must be wrong with my understanding of God or his word.” Of course, this understanding is typically the biblical understanding Christians have held thought the history of the church.

Third, churches often help lead them down this path. This trend of putting happiness first did not appear out of thin air. It saturates American evangelicalism. All we have to do is listen to Christian music, attend Christian conferences, or even attend the preaching in many churches to hear this message. Many Evangelical teachers and preachers have substituted the true gospel for something a little more palatable to culture, and the shift is subtle. Instead of preaching law and gospel where they tell us the truth that we need to come to Christ because we are sinners deserving of wrath and that the wages of sin is death, what many preach in its place are sorrow and self-esteem. The reason we need to come to Christ, they tell us, is not because we are sinners deserving wrath, but because we feel lonely, things aren’t going right in our life, and because we are unsatisfied at the moment. Jesus is no longer the mediator; he is our therapist. Jesus did not come to save us from our sin and guilt; he came to save us from our sadness. The problem with this is evident when we ask, what happens when a “Christian” becomes unhappy, lonely, or unsatisfied? What is the problem now? They already have Jesus. The issue must be with the way we interpret Jesus. And so it goes.

The problem is that striving against sin, whether in ourselves or culture, is never comfortable or pleasant. Striving against sin can even make us lonely, because some people will reject us for it, and we may also face times of heaviness and great sorrow because of it too.

The book of Hebrews makes this point; it encourages us to press on in our fight against sin. It reminds us that we “have not resisted to bloodshed striving against sin” (Heb. 12:4). The point of this verse is, we must strive against sin even if it gets us killed, which is certainly not a “happy” experience.

Here is what I want to say to those who have given in to their lusts to find “happiness.” Yes, it is hard struggling against sinful desires that war against your soul. It may cause you unhappiness for a time, but you have not yet resisted to bloodshed. It would be better to enter the kingdom of heaven after a long and unpleasant fight than to go to hell on beds of ease. Come home! Repent, find forgiveness in Jesus, and start fighting against sin again, for any temporary happiness you think you now experience will be short-lived. Even though living a life battling with sin may be tough, it cannot be compared to the glory that awaits us in heaven with our Savior.

Sin is deceptive and always looks good at first, but it always promises more than it can deliver. In the end, when you walk away, what you are gaining is the paltry tin of worldly pleasures, and you are giving away the glory of possessing the pearl of great price, Jesus Christ. Even in our darkest nights, he has promised to be with us in the dungeon. He is our light in the darkness, our food when we are hungry, the living water when we are thirsty, and, most importantly, our forgiveness for our sins. Once we understand our sin and forgiveness, we know that anything short of hell is mercy, and, at that moment, we find joy and realize that he does turn our mourning into dancing. In the end, Jesus is our joy, but he will never be that if we do not understand our sin is the real reason we need him, not our sadness. It is here that we begin to glorify God and enjoy him forever.

For anyone who claims to be a Christian but has drifted into sin, I pray, if you will not repent now, that you are a true Christian who will be brought back by the chastening hand of the Lord (Heb. 12:11). The unfortunate thing for many who find themselves in this situation is that they never come back because they are not his, and scripture is clear:

If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. -Hebrews 12:8

The only reason why someone would ultimately and finally fall away from the faith is an unregenerate heart. May we all be aware of the roaring lion and his tactics. May we guard our hearts diligently even when it is painful. I, for one, will not be glad when someone who professed Christ claims to find happiness in his or her sinful lifestyle. Instead, I will weep for them to come home.

-D. Eaton

The Problem of Spiritual Pride and Self-Admiration

Among the many general causes of decline in grace, we may assign a principal place to spiritual pride and self-admiration. If our attainments in knowledge and giftedness, and even in grace, seduce us into a good opinion of ourselves, as if we were wise and good, we are already ensnared, in danger of falling every step we take, of mistaking the right path, and proceeding from bad to worse, without a power of correcting or even of discovering our deviations! That is, unless and until the Lord mercifully interposes, by restoring us to a spirit of humility, and dependence upon Himself. For God, who gives more grace to the humble, resists the proud! He beholds them with abhorrence, in proportion to the degree in which they admire themselves! It is the invariable law of His kingdom, that everyone who exalts himself—shall be abased!

