Friday, November 29, 2019

Happiness Doesn't Just Happen and the Holidays

I recently received a letter from a man serving time in prison for a white collar crime he committed. After being sent to prison, a friend gave this businessman a copy of my book Happiness Doesn't Just Happen.

A portion of man’s letter to me is reprinted below. Though my book is now "Out of Print" from the original publishers. I am re-issuing it through Istoria Ministries with a new Foreword for Happiness Doesn't Just Happen. The book contains a few study questions at the end of each chapter for small groups.

If you have a Kindle Unlimited account, you can read it for free. Or, you can purchase the ebook for $3.95 and the new paperback for $8.95. Some book dealers offer the paper book (used) for a much higher price, so make sure you only get the low-cost new paperback on Amazon.

The man’s letter begins with some personal background, and then he writes the following:
"As you might expect, when a man is in prison for a specific sentence, whether he wants to or not, he dwells on his progress toward his release. Then, when something happens to make him doubt the D.O.C.'s (Department of Correction's) calculations, it can really become overwhelming...this is where I've been.
I have been corresponding with a friend for a while now, and he occasionally sends me "Care Packages." I received one this past weekend and there was a copy of your book Happiness Doesn't Just Happen." The timing was perfect. It had to be God's timing. 
God has given me periods of peace in my misery, but nothing really took hold and stayed with me. I would read the Scriptures that dealt with waiting on the Lord. I reminded myself over and over that God's timing is perfect and that He controls my destiny, but it just wasn't sticking - that is, until I read your book Happiness Doesn't Just Happen. It jerked me out of my misery and brought me happiness. 
Wade, praise God, He has used this book to completely change my outlook. Your book has opened my eyes to the grace of God to the point that I told my wife I am going to read it over and over until I can't forget it. Now that I see it, I don't want to lose it. I have read other books by notable Christian authors, but second to the Scriptures, your book has spoken to me more than any of the others. 
This may shock you, but I am actually glad to be in prison now. He has allowed me to see many things I had not seen or understood before. Your book has been a major part of this process.
Thank you for being obedient in writing the book. Thank you for writing true to Scripture. Thank you for helping me work through difficult times."
I can't thank of a better recommendation for Happiness Doesn't Just Happen

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

I Am So Grateful for God's Transformational Power

Every Thanksgiving I like to express my gratefulness for being in a ministry where I get to observe God's transforming power.

On this Thanksgiving, I tell you Jim's story, with his permission, because it illustrates why Kingdom focus is so important for every Christian.

Church is who we are, not what we do. 

The Lord calls us to be transformational, not comfortable.

Salt and light, that's who we are. Good News, that's what we share.

Yet, too often, we pastors are more interested in pleasing people and making budgets than we are in pleasing God and making disciples.

It was ten years ago that Jim first came to see me at Emmanuel Enid.

Jim told me he didn't wish to live. He wanted to die. Every day he'd get out of bed and tell his wife, "Today's the day I'm going to kill myself."  

His threats were real. 

Jim had attempted suicide seven times. When you know his story, you understand why. He only came to see me at the request of his wife.

Jim recounted his life for me at that first meeting. 

He was beaten by his mother beginning at the age of 3. Not spanked; beaten. The physical abuse intensified over the years.

At age 12, after his mother caught him at an R-rated movie, Jim was told to remove his pants and underwear and bend over the kitchen counter. 

His mother removed Jim's metal three-pronged belt from his pants, and she proceeded to beat him with the metal end on his bare buttocks.

She told Jim she would keep beating him until he cried. "I'd been beaten so much by her I was determined to die before I cried," Jim told me.

The beating didn't stop until Jim's older sister finally intervened and grabbed the belt out their mother's hands. 

Enraged that her pre-puberty son had not yet cried, Jim's mother yelled, "You two clean up this mess."

It took more than an hour to clean Jim's spattered blood spots from the floors, countertops, and ceilings.

The physical abuse was nothing compared to the sexual abuse.

From age 8 to age 11, an older male cousin repeatedly sexually violated Jim. Unless you've experienced sexual abuse, it's difficult to imagine the soul-crushing agony. 

After the physical abuse in the kitchen, Jim's mother realized she could no longer control him through physical abuse. So Jim's mother began enticing him sexually.

It would be inappropriate for me to detail how Jim's mom sexually abused him, but Jim's psychosis began around the time he grappled with why his drug-addicted mother crossed over from inflicting physical pain to demanding sexual pleasure.

