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  J.J. Turner. Ph.D. ©   Back on the 22nd of March, 2015. USA TODAY ran an article titled, “Has The Sun Set On Sunday School? Basically, the answer was yes but there were also some bright spots in some churches. I typed in this search question on Google: “Why Sunday School Is Failing?” and 148,000,000 responses came up. Evidently, there is a lot of interested in the state of Sunday School. How is your interest?      Some call it Sunday School, some refer to it as Bible classes or Bible study. Regardless of what name, if any at all, the reference is usually to the one-hour in which members assemble in a classroom setting to study the Bible before the worship hour. It is a period where an organized effort is made to instruct, learn, fellowship, and apply the Bible. Some congregations use it to evangelize.      Years ago the number in Bible class attendance varied little from the number in the worship assembly. That has changed in most congregations, regardless of size or location. For years the attendance spiral was been on a declining trend. Recent research has revealed that the difference between Bible class attendance and worship is from 35 to 45 percent; and in some even 50%. Some congregations with once thriving attendance in youth Bible classes are now without or with only a few in attendance. Vacation Bible School used to be a major event in summer months is now only a memory in the minds of those of us who attended. What is causing this downward spiral?      How about the congregation where you worship and serve the Lord? What, if any, is the difference in Bible class attendance and Sunday morning worship?______% If there is a percentage difference? Do you know why? Most…

  • I have spent years of my tenure as a preacher teaching preachers, training preachers, writing about preaching and preaching. All of my 53 years as a preacher I have heard over and over the statement that “We have a preacher shortage.” A once popular statement related to this statement was “For every new preacher who begins preaching there are two or three who are leaving.” Through the years there have been numerous responses with efforts to curb or eliminate the preacher shortage. These have included: Schools of Evangelist,   Schools of Preaching, Colleges with Bible Departments, Schools of Biblical Studies, Bible…

  • Growing up in a small village, population 200-plus, it was easy to recognize and know your neighbor. I remember one family had a couple of boys who were known to be “rough and rowdy”; another family was referred to as the “gossips”; another as the “holy rollers”; one was called “those rednecks”; another had the reputation of being “stand-off-ish,” etc. Because of man’s carnal nature the practice of giving families “nicknames”; seems to be a popular practice. Whether positive or negative, right or wrong, it creates a reputation.      Think of the families you know or have known and ask…

  • Unless one has been exiled on Mars or has just awakened from a Rip Van Winkle sleep, he realizes the family in our country is in deep trouble and its growing deeper. Yes, and even families which claim to be Christians and “churchgoers.” One teenager said, “I’m sitting on the edge of the pew waiting to graduate from high school, reach my 18th birthday, and quit this forced on me church going.” Surveys and polls continually reveal that we, across all religious lines, lose approximately 85 percent of our members between 18 to 25. We have watched the divorce rate…

  • Some of us remember these statements: “The family that prays together stays together.” “The family is the backbone of the nation.” “The community is a reflection of the families who live in them.” When you hear the word FAMILY what comes to mind? Sadly, when some hear family in cause’s painful memories; others are filled with happy memories. From the first family—Adam and Eve—until the most recent family, families have faced challenges. Some families have grown stronger and closer together, while others have deteriorated.      Whatever happened to family?      “There is no such thing as society: there are individual…

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J.J. Turner. Ph.D. ©

 

Back on the 22nd of March, 2015. USA TODAY ran an article titled, “Has The Sun Set On Sunday School? Basically, the answer was yes but there were also some bright spots in some churches. I typed in this search question on Google: “Why Sunday School Is Failing?” and 148,000,000 responses came up. Evidently, there is a lot of interested in the state of Sunday School. How is your interest?

     Some call it Sunday School, some refer to it as Bible classes or Bible study. Regardless of what name, if any at all, the reference is usually to the one-hour in which members assemble in a classroom setting to study the Bible before the worship hour. It is a period where an organized effort is made to instruct, learn, fellowship, and apply the Bible. Some congregations use it to evangelize.

     Years ago the number in Bible class attendance varied little from the number in the worship assembly. That has changed in most congregations, regardless of size or location. For years the attendance spiral was been on a declining trend. Recent research has revealed that the difference between Bible class attendance and worship is from 35 to 45 percent; and in some even 50%. Some congregations with once thriving attendance in youth Bible classes are now without or with only a few in attendance. Vacation Bible School used to be a major event in summer months is now only a memory in the minds of those of us who attended. What is causing this downward spiral?

