Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Cats and Dogs

"56-year-old Maine man Roland Cote almost lost his life in a house fire 3:30 a.m. Sunday morning but his black Labrador Retriever, Thumper, managed to wake him by grabbing his arm. A quick 911 call was all there was time for before having to get out.

The Greenville resident said his 7-year-old grandson Colby and wife Avalone were staying with relatives at the time of the fire. The State Fire Marshal's Office says that their cat, Princess, likely knocked over a lantern which melted a gas line.

Authorities say the home is insured, and Cote will have the property cleaned up and a double-wide mobile home brought in. The family will be staying with a family friend in town for the meantime."

Friday, October 26, 2007


Ligonier Ministries is offering the ESV Reformation Study Bible for a significant savings, but only if ordered on October 31st.

No....not in celebration of Halloween, but rather in commemoration of Reformation Day. I am taking the graphic and working this into a handout for this coming Sunday's bulletin.

Pastor's, pass on this information to your people. This is excellent stuff, and will greatly aid your people. I am considering buying multiple copies of this to give to new members.

Fractured Foundation #5: LOCAL AUTONOMY

FRACTURED FOUNDATIONS (Areas in Which Baptist Churches Must Grow):

#5: Local Autonomy

The Historical Origins:
Originating in the separatist-puritan era of 17th century England, Baptist churches established themselves as independent, local congregations. Pressured from both the Anglican church and the Royal government, Baptist churches fought hard for their right to be autonomous. Many, such as John Bunyan, were imprisoned for such insistence.

In this regards, Baptist are very similar to their denominational cousins--the Congregationalists. In 1658, the Congregationalists, led by the mighty John Owen, published a revision of the Westminster Confession. Though identical to the WC in almost every respect, it revised the section on church government, maintaining the concept of local autonomy.

Baptists, however, took the issue of autonomy further than did the Congregationalists. In light of the persecution faced by these groups, such movement is understandable. All the authority structures of the time were openly attacking the Baptist churches in the name of 'church government'. It makes sense that, over time, Baptists would develop a dislike, even a loathing, of the concept of "oversight". Sadly, very quickly this decomposed itself into a "don't tell us what to do" attitude. With some exceptions, Congregationalists have generally done a better job advocating the concept of local autonomy while maintaining a sense of unity with and accountability to a wider church body.

The Biblical Data:
One is hard-pressed to find support for "high denominationalism" (HD) in Scripture. By "HD" I am referring to highly structured governmental forms of churchgovernment. For example, where does one find scriptural support for a synod or diocese? How does one offer a biblical argument for Cardinals or Archbishops? Furthermore, where does one find support for the concept that bishop is somehow superior in authority to an elder?

However, the argument can also be reversed. Where, for example, does one find scripture advocating local autonomy? Where does Scripture teach the idea that one congregation is not answerable to another? In fact, there is some evidence to suggest that the church in Jerusalem believed it had the authority to set standards for all churches (Acts 15), and that Paul was attempting to create a coalition of sorts (the Gentile churches tithe to Jerusalem).

The fact is that People of God were never intended to be independent, local congregations who had no relationship to nor accountability towards other congregations. No man--and certainly no church--is an island. The "fellowship" to which my church belongs bends over backwards to remind everyone that we are not a denomination. In fact, they claim that as if its a badge of honor. Frankly, when I hear this language I shudder because I (1) do not believe such a practice is warranted scripturally, and (2) I fear its roots are more in sinful, prideful refusal to submit to one-another rather than a true attempt to follow scripture.

Autonomy is something the unredeemed desire, and it is not fitting for a follower of Christ. The root of all sin is the desire to be autonomous. Notice the word "follower". To follow means to submit to. Of course, traditionally Baptists will claim that they are following Christ, but that they refuse to follow men. In light of their persecutionary beginnings in the 17th century this makes sense. But I find it odd that men are willing to follow Christ, but now willing to follow the Christ found in the hearts of other men. The church--worldwide--is obligated to hold each other accountability to the Logos (the written word that reveals the physical Word). This is impossible in a pure autonomous structure.