At the age of 13, Jim began to get in trouble with the law. The police arrested him for setting fires and other acts of vandalism. "I was arrested too many times to count," Jim told me.  

The fights were frequent and fierce. "I once put a boy in the ICU for bashing his head with a brick on our way home from school." Jim's anger was uncontrollable.

On those occasions he managed to suppress it and not express it, Jim plunged into deep depression. 

Jim turned to drugs and alcohol for relief but found none.

That's when he began to have actual mental breakdowns. "I've been institutionalized nine times. I've been diagnosed as bi-polar. All I know it's been difficult to even want to live." 

His suicide attempts were frequent and often the cause of his institutionalization.

Seven years ago, when I first heard Jim's story, my heart went out to him. Jim could barely look me in the eye. His voice was so quiet I strained to hear him.

I knew Jim was a wreck inside. I encouraged Jim as best I could. I recommended that Jim begin attending a new recovery program that Emmanuel Enid was beginning.

Jim did what I asked. He went to our new recovery program at Emmanuel. In a moment, I'll let Jim share in his own words how God transformed his life at Emmanuel Enid one Thursday night in 2009.

But first, fast forward with me to Thanksgiving week three years ago.

I went with Jim to a local mental health facility that Jim had been visiting every week.

Jim was no longer a patient at the facility. Jim went to minister to patients.

I listened as Jim shared his story of abuse, addiction, psychosis  and recovery through Jesus Christ to the patients in the mental health facility.

I watched the mental health patients listen intently as Jim shared his story. I mean, they really listened.

Jim captivated them with the message of God's grace in Jesus Christ. One man wore a shirt that said, "Nothing to fear, but the loss of beer." But in listening to these men as they conversed with Jim, I realized that they all feared so much more.

Many of them had been sexually abused like Jim. All of them faced addictions like Jim. These men connected with Jim because he was one of them; he was part of the walking wounded.

I too listened intently as Jim explained to the men in the mental health facility how he began attending Emmanuel Enid's recovery program at my request.

It was there that Jim experienced God's transforming power. 

Four weeks into the recovery program, participants are asked to pick an accountability partner. The recovery leader at the time asked everyone to stand and look around and find someone to be their accountability partner.

Jim shared with the mental health patients what happened next:
"I ran to the bathroom and hid," Jim told enraptured mental health patients. "I did what I always did. I withdrew. I decided while sitting on the floor of that bathroom to take my life that night. I resolved to kill myself. I washed my face and walked out of the bathroom."
All the people listening to Jim tell his story weren't even blinking. Jim continued, "That's when I saw two men in Emmanuel's recovery program standing there in the hall. They had seen me go into the bathroom. They were waiting for me.
'Jim,' they said, 'We want you to be our accountability partner. We love you.' They hugged me. It's the first time I can remember anyone ever hugging me. 
I cried all the way home. I thought to myself, 'If these men actually loved me, then maybe God could love me too."
I went home and told my wife, 'Honey, I don't know what happened tonight, but something's changed. I think I experienced the love of God. That night, I gave my life to Jesus Christ. I surrendered everything to Him; my life; my hurts, my hang-ups, and my habits. My recovery began."
There wasn't a dry eye in the room when Jim finished. 

Jim had touched them with his story.

As Jim was speaking, he looked his listeners in the eyes. As he shared, the hesitant, embarrassed man that was full of shame, the man I first met seven years earlier, was now gone.

God had transformed Jim. The Spirit of God now controlled him.

It was my privilege to pray with the mental health patients as we finished our time together. I couldn't help but get emotional as I prayed for Christ's power and love to transform these men's lives, just as He had transformed Jim's life.

The men all hugged Jim and me before we left.

As we were leaving the hospital I said, "Jim, it's absolutely amazing to see the impact you had on these men tonight. You are so totally transformed from the man I first talked to seven years ago."

Jim smiled and said, "We serve a very big God, don't we?"

As an adult, Jim didn't avoid the mom who'd inflicted so much pain. Christ gave him the power to love her, in spite of her sins. Jim's now aged mother recently sought forgiveness of Jim.

The power of God's grace in Jim has been seen in his ability to forgive.

When we walk the halls of the church building on Sundays, there are many people just like Jim who are walking with us.

They are unimpressed with outward appearances because everything inside them is falling apart.

