With the continued spread of Covid-19, people spend more time online than ever before. It effects us all and grinds down on our faith as we can't meet face to face and can't hold each other for comfort. So a little to help in these regular articles here. We pray they help!
Well, thanks be to my heavenly Father, I have made it to another New Year. In fact, today is the second day of 2019. This year marks 55 years since I preached, or tried to preach, my first sermon back in 1964. (Yes, I’m still trying). During these years I have witnessed more challenges and changes, in and out of the church, than I care to remember. Many of these challenges and changes have been viewed from afar or learned about in papers, books, or seminars.
The avalanche started with the Supreme Court’s ruling on legalizing abortion, then prayer and Bible readings were removed from public schools and places. In the past twenty years, the avalanche has turned into a Tsunami. Same-sex marriages, transgender identity, sexual immorality of every description, from bestiality to acceptable pedophile, the escalation of killing babies in the womb, etc.
On the back jacket of Leonard Sweet’s 1999 book SoulTsunami, there is an eye-opening statement: Sweeping in from the cultural sea, a mountainous wave of change threatens to wash the church away. It’s a postmodern flood of mind-boggling techno-culture, problems your grandparents couldn’t have imagined, and religious pluralism that embraces everything except spiritual absolutes. Leonard Sweet calls it ‘SoulTsunami(sohl-Isoo-NAH-mee), and there’s no outrunning it. We Christians can only choose one of three ways to respond to it. We can deny its existence—and drown. We can fight it—and lose. Or we can recognize the unprecedented opportunities it presents—and chart a course across the waters toward reformation” (Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Mich.). NOTE: I would change reformation to restoration.
While we are surprised at these evident signs of the USA descending into a modern Sodom and Gomorra pit, the Bible makes it clear that “all have sinned” and the “whole world lies in darkness.” Years ago I heard a preacher say, “If God doesn’t bring judgment on America, He will have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorra.”
The pace of decline in society is more and more being matched by the church. It is common news today to be reminded that overall, across the brotherhood, the church is in a decline in conversions, membership attendance, participation in programs, and positive financial support be every member. In many congregations, the majority of members have voted, by their absence, that Bible classes, Sunday evening and Wednesday night services are no longer needed. The litmus test for faithfulness is attendance at one service on Sunday morning.
In recent weeks I have been caught in a “crossfire” relative to the challenge the church is facing as we move into 2019. A Christian couple who was visiting our services to determine if they would place their membership with us, said in a discussion, “We will be placing our membership here because we like and believe in old school preaching.” Not soon after that, I was visiting with a Christian family who had visited a few times but didn’t seem to be interested in placing membership. The brother said, “Brother Turner, no disrespect to you or the congregation but we are not looking for old school preaching or a traditional congregation.”
More and more we are hearing the words “old school” being used in various segments of society. Contrary to the thinking of some the phrase “old school” wasn’t launched into our popular word usage back in 2003 from the movie “Old School.” According to Merriam-Webster the words first occurred back in 1749. According to Webster, the term “Old School” is an application of an earlier way or style of doing things common to the past…using or supporting traditional practice. It has evolved into an expression of pride when a person states he is doing something because it was the way it was done in the past, which they believe it was better back then. Criminals use it to brag about they are like the “old mob members” in the past.
While most sins have been given new names, titles, and authority; the practice didn’t originate in the 20th or 21st Centuries. Ironically, God’s people have been tempted many times and sadly succumbed to departing from the old school of what God demanded. Here are some examples:
“That this is a rebellious people lying children, children who will not hear the law of the Lord; who say to the seers, ‘Do not see,’ and to the prophets, ‘Do not prophesy to us right things; speak to us smooth things, prophesy deceit. Get out of the way, turn aside from the path, cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us” (Isaiah 30:9-11).
“Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron…” (1 Timothy 4:1-3).
“Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables” (2 Timothy 4:1-4). Paul makes it clear to Timothy that his mission as an evangelist was to “preach the word.” Not about, around, under, or related to the word—THE WORD.
Regardless of the time periods, we examined there were always those people who desired to depart from the “old school” approach of following the Scriptures; getting away from a “Thus saith the Lord.”