     How about the congregation where you worship and serve the Lord? What, if any, is the difference in Bible class attendance and Sunday morning worship?______% If there is a percentage difference? Do you know why? Most congregations keep and post worship attendance numbers but not Bible classes. Why?

     How about you? What is your attendance record for Bible class in comparison to Sunday morning worship? Are they the same? [ ] Yes [ ] No (Something to think about).

35 Reasons Why Some Christians Don’t Attend Bible Classes

I am presently researching and writing another book for my Wake Up series titled, “Teachers, Wake Up! I have collected an almost unbelievable list of reasons and excuses some Christians give for not attending Sunday morning Bible classes. (I won’t even dare to discuss Wednesday night classes) Here are some of those reasons and excuses. They aren’t given in a priority because each one may constitute the priority in a Christian’s personal list of reasons; for others way down the list or not on their list.

  1. Some Christians don’t attend Bibles classes because they choose to study their Bible at a time and place when it is convenient for them: work, home, in the car waiting, small group.
  2. Some Christians don’t attend Bible classes because they have something planned for Sunday morning.
  3. Some Christians don’t attend Bible classes because they tend to stay up to late Saturday night and sleep in Sunday morning.
  4. Some Christians don’t attend Bible classes because they aren’t interested in the subject being taught.
  5. Some Christians don’t attend Bible classes because to them they are too boring or not interesting.
  6. Some Christians don’t attend Bible classes because of health issues.
  7. Some Christians don’t attend Bible classes because they have negative memories of being “made to attend” as children.
  8. Some Christians don’t attend Bible classes because they don’t like the teacher or a teacher’s teaching style.
  9. Some Christians don’t attend Bible classes because from the time of their conversion they haven’t developed the habit; it wasn’t stressed, only suggested.
  10. Some Christians don’t attend Bible classes because they really don’t think they need it; it is okay for others.
  11. Some Christians don’t attend Bible classes because they don’t want to be embarrassed by being asked questions or to participate.
  12. Some Christians don’t attend Bible classes because they watch their favorite TV preacher and claim they get their study and edification through media, etc.
  13. Some Christians don’t attend Bible classes because they aren’t “specifically commanded”—“Thou Shall Attend Bible Classes.”
  14. Some Christians don’t attend Bible classes because they once use to attend but have gotten out of the habit. It started by missing the first class, then the second, etc.
  15. Some Christians don’t attend Bible classes because of all the online options to enhance their study at any time or place they desire.
  16. Some Christians don’t attend Bible classes because of poor classrooms or located in difficult places to get to, i.e. stairs to climb or in a damp basement.
  17. Some Christians don’t attend Bible classes because they don’t want to be reminded of some issue, problem, or sin in their lives.
  18. Some Christians don’t attend Bible classes because they have an issue with a person in the class; may not like some attendees.
  19. Some Christians don’t attend Bible classes because they are “poor readers” and don’t want to be called on to read.
  20. Some Christians don’t attend Bible classes because there are too many activities which involve their children which require preparation and time on the road getting to classes.
  21. Some Christians don’t attend Bible classes because church leadership has not placed a major biblical emphasis on the importance of attending.
  22. Some Christians don’t attend Bible classes because there aren’t sufficient groupings according to needs, age, relevancy, etc.
  23. Some Christians don’t attend Bible classes because they have been taught that Bible classes are “unscriptural.”
  24. Some Christians don’t attend Bible classes because they are “stubborn and self-willed”—nobody tells them what to do or where to be.
  25. Some Christians don’t attend Bible classes because there are never any carryover class projects, fellowship gatherings, etc. Just show up, sit and listen, and go to the assembly.
  26. Some Christians don’t attend Bible classes because there isn’t any personal follow up, contact, or outside of class involvement with teachers or attendees.
  27. Some Christians don’t attend Bible classes because they think they already know the basic or fundamentals: 5 acts of worship, 5 steps to salvation, etc.
  28. Some Christians don’t attend Bible classes because it is “too big of a hassle” to get the kids and self-prepared to be on time for classes.
  29. Some Christians don’t attend Bible classes because they never “fill in all the blanks” in their workbooks for the classes; it’s embarrassing.
  30. Some Christians don’t attend Bible classes because they have not to make it a spiritual priority in their lives.
  31. Some Christians don’t attend Bible classes because they receive no personal pleasure; we usually do things because of the pleasure we derive from it, so say psychologist.
  32. Some Christians don’t attend Bible classes because they don’t like going alone, i.e. without their spouses, children, or siblings.
  33. Some Christians don’t attend Bible classes because the time schedule is inconvenient, too early.
  34. Some Christians don’t attend Bible classes because they believe the subject is either too difficult or not relevant.
  35. Some Christians don’t attend Bible classes because they “Just don’t’ want to attend”, period.