I'm grateful to pastor a church who thinks about everything we do, with the primary focusing on being transformational rather than comfortable.

I'm grateful for friends like Jim who continually remind me that the grace of God makes us all "more than conquerors through Him who loves us."

I'm grateful that after four decades of vocational ministry, I'm finally learning that the measurement of a great ministry is the people whose lives have been transformed by Jesus Christ, not the number of people who wish to be comfortable in their church. 

I'm grateful that Jim, who after ten years of his own recovery, now heads up our Thursday night recovery program at Emmanuel Enid.

I'm grateful that Jim continues his weekly ministry at our local behavioral health unit, and that we are seeing some of them beginning to come to Emmanuel Enid. 

I'm so grateful today for God's transformational power.

Don't give up on that person you love.

God is in the business of changing lives.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 21, 2019

The 2000 Baptist Faith and Message Is Not a Creed

In 1962 and 1999, Southern Baptists formed respective committees to modify the Southern Baptist Faith and Message, the denomination's confession of faith. The results of their respective efforts were the 1963 BF&M and the 2000 BF&M confessions of faith.

Three times in the last century (1925, 1963, 2000), Southern Baptists changed the Baptist Faith and Message.

Confessions are meant to change over time. The 2000 BFM will change within the next decade.

Few people understand that a confession is not a creed

A creed is intended to separate orthodoxy from heresy. A confession addresses specific, practical needs in a denomination.

Southern Baptist leaders have always made this clear.  Listen to what the 1999 Committee said about their work (emphasis mine):
With the 1963 committee, we have been guided in our work by the 1925 "statement of the historic Baptist conception of the nature and function of confessions of faith in our religious and denominational life . . . ." It is, therefore, quoted in full as a part of this report to the Convention:
(1) That they constitute a consensus of opinion of some Baptist body, large or small, for the general instruction and guidance of our own people and others concerning those articles of the Christian faith which are most surely held among us. They are not intended to add anything to the simple conditions of salvation revealed in the New Testament, viz., repentance toward God and faith in Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord.
(2) That we do not regard them as complete statements of our faith, having any quality of finality or infallibility. As in the past so in the future, Baptists should hold themselves free to revise their statements of faith as may seem to them wise and expedient at any time.
(3) That any group of Baptists, large or small, have the inherent right to draw up for themselves and publish to the world a confession of their faith whenever they may think it advisable to do so.
(4) That the sole authority for faith and practice among Baptists is the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. Confessions are only guides in interpretation, having no authority over the conscience.
(5) That they are statements of religious convictions, drawn from the Scriptures, and are not to be used to hamper freedom of thought or investigation in other realms of life.
Last month, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary hired Karen Swallow Prior. Fundamentalists within the SBC have gone on social media, bashing SEBTS and Karen Swallow Prior for her perceived lack of conformity to the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message. Her sin? Karen Prior is deemed a feminist. In reality, Karen Sallow Prior is a smart, orthodox follower of Jesus who is making an impact in our culture. 

Beth Moore has been preaching in Southern Baptist churches on Sunday morning, and is one of  the best known preachers of the gospel in the Southern Baptist Convention. By the way, "I preach" comes from the Greek word kerusso, which phonetically imitates the sound ancient Greeks heard the rooster make while proclaiming the risen sun. To preach is to proclaim the risen Son. Fundamentalists in the SBC have vocally and vigorously condemned Beth Moore. Her sin? She's speaking of Christ to men. Beth Moore is changing lives through her ministry. She's one of the best things Southern Baptists have going for us in terms of reaching people with the Good News of Jesus Christ. 

Dr. Sheri Klouda, a female professor of Hebrew at SWBTS, was removed from her position by the architect of the 2000 BF&M (Paige Patterson) because she was a woman. 15 years ago, just five years after the adoption of the 2000 BF&M, I spoke out about Sheri Klouda's unjust firing. Paige Patterson, the architect of the 2000 BFM, terminated Dr. Klouda. Fundamentalists in the SBC went ballistic when I pushed back on Dr. Klouda's unjust firing. 

A Southern Baptist Church in South Carolina recently advertised their need for a Senior Pastor, suggesting that gifted men and women, called to preach the Gospel, could apply. Fundamentalists in the SBC went crazy

I find it remarkable that in 2007, "local church autonomy" was the reason given by the SBC Executive Committee for their rejection of my request to track sexual predators in the SBC. However, when a local Southern Baptist Church believes that leadership is based on spiritual gifts and not sexual gender, local church autonomy seems to go out the window by Fundamentalists who condemn churches that place women in leadership.