True Christians, through the remaining evil of their hearts, and the subtle temptations of their enemy, are liable, not only to the workings of that pride which is common to our fallen nature, but to a certain kind of pride, which, though the most absurd and intolerable in any person, can only be found among those who make profession of the gospel. We have nothing but what we have received, and therefore to be proud of our titles, wealth, knowledge, success, or any temporal advantages by which the providence of God has distinguished us, is downright sinful! For those who confess themselves to be ‘sinners’, and therefore deserving of nothing but misery and wrath, to be proud of those peculiar blessings which are derived from the gospel of God’s grace, is a wickedness of which even the demons are not capable of!

The apostle Paul was so aware of his danger of being exalted above measure, through the abundant revelations and peculiar favors which the Lord had afforded him, that he says, “There was given me a messenger of Satan to buffet me.” He speaks of this sharp trial as a great mercy, because he saw that it was necessary, and designed to keep him humble and attentive to his own weakness.

Ministers who are honored with singular abilities and success, have great need of watchfulness and prayer on this account! Simple-hearted hearers are apt to admire their favorite preacher, taking it for granted that he is deeply affected himself with the truths, which, with so much apparent liberty and power, he proposes to them. While, perhaps, the poor worm is secretly indulging self-applause, and pleasing himself with the numbers and attention of those who hang upon his words!

Perhaps such thoughts will occasionally rise in the minds of the best ministers; but, if they are allowed, if they become habitual, and enter strongly into the idea he forms of his own importance; and if, while he professes to preach Jesus Christ, he is preaching himself, and seeking his own glory, he is guilty of high treason against the Majesty of Him in whose name he speaks! And sooner or later, the effects of his pride will be visible and noticed. Doctrinal errors, gross misconduct, an abatement of zeal, of gifts, of influence, are evils, always to be dreaded, when spiritual pride has gained an ascendancy, whether in public or in private life.

For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it why do you boast as though you did not? 1 Corinthians 4:7

-John Newton

Do Not Misjudge a Preacher

It is sad to see how many preachers in our days make it their business to enrich men’s heads with lofty, empty, airy notions, instead of enriching their souls with holy truths.

Fix yourself under that man’s ministry who makes it his business, his work, to enrich the soul, to win the soul, and to build up the soul; not to tickle the ear, or please the fancy. This age is full of such light, vain souls–who dislike everything but what is empty and airy.

Do not judge a minister:
by his voice, nor
by the multitude who follow him, nor
by his affected tone, nor
by his rhetoric and flashes of wit;
but by the holiness, heavenliness, and spiritualness of his teaching!
Many ministers are like empty orators, who have a flood of words, but a drop of matter!

Some preachers affect rhetorical strains; they seek abstrusities and love to hover and soar aloft in dark and cloudy expressions, and so shoot their arrows over their hearers’ heads, instead of bettering their hearers’ hearts.

Mirthful things in a sermon are only for men to gaze upon and admire.

He is the best preacher, not who tickles the ear–but who breaks the heart!

“My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power!” 1 Corinthians 2:4-5

-Thomas Brooks

Great Employees are Willing to Lose Their Jobs

What does this have to do with following Jesus? There is a parallel to this principle in the life of the local church.

If you are not willing to lose your job, you are not as good of an employee as you could be. If you are a leader in your organization and you are unwilling make decisions that could place your position in jeopardy, you will make decisions that are detrimental to your institution. I am not talking about being reckless or being manipulative by repeatedly threatening to leave. Those are major shortcomings as well. However, one of the biggest flaws of many workers is that they are more concerned about self-preservation and personal peace when it comes to their employment than what is best for the organization.