     Again, how about YOU? What is the ratio between your attendance in Bible class and worship services?

     The Sunday morning Bible class can still be a vital tool for educating the body of Christ in the 5-E mission of the church. The challenge is to review it, revive it, and rededicate it to God’s glory.

Leaders need to step forward and

I have spent years of my tenure as a preacher teaching preachers, training preachers, writing about preaching and preaching. All of my 53 years as a preacher I have heard over and over the statement that “We have a preacher shortage.” A once popular statement related to this statement was “For every new preacher who begins preaching there are two or three who are leaving.”

Through the years there have been numerous responses with efforts to curb or eliminate the preacher shortage. These have included: Schools of Evangelist,   Schools of Preaching, Colleges with Bible Departments, Schools of Biblical Studies, Bible Institutes, Correspondence courses, special weekend programs, mentoring programs, etc.

   I’m not sure when the issue of who needs to train preachers and where should preachers be trained became a topic of discussion, the point of controversy, and causes of division among churches? Also included in this point is the question, “Who should be trained to preach?” The answers ranged from “Any faithful male Christian” to those “Who are academically qualified” to enter a collegiate program, etc. Entering this area is the qualifications congregations require, demand, or expect a preacher to have. And whether he should be “fulltime” or “part-time.”

     A major issue relates to training preachers in a formal setting such as a college, school of preaching, Bible institute, etc. is what should the content of the curricula be? Who should teach various courses? What qualifies a teacher for specific courses? What role, if any, does having experience as a local preacher have in selecting teachers? What is the tenure of teacher’s preaching experiences as well as the fruit of his labors in a congregational setting? Usually, the beliefs, attitudes, and practices of the persons in charge of the training determine the answers to these and other questions related to training preachers.

     Some institutions training preachers are governed by “accrediting associations,” some by elderships, some by boards, and some by the founder of the training program. Thus, the reasons why there are various dynamics involved in training preachers, with no two being “exactly” alike. While there is a place to have discussions and dialogue in this area, my purpose is to briefly write about one way to train preachers today. And I think, or assume, that we all agree that we need “trained preachers” today.

THE TRAINING OF FIRST CENTURY PREACHERS BY JESUS

There were no colleges, seminaries, schools, etc. designated as training institutions for preachers related to the church in the first century. Yet, there were preachers. Jesus was the Master Preacher as well as the trainer of preachers, who said on one occasion, “Let us go into the next towns, that I may preacher there also because for this reason, I have come forth” (Mark 1:38). Therefore, the training of the first preachers for the spread of the Gospel and building up of the ekklesia (church) was done by THE PREACHER—Jesus Christ.

     We have an example of how Jesus called and trained His future preachers. The Scriptures reveal that one day Jesus was walking by the fishing docks and upon seeing some fishermen, whether Jesus knew them or not, we aren’t sure but we do know this: “Then Jesus said to them, ‘Follow Me, and I will MAKE YOU fishers of men.’ The immediately left their nets and followed Him…” (Mark 1:16-20). Notice the next verse, Then THEY went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath He entered the synagogue and taught” (Mark 1:21). The later in 1:38 we read: But He said to THEM, ‘Let US go into the next town, that I may preach there also because, for this reason, I have come forth.’”

     Several things are obvious in this historical narrative about how Jesus selected disciples (preachers) and how He started to train them immediately. We aren’t told if Jesus knew these fishermen before He called them, if He had heard about them, or they had been recommended to Him. We have no record of Jesus quizzing them relative to their knowledge of the Law of Moses, which sect within Israel were they members of, e.g., Pharisees, Sadducees, Scribes, Essenes, Zealots, etc.; which synagogue they were members of, and which rabbi had trained them. He knew their hearts and potential. Jesus was more interested in who and what they would become than in their diplomas, degrees, present theological, sociological, and credit score. Jesus said, “I will make you fishers of men.” Make is the Greek word poieo and refers to, “to do something, to make something; to bring together.”