I believe that leadership in Christ's church should always be based on spiritual gifts and never sexual gender. I'm being biblical in my views.

However, when people tell me that "women in leadership" in my church - women pastors, women preaching, women leading, etc... - is a violation of the BFM 2000, I gently respond:
"I believe the Bible. I respect your freedom to only have males in leadership and to send the women home. I would never be a member of your church and you would never be a member of my church. But can we partner with each other in missions, disaster relief, and other cooperative efforts that help our world?"
Of course we can, and of course I will!

For those Southern Baptist churches and church leaders out there who feel the BFM 2000 is used as a club to keep males in authority and to send women home, I remind you that confessions are never designed to be a creed. 

Follow Scripture.

Follow the Savior.

It's time Southern Baptists understood that the 1999 BFM had an agenda.

I get my marching orders from Jesus.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

The 10th Anniversary of Forgotten Ministries, Enid

Ten years ago, I made a request of Jeremiah and Sarah Herrian.

"Come to Enid, Oklahoma," I said, "And help us do our county what you've been doing in Los Angeles."

At first this young couple was confused. Jeremiah and Sarah were operating their base of ministry on Skid Row in Los Angeles. The homeless man portrayed by Jamie Foxx in the film The Soloist, was a product of their ministry.

"Surely," they said, "there can't be the kind of poverty, homelessness, drug addiction, and ministry that we see on a daily basis in Los Angeles in Oklahoma."

Jeremiah Herrian speaking at Forgotten Ministries banquet
Jeremiah and Sarah led people from our church and our city on a "Walk Across Oklahoma" that summer, with Jeremiah carrying a cross. When that summer walk was finished, Jeremiah told me he was shocked at what he saw. "The same issues we face in Los Angeles are present in Enid and throughout Oklahoma. They're just underneath the surface and hidden from public view."

That was 10 years ago. Jeremiah and Sarah moved to Enid.

Dedication of Women's Shelter, Refuge at the Well
Forgotten Ministries was born.

Over the course of these past 10 years, Forgotten Ministries has opened a homeless shelter (Mercy House), a men's transitional house (Oasis), the 580 Coffee House (downtown), a women's transitional house (Refuge at the Well), a garden where men and women work to provide food for the shelter, various ministries to the Pacific Islanders in our county (especially children), a massive clothes closet for those in need, and has sponsored neighborhood clean-ups throughout the city.  The people mostly "forgotten" in the city of Enid have been ministered to by Forgotten Ministries on a daily basis. It's been fascinating to see all that God is doing through FM. Mission teams from all over the nation come for training and ministry under the leadership of Jeremiah and Sarah Herrian and their amazing staff.

Pacific Island ministry at Forgotten Ministres
Sunday night Jeremiah told a story that I think epitomizes the Lord's blessings on the Herrians’ ministry to the Forgotten in Los Angeles and Enid.

Francis Chan, a Los Angeles pastor, would often come and minister with Jeremiah on Skid Row. Jeremiah would often preach the gospel on the streets while offering food, clothing, and ministry to the poor and homeless.

"Every day, as I proclaimed Jesus, a fierce looking, clean-cut body builder would stare at me. He was the major drug dealer on Skid Row, watching to make sure that all the dealers under him weren't cheating him as they made deals. I'd be preaching and seeing drug deals occurring all around me. The drug dealer in charge never took his eyes off me. It was very intimidating."

Becca and the PI kids at FM
Francis Chan observed Jeremiah at work in Los Angeles on many occasions. One day, he called Jeremiah and said, "Listen, Jeremiah, the owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers and the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers are friends of mine. They want to go down to Skid Row and help you minister to people today."

Jeremiah, having never met the two men, told Francis that they needed to be warned that it wasn't always safe on Skid Row. Francis said he would tell them and that they would meet Jeremiah at a time and place they designated.

On the appointed occasion, Jeremiah met the owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Clippers and reiterated what he'd said to Francis as the men walked to Skid Row. "Listen guys," Jeremiah said, "we're going down to Skid Row to do some ministry. You'll see drug deals, assaults, and other crimes. It can get scary, but we are here to preach Jesus."

