Tuesday, March 29, 2005

WFU Update

Posts may be a little slow for the next few days, because I am having problems with my laptop. The A/C adapter jack broke, but it is covered by an extended warranty. I don't know how long it will take for me to get it back.

I heard from Wake Forest today. They had lost and then found my FAFSA application for need based financial aid. They are sending an offer letter out in the next couple of days, BUT because my gross income was so high (when you are self employed, this is a huge problem, I wish they would just look at taxable income) this offer will be limited. However, I can fill out another form which will be included in this offer which says I will not be working next year, and they will send me out a revised offer. Isn't this fun! But, at least the process is moving again.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Article on CBF Leadership Scholarship

There is an article about CBF Leadership Scholarships on the CBF website. This is one of the 2 scholarships I have so far. You can read it by clicking here.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

No Entries This Week

I probably won't be blogging very much this week. For those of you who don't know, I work part time for Bayshore doing all of their tech work, and this is a crazy week. Gay and I will be up about 3am on Sunday morning preparing for a sunrise service on Davis Islands.

I hope everyone has a happy Easter!

Friday, March 18, 2005

Comment on "personal revelations"

My friend Abe posted another good comment on my last post. You can read it by clicking here.

For my response, I think we need to start by defining what a prophet is. This definition is just the result of a quick online search, so we may need to refine or change it, but it at least gives us a good starting point.

A prophet is basically a spokesman for God, a person chosen by God to speak to people on God's behalf and convey a message or teaching. Prophets were role models of holiness, scholarship and closeness to God. They set the standards for the entire community.
So, if a prophet is someone speaking to the people on God's behalf, then God is obviously speaking to the prophet. And, according to Acts 2:17, we have not seen the last of the prophets:

“In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters
will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.”
So, if that is true, there are certainly prophets among us that God is pouring his spirit upon. That is my basis for believing that God is still giving divine revelation to individuals. There of course, as the Bible warns, false prophets out there. Just go to www.niv.org and do a search for false prophets, and you will see numerous warnings against them.

One of the reasons I am writing here to see how my beliefs change before and after seminary. I certainly make no claims that everything I write is correct, but I certainly don't think there is anything dangerous in discussing Christian issues.

Thanks again for writing. I am enjoying the dialogue we are having, and the spirit we are having it in.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Another Comment on Biblical Preaching

I received another comment on the topic of "Biblical Preaching" from my good friend Abe. You can read his comment by clicking here.

The following reply was also posted in the comment area.

Abe,

I appreciate your comments and you taking the time to write. I think Christians can learn a lot from each other in these types of discussions, so I look at all of this in a positive light.

Would you agree that a parable is a kind of story? Nearly every definition I have found today is similar to yours, except for the presence of the word "story" or narrative. In his paraphrase, "The Message", Eugene Peterson uses the word "stories" in Mark 4:10-12. I will admit they are not exactly the same as the stories many pastors use in their sermons. But, I think there are some similarities. Stories can help make an abstract or difficult concept personal. They provide the listener with a point of reference they can relate to in order to help them better understand the message a speaker is trying to convey. Can our stories ever measure up to the ones Jesus used? Of course not, and neither will any sermon I ever preach even begin to approach the ones Jesus gave 2000 years ago. However, I do believe it is appropriate to attempt to model sermons after the style that Jesus used, even though we know we can never live up to the standard he set.

The primary point I have been trying to convey is this. There are many out there who believe that the Bible is the sole revelation of God to his people. As I stated in a post today, I do not believe that. I believe God is still talking to people today. I believe this because I have heard him speaking to me. I have heard people attacking pastors, who have been mentors to me, by saying their preaching is not biblical. When questioned on what was not biblical about the sermon, they respond by saying that he wasn't holding a Bible while he was preaching and he didn't go through the passage verse by verse. However, if you analyze what the preacher said, the teachings were entirely biblical -- consistent with the message of the text the sermon was based on.

I guess I have not done a good enough job of making it clear that my problem is with the term "Biblical Preaching" when it is mis-defined and misused to attack another minister. All ministers should be practicing biblical preaching(notice the lack of quotes), and if they are not, they need to find another line of work. I also believe that every sermon should be based on scripture. However, I think the best pastors will use all of the knowledge and techniques the Lord has blessed us with to convey the wonderful message of the Gospel. Does this mean that the audience should leave feeling good about themselves after every sermon. No. But the audience should never leave a sermon without being told that God loves them.