     We know the rest of the story relative to HOW Jesus trained preachers (disciples). Here are a few of the key ingredients in Jesus’ training methodology:

  1. He was with them for approximately 3 to 3 ½ years. He ate with them, traveled with them, lodged with them, etc.
  2. He was continually teaching them lessons which were going to be key subjects in the future of His ekklesia (church) (Matthew 18:15-20).
  3. He taught them how to pray by praying and teaching lessons on prayer (Luke 11:1-4).
  4. He taught them how to relate to people and engage in social events (John 2:1-12)
  5. He taught them how to be considerate and compassionate with people, even sinners John 4:1-30; Luke 15:1, 2).
  6. He taught them about how few necessities of life one really needs (Luke 9:58; 10:4).
  7. He taught them how to rebuke, expose, and respond to false teachers (Matthew 23).
  8. He taught them the true traits of servant leaders, which is what He wanted them to be (John 13:1-16).
  9. He taught them the need to relax and get away from pressure at certain times (Mark 6:30-33).
  10. He taught them how to handle rejection, scorn, and false accusations (Matthew 5:43-48).
  11. Above all Jesus taught them the importance of loving God, one another, and even one’s enemies (Mark 12:28-31).
  12. Jesus taught them how to die faithfully…and be forgiving regardless of the circumstance (Luke 12:28-46).
  13. Jesus taught them to carry on His work (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8).
  14. Jesus continually taught and demonstrated humility (Matthew 21:1-11).
  15. Jesus made it clear that potential followers knew and counted the cost (Matthew 16:24).

     There are obviously many other lessons to be learned about how Jesus selected and trained preachers. Here’s the foundation truth undergirding all of His teaching and training. Luke stated in just prior to Jesus’ ascension to heaven: “The former account I made, O Theophilus, of ALL Jesus began BOTH to DO and TEACH” (Acts 1:1). JESUS FIRST PRACTICED WHAT HE TAUGHT! He wasn’t a textbook theorist, a talker instead of a walker, a borrower of other preachers’ successes. The Lord had been there, done that, and now able to teach that which He had learned from hands-on experiences.

THE TRAINING OF FIRST CENTURY PREACHERS BY PAUL

That God wants men to be taught and trained in how to preach is evident by the ministry and writings of the apostle Paul. Most preachers, sadly not all, have studied or been taught Paul’s letters to Timothy and Titus relative to preaching. In writing to the ekklesia (church) in Corinth in exposing division, he noted the first a major reason for the vision was over preachers (1 Corinthians 1:11-15). Then he declared his emphasis was not solely on “converting people” but in preaching the Gospel: “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to PREACH the gospel, not with wisdom of words, unless the cross of Christ should be made of no effect” (1 Corinthians 1:17).

     Paul employed the same method of training preachers as used by Jesus. He had them accompany him on preaching to the lost, establishing, and strengthening churches. Read 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus for a full account of Paul’s messages to preachers.

TRAINING PREACHERS TODAY

Based on Paul’s admonishing to Timothy in 1 Timothy 2:1-7 to commit to “faithful men who will be able to teach others also,” here are a few suggestions for those of us who preach to teach and train preachers:

  1. Inform yourself about the needs for training preachers; pray about this great need.
  2. Select one or more men and share with them your plan to help them, if they so desire, to become a preacher (Keep in mind we are not necessarily talking about “fulltime preaching.” That may evolve but at first, it is getting his feet wet with initial training in the local congregation).
  3. Select the core Bible subjects, including books of the Bible key doctrine which need to serve as foundation knowledge for “preaching the word.” Don’t try to duplicate a “fulltime schools” curriculum.
  4. Be sure to include basic courses in hermeneutics (how to study the Bible) and homiletics (how to prepare and deliver sermons).
  5. Select a time for the classes to be taught (E.g. Tuesday and Thursday night; Saturday, Sunday afternoon, etc.).
  6. Be sure the classes are not just “talk and theory” but including doing and practice. Have opportunities to preach in the congregation.

The key is to be creative and committed to preachers training preachers. What if each preacher trained one preacher? How about two or three preachers?

 

_____________________________________

J.J. Turner has a new book titled, 505 Observations About Preaching, available on amazon. com

 

 

 

Unless one has been exiled on Mars or has just awakened from a Rip Van Winkle sleep, he realizes the family in our country is in deep trouble and its growing deeper. Yes, and even families which claim to be Christians and “churchgoers.” One teenager said, “I’m sitting on the edge of the pew waiting to graduate from high school, reach my 18th birthday, and quit this forced on me church going.”

Surveys and polls continually reveal that we, across all religious lines, lose approximately 85 percent of our members between 18 to 25. We have watched the divorce rate maintain a 50 percent average each year relative to the number of couples married each year. The breakdown in the family is seen in the violence, abuse, crimes, and unhappiness behind four walls in most neighborhoods.