In an out of print book, The Empty Pulpit, by Clyde Reid, I used to use as one of my textbooks in teaching Homiletics, the author discusses seven criticism (Pages 25-32) against preaching back in 1967 (Harper & Row, Publishers, New York, N.Y.):
Charge # 1: Preachers tend to use complex, archaic language which the average person does not understand.
Charge # 2: Most sermons today are boring, dull, and uninteresting.
Charge # 3: Most preaching today is irrelevant.
Charge # 4: Preaching today is not courageous preaching.
Charge # 5: Preaching does not communicate.
Charge # 6: Preaching does not lead to changes in people.
Charge # 7: Preaching has been overemphasized.
It is obvious that many of Reid’s observations are truer today than they were back when he wrote them. Every preacher would do himself a favor if he’d analyze these 7 charges relative to his own preaching. Likewise, those who listen to sermons week after week need to study these charges. Together, preacher and hearers, they could take preaching in 2019 to the level God intends.
The preacher who seriously faces the challenge of preaching the word today realizes he is being compared to TV stars such as Joel Osteen, Benny Hinn, Creflo Dollar, etc. No one knows how many cable channels are filling homes and phones with sermons with an emphasis on feel-good, health, wealth, and prosperity messages. The internet is overflowing with offers from “successful” preachers and ministries offering their quick shortcuts to growing a congregation. The key word today is ENTERTAINMENT. We are not without our pitches, gimmicks, and sure-fire approaches to saving the world and growing the church. Somehow along the way, some seem to have lost the difference between communication styles and techniques and the correct contextual interpretation of a Scripture.
Pop psychological and current events are being substituted for the drawing power of Christ and the cross (John 12:32) and the power of the Gospel (Romans 1:14-16). When we think we can do a better job in presenting the Gospel in rambling books, personal testimonies, lengthy blogs, and videos than Peter did in his less than a 400-word sermon on the day of Pentecost, something may be wrong.
Perhaps we’ve had enough finesse and humor in the pulpit and need more fire in our bones (Jeremiah 20:8, 9), and boldness (Acts 4:11-13) to dare and speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). We need to get to the power point of the Word, not creativity on a screen.
Jesus, Peter, and Paul are our models for returning to the old school way of preaching. And the prophets can teach us something too.
If a preacher was a trial being charged with being an old-school preacher would there be enough evidence to convict him? If you are a preacher, how about YOU? ME?
We’ve all heard or no first hand a story about a successful business which failed after it was passed on from the original founder and owner to a family member; a son or daughter. It is estimated that as many as 75% of businesses passed on to the second generations fail.
I once heard a motivational speaker tell the story of a father who owned a chain of hotdog carts in a major city, perhaps New York. The father made a good living for his family; even buying luxuries. He saved enough to send his son to an Ivy League university, where he majored in business with an emphasis in marketing
The father was looking forward to retiring and turning his business over to his son, which he did. The son created an elaborate business plan like he had been taught in college, a flow chart, and a marketing plan to expand the hot dog cart business into fast food restaurants. One of the first thing the son did was change the price on the basic hot dog, doubling the price from $1 to $2. The father tried to explain why that would be a bad move. The son insisted; after all, he had inherited the business. Within a year the business failed.
Business textbooks, seminars, workshops, etc. are filled with stories like this one about the successes and failures of second, third, etc. generation owners who failed, for various reasons, to keep the doors open and the business thriving.
This little story is the introduction to our Father’s business. When Jesus was 12-years-old, He already had His eye on His Father’s business. No, more than His eyes, He already had made a commitment to His Father’s business. When I was 12, I had my eyes on “monkey business.” How about you?
Jesus had traveled to Jerusalem with His family to keep the Feast of the Passover. During the week, in the midst of enormous crowds, Jesus’ earthly parents, Joseph and Mary realized He was missing (Luke 2:41-44). After a frantic search, they finally found Him in the temple with a group of teachers, listening and asking questions (Luke 2:46, 47). Unusual behavior then and now!
“So when they saw Him, they were amazed; and his mother said to Him, ‘Son, why have You done this to us? Look, your father and I have sought You anxiously. And He said to them, ‘Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about MY FATHER’S BUSINESS?’” (Luke 2:48, 49).
As Jesus pursued His Father’s business He developed character, stature, and acceptance by others (Luke 2:52). How about us, Christians in the 21st Century? How are we managing our Father’s business?