When the leaders of an organization begin to protect their positions, the organization has started down the path of a slow death. Self-preservation and personal comfort is where we all tend to begin our careers. Entry level employees usually only have one goal; make the work as easy as possible, get a paycheck, and get out of there, but as we grow, we should move beyond that to become a more responsible member of the organization. We should take ownership to contribute and take responsibility when the institution falters. However, there seems to be only a limited number of people that are able to work in a way that is not driven by self-interest.

Employees who are truly able to transform an organization have come to see the bigger picture, and they understand that the goals of the organization are more important than personal survival, ego, and securing the lightest workload possible. They recognize that they are part of something bigger than themselves. They become willing to take risks that hazard their own employment and personal peace to accomplish their goals. This does not mean that employee satisfaction is not part of the equation, but this is not a contradiction if understood correctly. A place of employment that abuses its employees is setting itself up for failure as well, and a worker that makes great decisions in that area might have to put themselves at risk to protect their colleagues.

Workers like this are often hard to understand because their actions are unconventional. They operate from a moral system rather than a political one. They will often push for change that most people in the organization do not think is necessary because things are working fine, and they do not want the risk or the extra work. The transformational employee, on the other hand, looks beyond those challenges to the greater good. In doing this, they are willing to put in the needed labor, take the heat, and pay the political costs. The bottom line is this, the people who are willing to lose their jobs for the sake of the success of the organization are usually the most valuable members of that institution.

What does this have to do with following Jesus? Besides the fact, as Christians, we should strive to be the best employees we can be, there is a parallel to this principle in the life of the local church. Many local churches, big and small, often exist for self-preservation rather than the propagation of the gospel. They make decisions based on self-interest and personal gratification rather than the glory of God.

It seems that the chief end of many local churches is to exist. Maintaining the building, meeting budgets, and preserving attendance by trying to make sure the congregants have a pleasant experience so they will not leave are what drives the decisions of many church leaders. There is nothing wrong with working for these goals. They are fine as long as those aims do not become more important than the gospel and obeying the word of God.

Buildings, budgets, and pleasant experiences can all play a part in the life of a healthy church, but they are not our main objective as Christians. We are involved in the greatest calling ever; knowing God and seeking his glory. A church that will do this the best is the one that is willing to lose all of these trappings if necessary. We need to look past convention to what is truly essential for success in the kingdom of God.

Rarely is a mega-church, or even a quaint little chapel, able show the power of the gospel to the world like a church banded together by the word of God while being willing to face cultural criticism and the persecution from the world. This was clearly seen in the early church. There is no local congregation that will have a lasting impact for the Kingdom of God that is unwilling to be uncomfortable. Kingdom work is neither glamorous or comfortable. It involves being engaged in the difficult aspects of this world; ministering to the orphan, the widow, and the addict for example.

We are often too quick to bow to the pressure of culture in order to protect ourselves, and we are regularly unwilling to do any difficult work. When you put that in contrast with the fact that the Lord Jesus called us to be willing to die for the faith if necessary, we begin to see just how much self-interest and self-preservation has formed our gatherings.

It is easy to shake our heads at the leaders in churches like these, but if we are congregants who desire a nice experience where nothing is expected of us, we are as much a part of the problem as anyone. We are servants of Christ just as much as the leaders are. Ask yourself, when a fellow believer in your church asks you to do something like helping a shut-in, do you grumble and complain internally? Often, the thought of having to attending a prayer meeting is enough to make a church member recoil in disgust. Please know, if that is us, self-interest has become our god. We are contributing to the slow death of not only our own souls but also of our local church.

May your buildings be beautiful, may your budget be overflowing, and may your gatherings be pleasant, and may you be willing to sacrifice it all for the glory of God if necessary.

If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. – Jesus (Luke 9:23)

-D. Eaton

Growing the Church in the Power of the Flesh

It is amazing the amount of church growth that can be accomplished in the power of the flesh. Though there are significant problems in the church growth movement, we should all be for church growth. In fact, it seems almost impossible for a church to be fulfilling the great commission without some kind of growth taking place. We are to go out and make disciples. When they come in, they too are to grow to the place where they go out and make more disciples.