I think we agree more than we disagree. Thanks again for taking the time to write, and please feel free to comment on this post as well!

Ethics Daily Article on Southern Seminary "Biblical Counseling"

A few weeks ago I wrote an entry about Southern Baptist Theological Seminary's change from a pastoral care program to a "Biblical Counseling" program. You can find my post by clicking here.

There is a great article on Ethics Daily.com about it today. You can read that article by clicking here.

There is one particular quote in this article that I found particularly relevant to the discussions going on here right now:

Critics of the new trend toward biblical counseling say that by elevating the Bible as the sole source of God’s revelation, the movement fails to acknowledge that there are other sources of truth, such as science, reason and conscience.

This is one of the points I have been trying to get across in my recent postings. I know there are people who are going to disagree with this, and that is fine. I believe the Bible is the basis of Christianity, but I do not think it is the only way God reveals himself to us. After all, I have heard him speaking to me, so I know he is speaking to others.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Links to Amazon Added

I added some links to Amazon on the right hand side of the site. In the future, whenever I talk about a particular book or video I found useful, I will provide a link to it there. Although I will receive a small (5%) commission off of any purchases made through this blog, I did it more as a convenience feature, since there will have to be a total of $200 worth of purchases before I receive a payment from Amazon.

Monday, March 14, 2005

A response to a comment on "Biblical Preaching"

The following comment was posted for my article on "Biblical Preaching." I know several people are following the Blog via e-mail now, and wouldn't get to see this post otherwise, so I am posting it here.

Anonymous said...

If a pastor is not preaching from the Bible he is not preaching, he is giving a pep talk. Jesus didn't preach to "felt needs" he preached the truth. A pastor has an obligation to the church to preach the whole counsel of God not just the "feel good" parts. Any pastor who does not preach the whole truth of Scripture is falling short of his calling as a shepherd of his flock. What better way to make sure you are fulfilling your duty as a pastor than to thoroughly exposite Scripture verse by verse.

I posted the following reply:

I respectfully disagree with some of your opinions, and here's why.

My arguement is primarily with the term "Biblical Preaching." One of the most powerful communication tools ever invented is storytelling. Jesus used stories (the "church" word is parable, but the word story accurately describes what they were) in his preaching, so I believe it is entirely appropriate to use non-biblical stories in sermons. Stories make the gospel personal in a way that no other communication method can, in my opinion.

"Jesus didn't preach to "felt needs" he preached the truth." These two things are not mutally exclusive. You can preach Biblical truth to your congregation while also fullfilling their needs. A shepherd who leads his sheep to water when they are in greater need of greener pastures is not a good shepherd. Likewise, a pastor who senses a need in his congregation, but preaches on another topic, is not fullfilling his duty as pastor.

"A pastor has an obligation to the church to preach the whole counsel of God not just the "feel good" parts." I agree with this statement, for the most part. I only have a problem if it is carried to the other extreme and the "feel good" parts are ignored. After all, the great commission in Mark 16:15 reads: "He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation." The overall message of the Bible, in my opinion, is one of love and grace. It is the story of a Savior who loved us so much that He was willing to die for us. And through His death, and our acceptance of Him as our savior, we are granted eternal life, even though we don't deserve it (grace.) None of us deserve it, but it is still ours for the asking, and THAT is the GOOD news that this world needs to hear. So, I am not disagreeing with you; I am just clarifying my position.

Thanks for taking the time to write!

I forgot to put in my reply that my problem with the term "Biblical Preaching" is that I have heard it used to criticize anyone who does preach a sermon by going through a passage verse by verse. I firmly believe it is possible to preach a sermon that is "Biblical" using other methods of communication. I heard a great sermon this past Sunday that was based on 2 verses. The pastor read the verses, and then expounded on them for the rest of his sermon. Although his use of Biblical text was limited, the teaching in his sermon was, in my opinion, Biblical.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

The Cooperative Student Fellowship

I was very pleased to see that a group called the Cooperative Student Fellowship is now being formed at some universities. This will provide an alternative to the campus ministries offered by the SBC. (Southern Baptist Convention)

I don't think this is important because I just automatically think everything SBC is bad. My reason is much more personal. Looking back now, I started feeling my first calling into ministry shortly after I graduated from college. The LAST thing I wanted to do was go to school some more. And I did a little bit of research into the seminaries at that time. The SBC seminaries had nothing I was interested in. The Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond hadn't graduated its first class yet, but I had heard that some moderates were going to Chandler at Emory. I just decided I didn't want any part of the Baptist mess that was going on. But I can remember thinking several times over the next few years how much I loved working at the church. But, was there really a place for me in the new Baptist world?