TODAY, WHAT IS OUR FATHER’S BUSINESS?
As a quick reminder, we are adopted children into the spiritual family; God is our Father, Jesus is our brother, and the Holy Spirit is our Helper. We know this because the Bible tells us so.
Today, what is our Father’s business? The same as it was when Jesus was 12. Therefore, we can learn and participate in the Father’s business by imitating our “older brother,” Jesus Christ. Here are some of the many objectives of our Father’s business as taught by His “Only begotten son.”
First, when Jesus was born and when He was given a name, the Father’s business was implied: “And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).
Second, in His preaching and teaching Jesus referred to the business of bringing salvation to the lost: “And Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham; for the Son of Man has come to SEEK AND SAVE THE LOST’” (Luke 19:9, 10).
Third, Jesus made it clear that His Father’s business was to bring about peace, harmony, and love between His followers, as well as all people. (Read John 15:9-17).
Fourth, the Father’s business is to show a lost and sinful world how much God loves them: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
Fifth, Jesus demonstrated that the Father’s business included associating with outcast and sinners: “Then all the tax collectors and the sinners drew near to Him to hear Him. And the Pharisees and scribes complained, saying, ‘This man receives sinners and eats with them’” (Luke 15:1,2).
Sixth, Jesus made it clear that the Father’s business included preaching in various towns: “But He said to them, ‘Let us go into the next towns that I may preach there also, because for this purpose I have come forth’” (Mark 1:38).
Seventh, Jesus demonstrated that the Father’s business included attending social events, a wedding (John 2:1-12); a funeral (John 11:17-37); and the home of a sick person (Mark 2:1-12).
Eighth, Jesus made it clear that involved in the Father’s business was giving credit to the Father for his power, trust, and assignment: “I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and my judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me” (John 5:30).
Ninth, time after time in the Gospels we see Jesus demonstrating that the Father’s business included seasons, times, and places of prayer. He specifically taught us to pray to the Father: “Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:9, 10).
Tenth, Jesus taught that included in the Father’s business was the command to forgive those who sin against you: “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:14, 15).
These 10 observations about the Father’s business, as exemplified in the life and teachings of Jesus, are only a few compared to all the Gospels and Epistles reveal about Jesus pursuing the Father’s business?
Today, even a casual look around will reveal that some congregations, as well as individual Christians, are no longer faithful to the Father’s business; His model in the Scriptures is ignored.
How are you pursuing our Father’s business? What are you intentionally doing today in working in our Father’s business? What are you presently doing to prepare yourself to be a better business partner with our heavenly Father? The world is lost, the church needs edifying, and the demand for leadership has never been greater. All of these, and more, are part of the Father’s business. Remember, He is counting on YOU!
HOW COMMITTED ARE YOU TO THE FAMILY BUSINESS? What plans are you presently pursuing to increase the expansion of His business? Use the above 10 as a work sheet. I encourage you to expand this study.
Every Sunday, 52 each year, somewhere in the country there is a challenge occurring between two sports team; auto racing teams, golf matches, track and field teams, etc. Crowds fill stands to witness these events, paying large sums of money to attend. Many of these are televised and broadcast on the radio; sponsors spend millions to support these events were challenges are occurring and winners are idolized. Americans love challenges!
I believe, after participating in it for over 50 years, there is a challenge occurring in the local congregations across the nation. It is the challenge between the pulpit and pew There is an ongoing dynamic week after week which is rarely, if ever, recognized by those participating in the challenge: the preacher in the pulpit and Christians in the pews.
WHAT THE PULPIT IS TRYING TO DO
Speaking on behalf of the pulpit I believe the preacher is trying to do one or more of the following things in his sermon, which may create a clash with those in the pews:
WHAT THE PEW IS TRYING TO DO
Turning our attention to the pew, where, I, too, have spent considerable time over the years listening to the pulpit, here are some of the positive and negative things the pew is trying to do:
When we place these ten attitudes and practices of the pew beside what the pulpit is trying to accomplish, it’s easy to see why and how there is a challenge every Sunday. But there is another facet related to the clash between pulpit and pew.
THE PHYSICAL ISSUES
The pulpit and pew both occupy a place in a physical structure. It is in this building both have agreed to share in the preaching event. Time has been allotted for the coming together to study God’s word in what is traditionally called “a sermon.”