The social and psychological Einstein’s of the 21st Century continually drum beat the causes and effects with very few sustainable solutions. Whatever the solutions might be, I personally believe they must start by affirming and putting into practice the words of one of the greatest leaders whose words we read in Joshua 24:14,15: “Now, therefore, fear the Lord, and serve Him in sincerity and in truth: …And if it seems evil unto to you to serve the Lord, CHOOSE you THIS DAY whom you will serve; …but as for me and MY HOUSE, we will SERVE THE LORD.”

Wouldn’t it be great if the fathers in our congregations as well as in our nations would take a stand with Joshua and say AMEN? Sadly in our day, the proverb which was circulated in Israel applies to our day: “The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge” (Ezekiel 18:2). Even worse are those fathers who have followed in the steps of Eli. God informed Samuel about the judgment He was going to bring on Eli’s house and family; one reason was the failure of Eli to discipline his sons: ”For I have told him that I will judge forever for the iniquity which he KNOWS, because his sons make themselves vile, and he DID NOT RESTRAIN THEM” (1 Samuel 3:13).

Most of us have heard these two sayings: “The family that prays together stays together” and “As the family goes so goes the nation.” Whatever we do as a nation or church begins in our homes. We leave the house to go to work and to attend the assemblies of the church. It is in our homes where we, for the most part, determine what we will do once we exit the door. This brings up the once popular subject and practice of Christian families engaging in “Family Devotions” or “Family Worship Time.”

When was the last time you heard an emphasis from the pulpit, classroom, or in the bulletin about family devotions? When was the last time, if ever, your family engaged in planned family devotions? I can remember when seminars, workshops, and lectures were popular subjects, as well as articles and bulletin articles.

Whatever happened to family devotions? One preacher answered, “They were never started.” It is worthy to be noted, because it was written for our learning (Cf. Romans 15:4), that God instituted family devotions for the Nation of Israel: “And these words, which I have commanded thee this day, shall be in thine HEART: and thou shall TEACH them diligently unto thy CHILDREN, and shall TALK of them when thou SITES IN THINE HOUSE, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou LIEST DOWN, and when thou RISEST up” (Deuteronomy 6:6, 7). What do you suppose would happen if every Christian family started practicing this command every day?

OBSTACLES TO FAMILY DEVOTIONS

I doubt if a Christian family would come right out and express their disapproval of having a family devotional; perhaps a few would but they would be the exception and not the rule. As I observe, read, and am challenged in my own life, I have observed various obstacles which stand in the way of families, even those with good intention, having planned family devotions. Here are some of those obstacles:

  1. The number one obstacle is the claim of not having enough time. However, upon casual these families seem to have time for TV watching, Facebook, and recreation. Surely out of 168 hours each week 30 to 60 minutes can be dedicated to family devotion.
  2. There is an attitude which is expressed in “We get what we need when we go to church on Sunday.” We need to ask, “What do you need and how do you use it?”
  3. There are some families which once had family devotions but they, according to their observations, stopped because the devotions became too much like church services or rake ‘em over the coals sessions.”
  4. Some families don’t have family devotions because the father isn’t a Christians or if he is he doesn’t feel qualified to conduct the devotion. Another family member may not be Christians—this is a popular excuse.
  5. Some families would like to start family devotions but don’t know how or where to start. This points out the need for teaching and training.
  6. Some families have stayed away from having family devotions because they have heard negative things about them, such as they create confusion, negative and legalistic attitudes, and some church leaders are opposed to them.
  7. There isn’t a realization that every opportunity to study and share God’s word contributes to growth in Christ-likeness.

Can you think of additional reasons why some families don’t have family devotions? How about your family?

SUGGESTIONS FOR CONDUCTING FAMILY DEVOTIONS

Here are a few suggestions for starting and conducting family devotions;