Now, imagine you are a young woman in college. You feel like you are being called into ministry. More importantly, you feel God is calling you to be a pastor. Now, imagine you go to the Baptist Campus Ministry and are told that what you are feeling is not possible. God may be calling you into ministry, but you are not going to be a pastor and you are not even going to be a deacon in your church.

That's why I think it is so important for CBF to offer an alternative. As I have said before, the split is complete and the division will exist for years to come, if not permanently. CBF needs to do its thing, and CBF needs to do its thing. CBF is, however, a much smaller organization, so getting groups like this started may take time, but they are, in my opinion, essential. As moderate Baptists, we need a place that will allow us to be the kind of Baptists we want to be.

You can read a story about the Cooperative Student Fellowship by clicking here.

You can also read an essay I wrote for CBF Florida Financial aid about women in ministry by clicking here. (I have provided a link to this essay before, but decided to repost it since it is very relevant to this post.)

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Church-politicking bill reintroduced, would allow candidate endorsements

(Story courtesy of Associated Baptist Press)

By Robert Marus

WASHINGTON (ABP) -- The church-politicking bill is back, and its supporters are as eager as ever to pass it.

The measure died in the past two sessions of Congress. Nonetheless Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.) again introduced a version of the "Houses of Worship Free Speech Restoration Act," which would allow churches and other houses of worship to endorse political candidates and parties without losing their tax-exempt status.

Since the 1950s, the federal tax codes have prohibited churches -- and other non-profit groups organized under section 501(c)(3) of the code -- from getting involved in partisan politics.

Jones announced at a March 2 press conference that he again will push for the bill and likely will try to attach the proposal to a more popular piece of legislation in order to get it passed.

Jones forced a House floor vote on the bill in 2002, but it failed 178-239. His second attempt died in the House Ways and Means Committee last year.

However, the bill enjoys strong support from Religious Right groups and several powerful members of Congress, such as House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) and Senate Finance Committee chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa).

The Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission has said it supports the bill, although the agency's head said he would nonetheless discourage churches from endorsing parties or candidates.

Meanwhile, many other religious and civil-rights groups, including the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty and virtually every other major Protestant denomination, strongly oppose the bill. They argue it would cause polarization and politicization of churches, and violate the spirit of the First Amendment.

The bill is House Resolution 235.

______________________________________________
End of Story.

I would encourage everyone to contact their congressman and ask them to vote against this bill.

Questions Part 2

The next question I have heard a lot recently is actually not a single question but a category of questions. These questions involve a lot of the catch phrases we hear about in the church these days. Here's what I am talking about.

Multiple Choice Question:

Is your church _____________?

a. Bible Based
b. Christ Centered
c. Seeker Sensitive
d. Purpose Driven
e. All of the above
f. None of the above

These are just a few of the catch phrases you will see on church signs, web sites, etc.

I had a call a few months ago that asked if Bayshore was a Christ centered church. I politely answered yes, and continued to answer the caller's other questions. I wanted to ask the caller what exactly a "Christ centered" church is. I joked with my wife that I wanted to tell the caller that Bayshore was centered around the disciple Bartholomew.

I guess part of my problem is that there are certainly some churches who have a superiority complex because they are more "purpose driven" or more "Bible based" than another church. The other problem is that a strategy that works at one church may not work at all at another church. As Brian McLaren put it in his book, The Church on the Other Side, certain strategies that have caused growth explosions at one church may even be toxic at another.

I have been at a church that tried the Willow Creek model, only to discover that our church didn't have the talent or, more importantly, the will to pull it off. So, we called in a pastor from another mega-church with another model, and that one didn't work either. I know they have tried at least one other model, but I don't know whether it has worked or not. I think smart church leader look at a church model AND several churches that are using that model in different ways. I think every model has a few essentials but can be tweaked to meet the needs of a specific congregation. The tweaks can make the difference between success or failure.

So, next time you see a church advertise itself using one of these catchphrases, stop and think what it really means, if anything.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Questions I have heard recently

There are a couple questions I have heard recently that really bother me. These are questions people have either asked about our new pastor or our church in general.