The challenges faced by the pulpit and pew are influenced by factors in the physical structure. Here are some of those issues:
PREPARING TO FACE AND OVERCOME THE CHALLENGES
The Sunday challenge between pulpit and pew must not be taken lightly. We must keep in mind that Satan, “as a roaring lion,” (1 Peter 5:8) is seeking to devour and steal the word out of hearts (Luke 8:12), by attending every preaching event and creating clashes between the pulpit and pew.
Now that we are in the aware zone relative to the challenge between the pulpit and pew, we can do something intentionally about reducing it as much as possible. Here are a few suggestions:
Let’s think about how wonderful and powerful it is when both pulpit and pew are both on the same page. Borrowing from David, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1).How beautiful it is when both pulpit and pew are on the same pages during the Sunday assemblies.
Most Americans have heard and used this recognizable logo: TGIF—which stands for Thank God It’s Friday. A national restaurant chain is named TGIF “Fridays.” I once read this statement by an unknown person, “No one has ever said TGIM, Thank God It’s Monday.”
Monday has been given a bad rap by society in general. Why? One reason is it puts a stop to a weekend, usually Saturday and Sunday, of leisure, entertainment pursuits, and other non-work activities. In 1956 a popular song by Fats Domino hit the charts, and is still heard today, with this verse:
Blue Monday, how
I hate blue Monday,
Got to work like
A slave all day.
A number of books have been published with an emphasis on Monday:
I have some suggestions for how Christians can reframe Monday and turn it into a really meaningful day by making an application of this Scripture, “This is the day the Lord has made, Let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24). Monday is the day!
We all know that Monday follows Sunday. Sunday is a day set aside by Christians to do a number of things which feed their souls, minister to others, and worship God. Some have gone so far as to refer to Sunday as “the Sabbath,” which it isn’t because the Sabbath is Saturday, the worship day set aside by the Jewish people.
Two to three hours are set aside on Sunday where Christians meet in a building to “encourage, edify, and equip one another to love and good works” (Cf. Hebrews 10:24, 25; Ephesians 4:11-17). These three hours typically involve several expression and exercises:
“Then comes Monday.” Yes, Monday still follows Sunday. It hasn’t been cancelled.
Here’s how Sunday relates to making Monday not a day where it may be said, “We interrupt your happiness to bring you Monday.” It is on Sunday where we fill our spiritual cups and make our intentional plans to DO and BE what we learned beginning on Monday. It is on Monday that we start the long journey to a resting place on Wednesday night, and on to Sunday where we once again renew and refill our spiritual reservoirs.
It is on Monday that we begin to practice what we heard, believed, and committed to practice on Sunday, the day before. I hate to inject a sad reality. Some Christians have no plans to intentionally DO and BE what they heard on Sunday. They wander from Monday to Saturday night, jump out of bed on Sunday morning to “do their duty” once again.
Think about this amazing truth. If a Christian only attends Sunday morning worship services and hears only one sermon each week, that would be 52 sermons a year. Now imagine he DOES one intentional thing he heard in the sermon during the rest of the week (Monday through Saturday), that would be 52 spiritual practices and applications a year. Now add a second lesson from Bible class and one Sunday evening that would be 104 more, thus a total of 156 applications a year. What would a congregation look like where “being DOERS of the word and not HEARERS only” (James 1:21-15) being practices, starting Monday.
Yes, Monday is coming!
Here are a few suggestions for using the power of Monday:
QUESTION: What are you presently doing that you intentionally planned to do based on the last sermon or Bible lesson you heard? How about a sermon or lesson you heard a week before last, etc.? Sadly, some preachers and teachers can’t remember what they preached or taught two or three weeks ago.
Monday is coming! Why not use it to become A DOER OF THE WORD for the rest of the week? And yes, you can start on SUNDAY NIGHT.
If you are interested in pursuing the ideas contained in this brief article you will benefit from reading two of my book related to this subject: Beyond Sunday and Spiritual Growth Journal, both from amazon.com
The Bible Class teacher went around the room asking each student if he or she said their prayers each day. All said yes but little Johnny. When asked why he didn’t say his prayers every day, he replied, “Some days I don’t need anything.”