  1. As a family spends some quality time together discussing what the Bible says about studying God’s word and worshipping Him in spirit and in truth (cf. 2 Timothy 2:15; John 4:23, 24). Try to generate excitement and commitment.
  2. Determine if your devotion will be every day, five days, or one day each week. Have it Monday through Friday is a popular routine.
  3. Father should be in charge of the devotional, not as a dictator but as a spiritual guide.
  4. Never forget the Bible is your major source for family devotionals; other materials may help but used sparingly.
  5. Remember the goal is not to fill up a certain number of minutes which may lead to rambling, when 5 to 10 minutes may be more beneficial. One intentional point with the planned application would be a successful devotional.
  6. Try not to have one person dominate the devotional; having a leader is essential but it belongs to everyone, and everyone has something to contribute.
  7. Remember it isn’t a time to debate, argue, or push an agenda. It is time to encourage each other.
  8. The core of the family devotion should be prayer, read, and discuss; then pray again and each participant determine what one intentional thing they will take away from the devotional.
  9. Remember there will be slow times which seem mechanical or your children may seem bored; even adults. Let children be children. You do not determine the success of your devotional by one or two sessions.
  10. If there are other families conducting family devotional ask them for suggestions. There is wisdom in learning from the successes and failure of others. You may even look into forming a study group, etc. of families conducting devotions.
  11. Never forget the overall goal of the devotional is not only to gain knowledge of God and His word but to share with one another as a family. While it’s not a fun and games time, it must not be a sober-faced and sad-sack time. It’s a time to “rejoice and be glad because it is a gift from God” (Psalm 118:24).
  12. Keep in mind that a major key to a successful family devotional is commitment and variety. Continually share and discuss with the family how things are going and how to improve, as well as things which need to be adjusted or stopped.
  13. Choose familiar Scriptures and Bible stories to discuss and apply in your devotional. Psalm 119 would be a great portion as well as selections from Proverbs; don’t neglect the Gospels.

The strength and ministry of the local congregation are the results of what each family brings to the church. Positive and biblical family devotionals will make positive contributions to the Lord’s church.

 

Growing up in a small village, population 200-plus, it was easy to recognize and know your neighbor. I remember one family had a couple of boys who were known to be “rough and rowdy”; another family was referred to as the “gossips”; another as the “holy rollers”; one was called “those rednecks”; another had the reputation of being “stand-off-ish,” etc. Because of man’s carnal nature the practice of giving families “nicknames”; seems to be a popular practice. Whether positive or negative, right or wrong, it creates a reputation.

     Think of the families you know or have known and ask yourself “What is or was their reputation? How about your family? Do you know what reputation it has in the minds of those who know you or who may observe you from a distance?

     The local church is the “called out family of God” (i.e. ekklesia). Here’s Paul’s reference to the church being a family: “Therefore I ask that you do not lose heart at my tribulation for you, which is your glory. For this reason, I bow my knees to the father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the WHOLE FAMILY in heaven and earth is named” (Ephesians 3:13-15).

     In writing to the young preacher, Timothy, Paul admonished him to behave himself properly in the house of God (i.e. family): “[B]ut if I am delayed, I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15).

     Just as families in neighborhoods, etc. have reputations, the church family in local neighborhoods have reputations. The reputation is established whether deserved or not by the actions of individual members as well as by the enter congregation. I am ashamed and embarrassed to mention some of the reputations I have heard applied to some Christians and congregations. Whether true or not, deserved or not, the truth remains that every Christian and congregation has a reputation.

PRIORITY BUILDS A REPUTATION

Most congregations have a priority or several priorities. The English word priority means to “create or recognize an order of importance, precedence in time; to make first, etc.” I have observed over my years of ministry how congregations have created and maintained their various priorities, which related to the place and practice of local autonomy—each congregation is independent of a governing board or dictates from a sister congregation. I have noted that some congregations have established some of the following priorities:

  1. The building and upkeep of physical properties which are designed to attract outsiders and provide comfort and expediencies for the church family. A major portion of the budget goes to this priority.
  2. The hiring, keeping and supporting a preacher, or preachers, to preach, teach, and do numerous ministry assignments for the congregation.
  3. Congregations tend to make the worship services a priority which consists of an impeccable schedule of events done in an order of priority.
  4. Some congregations by their actions and attitudes give “debating and defending the faith” top billing among their priorities.
  5. The selection of subjects, materials, curricula, and teachers for Bible classes seem to be a major priority in many congregations.
  6. Even though the interest, attendance, and support of a yearly event continue to wane, some congregations maintain it as a major priority.
  7. The emphasis or lack of emphasis on having fellowship with sister congregations is another establisher of congregational priorities.

     I am not passing “right or wrong” judgment on any of these practices. I am only sharing what I have seen as various congregation priorities. According to Revelation chapters 2 and 3, the Lord Judges each congregation on its own merit and practices. It is a congregation’s priorities which build its reputation.

WHAT JESUS GAVE AS THE PRIORITY FOR HIS CHURCH

Since Jesus built His church (Matthew 16:18); purchased it with His blood (Acts 20:28); is the head of His church (Colossians 1:18), etc. He has the right to establish the priority for members of his church—His body and family. Here’s the priority Jesus gave to His followers—His church: “A new commandment I give to you that you LOVE ONE ANOTHER, as I have loved you, that you also LOVE ONE ANOTHER. BY THIS all will know that you are MY DISCIPLES, IF you LOVE ONE ANOTHER” (John 13:34, 35).