At that moment, a drug addict who'd heard Jeremiah preach in the days preceding, stepped in front of the men and said to Jeremiah, "If you preach that *&%* today I'll break this beer bottle and slit your " *&%* throat."

After the threatening man walked away, Jeremiah said he turned to face the owners of the Dodgers and the Clippers. "Their faces were drained of blood and their eyes were wide open. I told them that we came to preach Jesus and Jesus would protect us."

Work of Forgotten Ministries on Pacific Island Building
When they arrived at the designated place on Skid Row, after ministering to the people, handing out food and clothes, Jeremiah stood up on a box to begin preaching Christ. True to his word, the drug addict walked up to Jeremiah, broke the beer bottle in his hand, and made his move to cut Jeremiah's throat.

"I thought to myself," Jeremiah said, "Lord, I guess it's time for me to come home to You."

All of the sudden, that clean-cut body builder in charge of Skid Row drug deals, the man who'd been staring down Jeremiah every day that Jeremiah preached the Gospel, suddenly appeared. He looked the drug addict with the broken bottle in the eye and menacingly said, "If you touch Jeremiah, you're a dead man." The man dropped the bottle and walked away.

"I looked over at the owners of the Clippers and the Dodgers and their mouths were open. On their first day on Skid Row, they saw both the danger and the deliverance. Jesus cares for His own."

That story illustrates to me the hand of God on Forgotten Ministries.

Jesus is taking care of His own.

Happy 10th Anniversary, Jeremiah and Sarah. We look forward to the next decade of ministry in Enid!

Thursday, November 14, 2019

A Pet Test to Find a True Pastor of God's People

Rachelle, my wife, loves cats. I take the 5th regarding my charity toward the furry felines.

When Rachelle’s business takes her away, I must "fill in" to care for the cats. The cats love my wife, She's their caregiver. She's tender with them. She loves them. She shepherds them.

I am a hireling for the cats.

My wife is a true pastor to the cats.

Yes, that's right. Rachelle meets the biblical definition of what it means to be a pastor.

Rachelle doesn't "rule over" our cats. Cats weren't designed to be "ruled over" by anyone. It's not in their nature. There's a reason that attempting to do something without success is compared to "herding cats."

So too, when Jesus becomes our Lord and Savior, He makes it very clear to us that only He is to reign as King over our lives. Jesus alone is Lord.

Nobody else is to rule over His people.

Especially pastors.

A Pastor Never Rules 

In the average evangelical church, there's this concept that an elder, or a bishop, or a pastor, is someone who should "rule over" God's people.

The typical "ordained" pastor in an institutional church believes in pastoral authority over people because it’s been taught by those who trained him. Further, says the average evangelical pastor, the church “pastor" must only be a male, never a female, because the "pastor" must be in authority over his church like the husband is in authority over his wife and like a father is in control of his children.

But that's not how the New Testament defines a pastor.

The New Testament definition of a pastor looks more like my wife’s care of her cats than it does the traditional pastor's control over his church.

Am I being silly? I don't think so.

In the Greek New Testament, there are four different words used to describe the person whom the evangelical church calls "pastor," or "elder," or "bishop," or "ruler" of Christ's church. Not one of those four words speaks of authority or control over. Rather, each of them describes what my wife does for our cats.

Let me show you.

1. Pastor (Greek: ποιμήν, transliterated poimaino).

This word literally means "one who feeds, nurtures, and guides with tender care." The Greek Septuagint uses this word in translating the Hebrew of Ezekiel 34 where God condemns Israel's leaders for being abusive "shepherds" (pastors) of His sheep (people).
"You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally." (Ezekiel 34:4 NIV)
God then gives a Messianic prophecy of the coming of the Son of David when He declares:
"I will place over them one Shepherd (poimaino), My servant David, and He will tend them; He will tend them and be their Shepherd (poimaino). (Ezekiel 34:23)
The great Hebrew linguist John Gill says of Ezekiel 34:23:
The shepherd is not David himself literally; who though a shepherd, and the servant of the Lord, yet had been dead many years before this prophecy was delivered... but the shepherd is Messiah, as is expressly owned by the Jewish rabbi Kimchi; who says, "This is the Messiah that shall arise from his seed in the time of salvation: he is called David because his name agrees with him, which signifies "beloved", he being beloved of God and man; and because the son of David, of his seed according to the flesh; and because David was an eminent type of him, in his person, offices, afflictions, wars, victories, and exaltation; and because he was David's Lord and representative, and in whom his everlasting kingdom is established." (Gill's Commentary on Ezekiel)
Jesus accepts the words of the prophet Ezekiel as a reference to Himself. He said:
"I am the good shepherd (poimaino). The good shepherd (poimaino) lays down his life for his sheep" (John 10:11)
The Greek word poimaino (pastor) conveys much more than "to feed" (Greek: boske) sheep. The word poimaino (pastor) involves feeding, caring, guiding, guarding, and protecting.