We smile at Johnny’s answer but, sadly, many Christians are like Johnny. Some days we don’t need anything or think we don’t have any needs; therefore, we don’t pray. Prayer is our first aid kit to be used only in an emergency. The heavenly Father is on duty 24-7 in the emergency room waiting for us to call.
When we venturing into thinking about “Restoring New Testament Christianity,” I believe restoring the praying habits we see in those first-century congregations, as a whole, is being neglected. When I research and wrote my book “Don’t Stop Prayer; The Answer is Coming,” I discovered the average congregation prayed on an average of 15 minutes each week. This included opening and closing prayers in worship services, prayers for the Lord’s Supper, prayers in adult Bible classes, etc.
I deeply believe that we need, as the army of Christ, to raise up prayer warriors. Yes, I know the phrase “prayer warrior” is not found in the Scripture but the concept is. The Bible affirms that every Christian is a “soldier of Christ”: “You, therefore, must endure hardship as a good SOLDIER of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in WARFARE entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who ENLISTED him as a SOLDIER” (2 Timothy 2:3, 4).
In his letter to the Ephesians, the apostle Paul wrote them a graphic description relative to the need to be prepared to continually do spiritual warfare. He starts by identifying why they need to be prepared for spiritual battle: “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against SPIRITUAL hosts in the HEAVENLY places” (Ephesians 6:11,12).
After describing the components of the armor we must wear in order to defeat the devil, Paul zeroes in on PRAYER: “[P]raying ALWAYS with all power and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints” (Ephesians 6:18). This sounds like we ought to pray more than 15 minutes a week as a congregation and especially in our personal and private prayers. In fact, Paul went so far as to command that we pray continually: “Rejoice always, pray CONTINUALLY, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s WILL for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
PRAYER WARRIORS, ARISE
We sing this amazing and challenging hymn but are we really applying it to our prayer life?
Soldiers of Christ, Arise
Soldiers of Christ arise…and put your armor on,
Strong in the strength with God supplies
Strong in the strength with God supplies,
Thro’ His beloved Son.
As we read in Ephesians 6:10-18, part of the strength God supplies come because of our continual prayer to Him.
While EVERY Christian is a prayer warrior, just as every soldier in the Army is a warrior with different ranks, tenure, and skills, so it is with spiritual prayer warriors. Because of time, study, commitment, and practice some prayer warriors are more engaged in continual prayer in deeper and more diligent petitions to the heavenly Father.
The task of the prayer warrior is an awesome one. Paul commands that “requests, prayers, intercession, and thanksgiving be made for EVERYONE” (1 Timothy 2:1). There is no indication that any Christian is exempt from this command.
HOW TO BE A PRAYER WARRIOR
There are several specific beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors which will assist you in becoming a more dynamic and victorious prayer warrior.
“Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). “I desire that men in every place should pray” (1 Timothy 2:8).
The key to being a committed and successful prayer warrior, in a group or individually, is the development of personal prayer habits. What are your prayer habits in the following times, places and situations? Using A-B-C-D-F as a scale, grade yourself in the following areas:
1.___In a restaurant
2.___At family meals
3.___In the work-place cafeteria
4.___Before an automobile or plane trip
5.___Before going to bed
6.___When you get up in the morning
7.___Before you make a large purchase
8.___Before every important decision
9.___Before going to an assembly of the congregation
10.___Silently while in Bible class
11.___For your spouse every day
12.___For your family/children every day
13.___For an enemy or difficult person
14.___For your neighbors
15.___For the sick, shut-ins, and needy
16.___For church leaders
17.___For wisdom and understanding
18.___For forgiveness of specific faults and sins
19.___For spiritual boldness
20.___For lost persons by name
21.___For political leaders
22.___For your personal health and discipline issues
23.___For being more involved in ministry, etc.
24.___For local and global mission efforts to share the Gospel.
25.___For specific congregational goals, stewardship needs, and outreach.
What’s Your Grade? Each letter is worth the following points:
GRADING SCALE: A—4 points B—3 points C—2 points D—1 point F—0 points
Add the points:
If you are interested in doing a deeper study of prayer I recommend my book Don’t Stop Praying; The Answer Is Coming. If you would like to have a daily prayer guide I recommend my book One Year Daily Prayer Schedule (Both may be ordered from amazon.com).