The first question is this: "Does your preacher preach from the Bible?" A professor at one of the seminaries I went to even told me that he was the best teacher if I wanted to learn Biblical preaching. A deacon at our church once complained in a meeting that our former pastor didn't hold a Bible while he was preaching.

From my understanding, what these people want is for the pastor to pick a passage of scripture and go through it verse by verse during the sermon. In contrast, my past few pastors typically start their sermon by reading the scripture, and then refer to it later in the sermon. In a recent article on Baptist Press, the "news" service of the Southern Baptist Convention, Al Mohler, the president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary wrote the following:
The current debate over preaching is most commonly explained as an argument about the focus and shape of the sermon. Should the preacher seek to preach a biblical text through an expository sermon? Or, should the preacher direct the sermon to the "felt needs" and perceived concerns of the hearers?
My question is: why are those things mutually exclusive? In my opinion, the preacher is doing his job if he is preaching a biblical text that meets the needs and concerns of his congregation. Can you imagine if you had gone into church on the Sunday following 9/11 and heard a sermon on stewardship? All of us went to church that Sunday with the need to hear a sermon that told us that God was still in control, not the next sermon in a series on the book of Mark.

I think we can take a lesson from the greatest preacher in history, Jesus. Most of his sermons were in the form of stories (parables) that the people could easily understand and relate to. He often referred to scripture, but I would not say it was the focus of his message. The stories also showed people how they could apply his teachings to their lives, and I believe that knowing what the Bible says is not enough; we also need to know how to apply that knowledge to our everyday lives.

I don't want you to think that I am saying that it is wrong to use a Bible during a sermon, because that is not my intention. I have just heard and read so many people saying that pastors (many of which I know) are not preaching from the Bible, and that is simply not true. I think what is needed in preaching, like in many other areas of life, is a balance. The Bible is our window to the character of God, and his will for our lives. But, I do not believe it is the only way God speaks to us. We should use the Bible AND all of the other knowledge and techniques that God has gifted us with to reach a lost world. If we do less than that, we are not being fully faithful to the command Jesus gave us in the great commission.

I will discuss the second question in my next post.

Friday, March 04, 2005

New Feature!

I have been exploring new blog features recently, because I am going to use some blogs in Bayshore's new website. So, I learn how to use them by adding them to my own blog. I added a feature today that allows you have the latest post e-mailed to you automatically. So, if you would prefer to recieve the posts via e-mail rather than visiting the site, that is an option. Just enter your e-mail in the link in the column on the right side of the screen.

Let me know how it works for you!

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Wake Forest Update

I recieved a letter in the mail from Wake Forest today informing me that I was not a finalist for the Wait Fellowship. But, don't worry about me, I still have no doubt that I am supposed to go to Wake Forest. I already have the Divinity School scholarship and the CBF Leadership Scholarship. I haven't received the results for my need-based financial aid application yet, and I still have Florida CBF and Bayshore's scholarship fund to help me out.

I appreciate everyone who is out there praying for me, and I appreciate your continued prayers for our journey.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Wake Forest Divnity School Video

There is a new video on the Wake Forest Divinity School website, it will give you some nice pictures of the faculty and campus. You can view the video by clicking here.

You will need to have Quicktime installed. If you need it, you can get it for free by going here.

Let me know what you think after you watch the video by posting a comment!

Bayshore In the News

The CBF national website has a great story about Sam Hestorff (soon to be Dr. Sam Hestorff), our youth minister at Bayshore. Sam is an amazing youth minister, and I thought some of you might like to read the story. You can do so by clicking here.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Noelle's Christening


Click for a larger picture.

We returned from my niece's, Noelle Larkin, christening yesterday. I have put the pictures online. You can view them by clicking here.

The christening was a great experience. We were honored to be asked to be her Godparents. The priest was really nice, and he didn't enter the ministry until 4 years ago, when he was 48. He said that he hoped my experience would be as good as his, because he had never been as happy as he is now.

Gay was really sad when we left, and she wishes we lived a whole lot closer to Columbus, GA.

Wake Forest Mini-Update

I called this a mini-update, because I still haven't heard back from Wake Forest concerning financial aid.

However, I think I may have found the reason things are moving so slowly. The admissions director for the Divinity School took a job at UNC, but they now have an acting admissions director. I don't see how this couldn't slow things down, since this is the person in charge of financial aid and admissions.

You can read the news story about it by clicking here.