     According to Jesus the priority of any local congregation must be LOVE, because love for God, neighbor and self is the core identifying characteristic and behavior of the church we read about in the Bible, which belongs to Jesus. This priority is consistent with the Greatest Commandment taught by Jesus in Mark 12:28-31: “And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceived that He had answered them well, asked Him, ‘Which is the first commandment of all?’ And Jesus answered him, ‘The FIRST of all the commandments is “Hear, O Israel; the Lord our God is one Lord: THOU SHALL love the Lord thy God with ALL thy heart, and with ALL thy soul, and with ALL thy mind, and with ALL thy strength: this is the FIRST commandment. And the second is like, namely this, ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. There is NONE OTHER COMMANDMENT GREATER THAN THESE.”

     The priority of loving one another in the church is taught over and over in the New Testament with reference to how it is the priority of God’s family, and love is what established the church’s reputation both in and out of the church. Jesus said, BY THIS shall all men KNOW you are My disciples if you have LOVE FOR ONE ANOTHER.

     There are approximately 60 Scriptures in the New Testament which reference our responsibilities to ONE ANOTHER in the local congregation—the church. Here is a sampling of these Scriptures:

  1. “Do not lie to each other…” (Colossians 3:9).
  2. “Bear with each other…” (Colossians 3:13),
  3. “… Encourage one another daily” (Hebrews 10:24, 25).
  4. “… Pray for each other” (James 5:16).
  5. “… Love one another deeply, from the heart” (1 Peter 3:8).
  6. “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling” (1 Peter 4:9).
  7. “…Love each other deeply…” (1 Peter 4:8).
  8. “…Make your love increase and overflow for each other” (1 Thessalonians 3:12).
  9. “Don’t grumble against each other…” (James 5:9).
  10. “Greet one another with s kiss of love” (1 Peter 5:14).

     LOVE (agape and philia) is the undeniable badge of Christianity demonstrated by local congregations and individual members. A reading of Paul’s letter to the church of God in Corinth reveals one problem after another. Ranging from division to going before secular courts to solve problems. What was the ONE solution to all these problems and issues? LOVE! Read Chapter 13 to see how Paul used the greatest of all virtues—LOVE—to resolve their problems.

   When the weather permitted the preacher of a city congregation would stand at the bottom of the steps of the church building and greet the members and guests attending Sunday morning services. He noticed Sunday after Sunday a young boy, maybe 12 to 14, passed by with a large family Bible tucked under his arm. One Sunday morning the preacher stepped out and stopped the boy, asking him where he was going to church (Evidenced by his dress and Bible). When the boy mentioned a church across town which required the catching of a bus and transferring to get there; the preacher invited him to attend his congregation, asking “Why do you go way over there, we are close to your home?” The boy replied, “Thank you, sir, for the invitation. I know you folks must be wonderful here, but I’m going over there because at the First Street Church they know how to love a little fellow.”

     Isn’t that where we all want to be? In a congregation where they know how to love a little and big fellow; a tall and short fellow; etc. WHAT IS YOUR CHURCH FAMILY’S REPUTATION? How about your reputation?

Some of us remember these statements:

  1. “The family that prays together stays together.”
  2. “The family is the backbone of the nation.”
  3. “The community is a reflection of the families who live in them.”

When you hear the word FAMILY what comes to mind? Sadly, when some hear family in cause’s painful memories; others are filled with happy memories. From the first family—Adam and Eve—until the most recent family, families have faced challenges. Some families have grown stronger and closer together, while others have deteriorated.

     Whatever happened to family?

     “There is no such thing as society: there are individual men and women, and there are families” (Margaret Thatcher). If society is composed of families, it follows that if there is something wrong with society there must be something wrong with families. What do you think?

     In recent years there has been a proliferation of TV reality shows depicting various constructs of families, from “Housewives” to the Duggars, Duck Dynasty, etc. All of these have had an effect on families. The bubble burst relative to the “perfect family” image of the Duggars when a son committed adultery.

     Whatever happened to family?

     Social science studies, as well as government surveys, and commonsense observations have clearly documented the breakdown of the 21st century family. Houses, instead of being homes, have become no more than motels where mom, dad and all the kids gather in their own mental space to spend time on their social media gadgets. I heard recently that the “Average family” in the USA shares one common meal a month around the dinner table. Houses are now being built without formal dining rooms. The rise of fast food locations is another evidence how families are being fed. Some wives and mothers brag about the fact that they no longer cook at home.