David is the epitome of a good poimaino.
But David said to Saul, “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear." (I Samuel 17:34-37)
In the famous passage from John 21:15-17, Jesus asks Peter about his love for the Good Shepherd. In the conversation with Peter, Jesus uses both boske (feed) and poimaino (pastor/shepherd) in reference to His people:

Jesus: "Simon, do you truly love me?
Peter: "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you."
Jesus: "Feed (boske) My sheep."

Jesus: "Simon, do you truly love me?"
Peter: "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you."
Jesus: "Take care of (poimaino) My sheep."

Jesus: "Simon, do you love me?"
Peter" "Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you."
Jesus: "Feed (boske) My sheep."

My wife pastors our cats. She protects them, cares for them, guards them, guides them, doctors them, and feeds them. I will sometimes feed them. I am a fill-in for the true pastor. You could call me a hireling. I feed the cats when my wife's away, but I don't pastor the cats.

A pastor by its very biblical definition is never one who "rules over" any thing. A pastor is one who truly cares for God's people.

2. Ruler (Greek: προστῆναι, transliterated proistami)

This word literally means "to assist, to help, or to manage." 

Unfortunately, the English King James translators of the Greek Bible sometimes wrongly translated this word prostenai as "to rule." For example, Paul wrote to Timothy and gave the qualifications of character for those who truly shepherd God's people. 
 "One that ruleth (proistami) well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; For if a man know not how to rule (proistami) his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)" (I Timothy 3:4-5 KJV). 
The word prostenai doesn't mean "to rule." It means to help, assist, or manage.

The King James translators came across this same word prostenai in reference to a woman named Phoebe. This time, King James translators used the proper English words to convey the true meaning of the Greek proistemi. Paul told the Christians at Rome to:
"Receive Phoebe in the Lord as becometh saints, and assist her in whatsoever business she hath need of you; for she hath been a succourer (proistami) of many, and of myself also." (Romans 16:2).
Succourer is an old English word which means "helper."

Ironic, is it not, that English translators in the early 1600's wanted to make men "rule" over women and children, while at the same time, they wanted women and children to help and assist men?

Sounds like John MacArthur would have felt right at home in London during the early 17th century.

When proistami is properly understood in the New Testament as a word that means "to help, to uphold, to care for, and to support," then a pastor/shepherd is seen as one who "helps" God's people and not one who "rules over" God's people.

I Timothy 5:17 is a verse where proistami is used, and when properly translated, makes clear that God's people who "help" widows are worthy of double honor.
"Let the elders that rule ("protect, uphold, care for, and support") be counted worthy of double honor." (I Timothy 5:17). 
Who are these "elders" deserving of double honor.

Women. That's who. Let me prove it by showing you the context of I Timothy 5:17.

Paul has been discussing the need to care for widows in the church where Timothy ministered in the preceding verses:
"But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel. Let not a widow be taken into the number under threescore years old, having been the wife of one man. Well reported of for good works; if she have brought up children, if she have lodged strangers, if she have washed the saints' feet, if she have relieved the afflicted, if she have diligently followed every good work." (I Timothy 5:8-10)
Then, in the verse immediately preceding the "double honor" verse of I Timothy 5:17 where Paul states that those elders who protect and uphold widows are worthy of double honor, Paul writes:
"If any woman who is a believer has dependent widows, she must assist them and the church must not be burdened, so that it may assist those who are widows indeed." (I Timothy 5:16). "Let the elders that rule ("protect, uphold, care for, and support" the widows just mentioned) be counted worthy of double honor." (I Timothy 5:17). 

Oh my. The "elders" deserving of "double honor" for caring for widows are the women believers who care for widows so as not to burden the church."