Many times, however, church growth seems to come down to thoughts like this, “If we get this program or attraction going, more people will show up,” and sometimes this is true, but have we traded the spirit of God for business acumen? Is our church only growing because we have grown skilled in organizational leadership and event promotion? Don’t get me wrong, those things are not necessarily antithetical to the ways of God. God has not called us to be inept in the ways of business and leadership. A godly elder should have knowledge in these things, but let’s be clear, a church can grow in numbers without the Spirit of God moving. To prove this, all you have to do is look at a few well attended liberal churches that have abandoned the faith.

The idea of common grace and saving grace applies not only to individuals but churches also. A church can grow in number and wealth if it has the right marketing plan, along with a number of other useful strategies, but this does not necessarily mean anything spiritual is happening there.

A church where the congregants live worldly lives is not really growing, even if it is growing in size on a regular basis. We cannot call it church growth when the majority of a local church is involved in much of the same worldly lifestyle as the rest of society. If we, as congregants, spend our week chasing after self-glory, personal peace, and affluence, and we let the Word of God sit unread while we neglect our prayer life, it does not matter how big our church is.

This also seems to be a problem in many small non-growing churches as well. The people come on Sunday and see low attendance and wonder why the pastor isn’t bringing in more people with his sermons. Yet there is no real desire for personal holiness in their lives. After they spend the entire week indifferent to God and godliness, they attend church and expect something to happen. However, when we spend a good portion of our time doing things God hates, and not doing the things He loves, we shouldn’t expect much to happen when we attend church. The congregants often have more influence on the spiritual state of a congregation than the pastor. This can be seen every time a Godly preacher is driven away.

True church growth will not occur when there is no desire for personal holiness in the lives of its people. On the contrary, when there is a hunger for righteousness, and progress is being made in personal holiness, church growth has already begun. We do not need more programs to increase the number of people who attend and live worldly lives. We need individuals in the church to grow in Godliness, and as this happens, we will not need programs to bolster attendance. The church will grow because the people will be evangelizing, and more programs will be developed to accompany the need for the people who are coming in desiring to know Christ and be more like Him.

I have many concern about the state of the church growth movement, but this post was not aimed directly at it. It was against the idea that personal holiness can be neglected, while church growth is to be expected, and this can happen in churches with big marketing plans, and those without them.

As we grow to be more like Christ
And by the world, we are less enticed,
In our hearts, God’s Spirit’s moving,
Then of our growth, He is approving.

D. Eaton

Church Entertainment as a Substitute for God

Perhaps we rely on entertainment in the church to keep things interesting because we do not rely enough on God to keep our gatherings compelling. Entertainment is easy compared to waiting on God because waiting on God requires that we come to church with hearts prepared, undistracted by the world, and with a desire to commune with God corporately.

Though it is true that God can and does move in places where entertainment happens, have we begun to rely on artificial hype to fill the void when He is missing? Has entertainment become a cover for our spiritual emptiness?

The thing about amusement is that it is easy to manufacture. Think of all the amazing secular productions that have grabbed your attention and not let you go. They were produced without long hours in prayer seeking the Lord, and the creators created them without hearts aflame with the holiness of God. Do not get me wrong. It was hard work, but it took no spiritual effort. It may be an amazing testament to the natural man made in the image of God, but that is not what the church is to represent. The world and the people of God can find that anywhere.

If the lights, recording quality praise bands, drama teams, and preachers with magnetic personalities were all gone, would we be close enough to God to see him move? Would we still gather?

I do not have the answers to all these questions because I do not know the context of your church. Your church may not have any of these trappings and still be far from God. Nor am I saying that God will not use anything that looks like entertainment. I pray your church leaders have amazing musical skill and that the Lord has gifted pastor with oratory ability, but I also pray, when you gather together what truly impresses your heart is much more than those things. If not, we might as well go to a movie or a theater performance.

Maybe if we rely a little less on these things in our services, we will rely a little more on God. If we do that and our gatherings become dull, maybe we should examine our hearts, get down on our knees, and ask the Lord to move and sanctify us. Though it may not be appealing to the world, that would be a corporate gathering worth attending.

-D. Eaton