     It is obvious that the once traditional American family has been replaced by what social historians refer to as “the nuclear family.” Marriages once involved couples who grew up in the same community and knew each other; their marriages expressed the same values as the community they grew up in. Today, this is no longer true. Marriages are engaged in by couples who met online, in a bar, on vacation, at work, etc. The issues of ethnicity, culture, values, education, geography, and more have to be negotiated, in most cases with great effort by each partner in the marriage. Perhaps this challenge is one of the reasons the divorce rate is 50 percent in our nation. When the issue of same sex marriage becomes part of the mix, the challenges facing the traditional family and society explode.

     Whatever happened to family?

     The family structure that once was a haven of love, a training center, a safe place, a sanctuary of spiritual practices, and place dedicated to the welfare of each member, is dying a slow death. And in some homes it has died, as each family member is doing his or her own thing. Values that were once taught and practiced in the family and showed up in the work place, school, neighborhood, and in churches, have gone the way of the rotary telephone.

     Families in neighborhoods where they once knew each other and talked over the backyard fence, have been replaced by families locked behind walls with alarms, fences, guard dogs, and garages where cars speed in and out. Many neighborhood have become islands of isolated strangers. Neighbors peep through their windows to spy on their neighbors.

     Whatever happened to family?

     Think about this. The family is where we all start our journey in life. From the training and examples we have been exposed to, we were prepared to go out into the world with a negative or positive attitude. They formed our basic values, beliefs, fears, prejudices, and habits in life. Abraham Lincoln said, “I am what I am because of my mother dear.”

     Whatever happened to family?

10 FACTORS IMPACTING FAMILIES

In my personal opinion, based on research and 50-years of ministry, that there are 10 major factors, with numerous subsets, impacting today’s families:

  1. The changing roles due to economic forces that are requiring both husband and wife to enter the work force; for mothers and wives to compete with their husbands.
  2. The resentment of roles family members are being forced to accept: i.e., everyone having to work, responsibilities, etc. It’s the “It’s not my job” attitude.
  3. A loss of direction because of no clear agreed upon family values, rules, and ethics.
  4. The influence of the media and saturation of modernism.
  5. Deterioration of balanced education programs; ignorance of US Constitution, etc.
  6. Declining influences of churches as many are no more than marketing efforts to be the biggest gathering in a community. The Gospel is not preached.
  7. The worship of sports and other recreation and leisure activities.
  8. Drug and alcohol abuse.
  9. Increase of crime, violence, terrorism, gangs, corruption, etc.
  10. God is left out of plans and decisions.

     Whatever happened to family?

     It’s an irony that many churches that claim they are “a family” are composed of members who aren’t really practicing family in their physical homes. Which comes first? Does a family learn how to be “a family” at home and then take it to the congregation? Or does a family learn how to be a family in a congregational setting and then take it to the home? Which comes first?

     Whatever happened to family?

     Regardless of the answers we give to the question—whatever happened to family?—; there is no doubt there are many, however we always go back to the first family: Adam and Eve. The deterioration of their family unit, which later involved one son killing his brother, started with Eve obeying the voice of Satan, followed by Adam’s disobedience (Read Genesis 1-3). The word SIN, especially in the Greek language, means “To miss the mark, target, etc.” God has a “target” for the family. It is to glorify Him (Ephesians 3:21)

     Whatever happened to family?

     God gave Israel a commandment that required a set of behaviors in the home as well as in daily life. Notice Deuteronomy 6:4-9: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today, shall be in your HEART. You shall TEACH them diligently to your children, and shall TALK of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall BIND them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall WRITE them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” From these core behaviors all values would emerge in the daily life of an Israelite and his worship of God. This serves as a biblical, positive and workable model for families today.

     Whatever happened to family?

     It is easy to cry wolf and talk about the symptoms of the declining family but the need is to offer some biblical, positive, and workable solutions. Here are a few:

  1. Families need fathers and heads of families to take a stand like Joshua did: “…But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15). You are not responsible for my family, and I am not responsible for your family. The government and church are not responsible for my family. Fathers take a stand!
  2. Families need mothers who love their husbands and children: “… the older women…admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed” (Titus 2:1-5).
  3. Families need children who will respect and obey their parents: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother,’ which is the first commandment of promise” (Ephesians 5:1-3).
  4. Families need fathers who will train and educate their children: “And you fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).

     Whatever happened to family?

     How are things with your family? What is your intentional plan to make sure your family is being taught, led, and encouraged to be what God desires?

    

 

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