Greek scholars J.H. Moulton and G. Milligan point out that the word proistami was used as early as 256 BC by a Greek son writing to his father.
"There will be nothing of more importance for me than to look after you (proistami) for the remainder of life, in a manner worthy of you, and worthy of me." (Vocabulary of the Greek New Testament; Moulton/Milligan, p. 551)
 Paul's use of proistami represents the New Testament principle that God's people should be cared for by people with shepherding, caring, helpful, and encouraging hearts.

My wife caring for our cats comes closer to the New Testament definition of pastor/shepherd than a male ordained pastor who sees himself ruling over God's church.

3. Bishop (Greek: ἐπισκοπή, transliterated episkope)

This word means "one who looks upon, considers, has regard for, is concerned for, or cares for something or someone" (Kittles, Vol. II, p. 599f).

The word "bishop" occurs 6 times in the King James Version of the New Testament to identify leaders of the church, but without any clue to its meaning (see Philippians 1:1; I Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:7; Acts 1:20; I Peter 2:25; and I Timothy 3:1).

However, there are other biblical texts where this word is used - episkopos (noun) or episkeptomai (verb) - and the context makes clear its meaning. The KJV translators chose other English words other than "bishop" to translate it (bold words below translate episkope)
When Jesus raised the son of the widow at Nain, the people observed the miracle and declared:"A great prophet has appeared among us. God has come to help his people" (Luke 7:16).
When Paul and Barnabas came to Jerusalem to report all that God had done among the Gentile people, James responded, "Simon has described to us how God at first showed his concern by taking from the Gentiles a people for himself." (Acts 15:14). 
Later, when Paul and Barnabas decided to go back and check on the churches among that had been established among the Gentile, they said, "Let us go back and visit (i.e. care for) the brothers in all the towns where we preached." (Acts 15:36). 
 In Matthew 25:36, Jesus said that those found acceptable at the Judgment would be those that had bishoped" Him: "I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited (cared for) me." On the other hand, those who would be condemned on judgment day have said of them, "I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me" (Matthew 25:43). 
"Religion that is pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress (James 1:27). 
A bishop is someone who "looks after," and "visits" and "cares for" God's people with regard and concern.

Every Christian is to be a bishop. Every Christian is to be a pastor. Every Christian is to be a minister.

A few Christians are called to serve others vocationally, but every single Christian is to serve others volitionally.

God forbid that a man or woman draw a paycheck as a "pastor" or as a "ruler" or as a "bishop" without a heart of care and concern for God's people. 

My wife's care for our cats better epitomizes the role of a pastor than any man who rules over God's people.

4. Elder (Greek: πρεσβύτερος, transliterated presbuteros)

This word simply means "older, or elderly."

An "elder" is someone older than the average.

Presbyteras, occurs in 1 Timothy 5:2 and  refers to aged women.

Paul uses this word in Philemon 9 where he says he is "an old man and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ."

Over the years, the word "elder" took on an additional meaning in the institutional church, but throughout the New Testament, the word presbuteros simply meant "old" or "mature."

When Peter wrote to some aged men and women who followed Jesus in the early church, he writes: 
"To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ's sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, serving as overseers..." (I Peter 5:1-4). 
 That last little phrase, “serving as overseers,” is not found in any of the early Greek manuscripts.

Elders are people who “care for God’s flock.”

Every Christian should be a minister. Every Christian should be a bishop. Every Christian should be a pastor. Every Christian, especially as he or she grows older, should be a shepherd of God’s flock.

A group of Christians may at times gather and determine that a gifted person among them is to be “set  aside” to fulfill a specific ministry on behalf of the assembly. However, nobody is to “rule over” God’s people.

If you want to find who has a true pastoral heart among your gathering of Christians, just think of the pet test I’ve given you.

My wife is fulfilling the call of pastor to our cats.

Pondering our pets and how we care for them keeps you on track to determining those who are true pastors of God’s people.

Those who focus on “authority,” “control” and “ruling” are disqualified from being considered pastors of Christ’s people, at least according to the sacred Scriptures.

Hat Tip: David Tinker, Quentin and Eileen Vennum, and Rachelle Burleson

Saturday, November 09, 2019

Sheep Among Wolves Vol. II: Christianity in Iran

Two hours. That's how long it will take for you to watch this life-changing movie about a Great Awakening occurring in Iran. The Islamic Republic of Iran has the the fastest growing Christian church in the world today. It is a rapidly-reproducing discipleship movement that owns no property or buildings, has no central leadership, and is predominately led by courageous women.  It will be the best two hours you've spent in a long time.  #Iran

Friday, November 08, 2019

When Men Rule the Church, Men Fool the Church: FBC Clarksville, Tennessee, and the Mistakes Made

A Conference at FBC Clarksville, Tennessee (2017)
My heart goes out to the people and leaders of First Baptist Church, Clarksville, Tennessee. They are in a mess.

