Previous month:
December 2013
Next month:
February 2014

January 2014 entries

Analysis Paralysis

As I sat studying God's Word for Sunday's message I was reminded how we allow our quest for answers keep us from seeking after The Answer. 

Lazarus has died and Jesus approaches Bethany where the deceased man's sisters lived. Martha comes running to Jesus and meets Him away from the house. It seems she could not wait to take the situation up with Jesus. 

"If you would have been here then my brother would not have died." (John 11:21) She had it figured out. If Jesus were present then death could not occur.

 Then she began to name another truth she believed certain. ""Whatever you ask of God, God will give you." (John 11:22) She had convinced herself hat the answer to her prayer for her brother's life would be accomplished at the last day. This is how she could justify that Jesus did not answer her prayer immediately.

To this Jesus said, "I am the resurrection and the life, He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live." (John 11:25)

It seems that Martha thought she had Christ figured out. When He did not respond in a way she could predict then she tried to make His response fit her theology. "I believe you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is come into the world." (John 11:27) 

Compare her response to Mary. When Mary was informed Jesus was near she ran and fell at His feet. Her statement was the same as her sister, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died." (John 11:32) But her reaction was different. Instead of further questions, "Jesus saw her weeping." (John 11:33)

It was her lack of needing to be right that moved Him. She simply missed her brother and wondered why Jesus had not been there. She pressed Him with no further questions. Her theology did not have to be affirmed. She did not have to have all the answers. She was hurting and because she hurt, "He groaned in the Spirit and was troubled." (John 11:33)

I have found that people who have to be right or have all their questions answered to their satisfaction will be sorely disappointed in this life. They question the actions or inaction of God to the degree they are paralyzed in their faith. They most often begin their conversations with, or about, God with "why." "Why do you worship God at the Temple while we worship Him at this mountain?" the woman at the well asked Jesus.  That was not the real issue in her life. She wasn't estranged from God because of doctrine, but because of her sin.

I have found that those who always want to know why would be better served by being silent. Sit at Jesus feet and listen to His voice. Don't feel you have to have your questions answered completely. Our questions become inconsequential in His presence. "Be still nad know that He is God." There will be plenty of time to ask why later.

In His Shadow,

Pastor Ken    

 


I Wish I Weren't This Way

This Sunday I continue a practice I began about 20 years ago. I'm presenting the State of the Church message to the congregation of Dallas Bay Baptist Church. I am convicted that as the spiritual and administrative leader of this great church it is my responsibility to report how we are functioning in our attempt to be an effective component in God's economy. As always there will be reasons to rejoice and reasons to reflect and repent. So in preparation for Sunday I had our staff tally some information from 2013.

Financially, we have continued to emerge from the budget challenges that began all the way back in 2008. Our total tithes and offereings were $3,382,000. That's up $200,000 from last year, PTL. Out of our total giving we spent $215,000 on missions. That's up $55,000 from last year. Another reason to praise the Lord! We exceeded our Christmas missions offering goal by more than 25%. These numbers place Dallas Bay in the top 1/2 of 1% of Churches in America. God is good. 

We grew by 148 members. Dallas Bay's membership is now 3,058. We helped 750 adults and children through our community benevolence ministries. This does not include members of Dallas Bay that were helped. These numbers are kept confidential, but they are not insignificant.  The Lord has certainly been gracious to this great church.

But, we are woefully weak in one important area; evangelism. We baptized 47 in 2013. Baptisms are one of the few visible means to measure evangelism in a Baptist church. Let's think about this for a second. Over 3,000 born again believers were able to lead only 47 people to Christ in one year. That calculates to 1 salvation for every 64 members. How would I characterize that effort; pathetic. I have done a terrible job leading our church to share our faith. I have let the Lord and the chucrh down. This is not brand new information to me. I really don't get surprised by the statistics that the staff supplies me for Suday. I have pretty good idea where we stand all year long. So I have been concerned about this for a while. So does a pastor just excuse the poor numbers on culture or the complacency of his congregation? Some do. I can't. I wish I weren't this way, but I can't just "ride it out" and wish it weren't so.

I have felt for some time that we were quenching the Spirit in our worship services. The Lord's graciousnes is at least partly to blame. He has grown our family from 24 to 3,000 in these 24 years and we struggle to provide adequate space to contain such rapid growth. In the past we have done as many as 5 services on Sunday morning. Even now, after adding seating and an additional campus we will have 5 services this Easter. But on a weekly basis we have to clear the hallways and parking lots in 15 minutes between services at our main campus. If I run over, even a few minutes, it throws the whole morning into chaos. So as the service nears an end I have to quickly summarize. Sometimes I don't have time to even give an opportunity for a response. After having explained this scenario, Pastor Cymballa at the Brooklyn Tabernacle asked me, "How is the Spirit allowed to move in such a situation?"  "I don't know" was all I could say.

So beginning February 16 we are adding time to each service. We are also adding 30 minutes between services so people can slow down and I can let the Spirit close the service and not a clock. Some who have heard about this change are happy and others are not. It means starting our first service earlier than ever. "People won't get up that early". Or, "its already hard enough to get children up and ready for 1st service", others have said. I wish I weren't this way. I wish I could settle for the status quo. I just can't.

I expect the negatives about the change in times will seem insignificant compared to the other change. I have asked the great choir and orchestra of Dallas Bay to lead out in worship in our first service. In an attempt to have more in the choir on Sundays, I have asked that they no longer choose between worship or Sunday School. If they are all in the first service our church will hear how great they are when they are all together. That means the second service will be different than normal and that is where I am getting the most criticism. I won't even attempt to descibe this service except by telling you what it isn't. It isn't a contemporary service in the way that most Baptists associate with he term. It will be different. God has so impressed on my heart this change that I can't ignore it any longer. If I could describe what has been  laid on my heart they would be words like: intimate, connected, flexible, and Spirit led. Not Spirit led in a way that some churches characterize a chaotic or frenzied service as Spirit led. I mean the ability to step to the platform and change the direction of a song or call for a time of prayer. The more I try and explain the more difficult I find it to do. I just want people to know that it will not be a service where you're asked to stand for an hour as you repeat a chorus of 7 words 11 times.

Why am I doing this knowing it will result in controversy, and contrary to popular beliefs, I do not like controversy. Because I know that many of the unchurched are not attracted by choir and orchestra music no matter how great they are. And did I mention we have a great choir and orchestra? I also know that we have had many additions to our church who are musically talented but have no desire to participate in church worship as it has been offered at Dallas Bay. Both of these groups are more likely to have lost friends than those of who have been in church all of our lives. Sure, it would be less controversial to keep things the way they were. Some churches would be satisfied with 64 members to 1 baptism, but I don't think we are. I know I'm not. And that's not the spirit that got us to where we are today. I wish I weren't this way. I really do. But I cannot sit idly by and do things they way they have always been done just to avoid criticism. I am relying on the good people at Dallas Bay to have that same desire. To reach as many people with the Gospel of Christ as we possible can. I believe as deeply as anything I believe that the time is at hand. I believe all the signs are there for the Lord to call us home soon. And when He does, I want to be found doing all I can do to share His good news with those who need to hear.

I hope to see you Sunday.