Emails flooded my inbox at the beginning of this week with people asking if I'd "heard about FBC Clarksville calling a pastor who had used his position as a youth pastor to sexually prey on young women in his youth group." 

I had not. I then read this newspaper article.

I then read that Southern Seminary, the place where this pastor had taught as an adjunct professor, suspended him this week.

My wife and I then read the account of the sexual predatory behavior from the two women groomed by this former youth pastor, the man who is was the leading candidate to be the next Senior Pastor of FBC Clarksville, Tennessee.

Our hearts broke while reading what the girls wrote.

I then listened to the Chairman of the Pastoral Search Committee explain to the church last Sunday morning that there were "a few adversaries" that were opposing their recommendation to bring this man as the Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church, Clarksville, Tennessee, (see video below).

I could not believe what I heard from the Chairman of the Pastoral Search Committee.

I had to listen to the video three times to make sure I comprehended what he was saying.

I was not misunderstanding him.

I'm sure the Chairman of the Pastoral Search Committee at FBC Clarksville is a wonderful man who is doing his best. I can't imagine the pressure he must be under.

But he made three huge mistakes:
1. The moment he heard from victims about the leading candidate's previous sexual activities with females in his youth group (with photos and testimonial corroboration), he should have made that leading candidate the last candidate his church ever considered. The information he obtained should also have been shared with the leading candidate's current church. 
2. Calling the two young women that were groomed for sexual activity by their former youth pastor "adversaries" is like calling a victim of a robbery, dying from a gunshot wound inflicted by the robber, an "adversary" because the killer was your relative. The impartial see through this subterfuge instantly.
3. In the age of the Internet, when the Chairman seemed to excuse what he learned about the sexual indiscretions of his leading candidate by comparing him to previous pastors of FBC Clarksville, he made a fatal mistake. Classic sexual abuse is when someone in a position of influence and authority preys on others. No previous pastor of FBC was in ministry when their sexual indiscretions occurred. Pre-conversion stories don't match post-conversion stories. And on top of that, the sexual indiscretions of the leading candidate occurred while he was a pastor! The leading candidates' previous grooming activities are unacceptable - period. No excuses. The candidate's social media profile has gone dark. But the websites which seek to protect the church of Jesus Christ have lit up. It's a new day, but I'm not sure that the chairman of the FBC Clarksville Pastoral Search Committee has the wherewithal to understand it. Sunday's statement to the church is unconscionable. 
The leading candidate to be pastor of FBC Clarksville is no longer the leading candidate.  He can't be. He won't be. It just hasn't been announced publicly - yet.

What's more, in my opinion, a new Pastoral Search Committee needs to be elected. The cultural, social, and church "tone deafness" of the current FBC Clarksville Pastoral Search Committee is stunning.

Were a woman to be the Chairperson of the Pastoral Search Team, or were women to be in prominent leadership positions of FBC Clarksville, what happened last Sunday at FBC Clarksville would not have happened.

When men rule the church, men fool the church.

FBC Clarksville has been taught over the years that "the man rules." Sadly, when "the man rules" alone, the church makes mistakes. Southern Baptists rightfully oppose homosexual marriage, believing that the male and the female in union is God's design?

Why do same sex leadership churches in our Convention not bother us like same sex marriages in our homes?

Both are against God's design.

No man should "rule over" the church but Jesus Christ.

When the full complement of men and women serve the church as the Spirit gifts them, mistakes like those made at FBC Clarksville, Tennessee, this past weekend are not nearly as likely.

The full-orbed wisdom and image of God is seen when both gifted and humble men and women serve God's church in leadership positions.

I was not going to write about this debacle until I saw someone on Twitter ask, "Why are leaders of the SBC not speaking out about what's taking place at FBC Clarksville?" 

If you happen to read this blog, I want you to know that many in the SBC understand the serious problems of attempting to excuse predatory behavior of our SBC pastors or leaders.

I'm going after the source of the problem. It's a faulty view of inherent male authority over females (e.g. "the man rules") and I am seeking to provide long-term, biblical solutions.