The Path Forward: If Baptists are to truly embrace the full vision of the biblical church, and are to have a place in the mission of God in the next century, we must drop this insistence on extreme notions of autonomy. While I am not advocating high-denominational structures, we must think through a structure that will allow a congregation (1) the ability to practice liberty of conscience, and (2) the ability to hold individual congregations accountable to Scripture. Our congregations are biblically answerable to one another. A pastor, and even a single congregation, was never intended to be the final authority on any matter. Furthermore, autonomous churches have no way of settling deadlocked church conflicts. A denominational structure could better protect doctrine from heresy, could more consistently enforce church discipline, could offer protection to the pastor if the congregation wrongfully seeks to remove him, and offer protection to the people in removing a pastor who is in doctrine error or sin. Furthermore, the combined resources of such a system could better train and equip the next generation of leadership, and also affords far greater fellowship opportunities.

But....there is one big negative: this would mean that somebody will someday tell us what to do. My sinful heart doesn't like that one bit.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

A Bold New Path to Nowhere...

I rarely blog on politics for the simple reason that I loathe the subject. Yes, I believe Christians should be involved in the political arena--my hatred for the subject is personal, not ideological.

However, I have been watching the 07/08 "Race to the White house" with increasing apprehension. As others have already noted, the Republican party has failed to offer a viable candidate who holds the moral values of the Evangelical party.

1976 was hailed "The Year of the Evangelical". It seems our influence, once deep as well as wide, has waned to the point that our former political ally (the GOP) no longer feels the need to court the Evangelical vote. Frankly, most likely there will not be candidate that I can vote for in good conscience.

Let's face it, by the look of things we will be forced to vote for (1) a rabid secular humanist, or (2) a member of a cult that blasphemes Christ. While I can understand a Christians aversion to Hillary Clinton, I am disturbed by the endorsements Romney is receiving from leading Evangelical figures. To be honest, I would rather see someone in the White House who denies Christ than one who distorts Him. Furthermore, I cannot vote for Romney because I do not want to do anything that will help Mormonism become mainstream. It is a cult that is growing in momentum and influence. It already has a strong hold on a sizeable portion of the Western states, and its worldwide missionary activity is growing by leaps and bounds.

Personally, I think this situation is good for the Evangelical community. It is time we realized the Republican party is just as pagan as its Democratic counterpart. To be honest, I believe the Democrats have a more biblical stand on some moral issues that the Republicans (and most Evangelicals) refuse to even recognize as moral issues (racism, the greed of Capitalism, etc).

This next election, I may be forced to vote for a third party candidate. Don't cry to me that this will guarantee a Democratic victory...Like that will be any worse than a Republican victory! I think I will strike out on my own path this next election. While this path may ultimately lead nowhere, at least it won't lead to Hell (on earth, at least).

Monday, October 22, 2007

Which Kind of Baptist Are You?

"There are two sorts of men called Anabaptists among us. The one sort are sober Godly Christians, who when they are rebaptized to satisfy their consciences, live among us in Christian love and peace; and I shall be ashamed if I love not them as heartily, and own them not as peaceably, as any of them shall do either me or better men than I, that differ from them. The other sort hold it unlawful to hold communion with such as are not of their mind and way, and are schismatically troublesome and unquiet, in laboring to increase their Party. These are they that offend me and other lovers of peace". [1]

Baxter, Richard. More Proofs of Infant Church Membership. 1679.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

New Books Have Arrived

Yet again another delightful bundle of books has appeared on my threshold.

Octavius Winslow, Evening Thoughts
Octavius Winslow, Morning Thoughts
* Devotional writing at its finest, from the pen of a premiere puritan.

Edmund Clowney, How Jesus Transforms the Ten Commandments
* Clowney offers straightforward, non-technical discussion on how the "Big 10" relate to the daily life of a modern day Christian.

James Durham, Practical Exposition of the Ten Commandments
James Durham, Christ Crucified: The Marrow of the Gospel in 72 Sermons on Isaiah 53
* That's right! 72 sermons on just one chapter in the Bible. I sense some in my congregation are tiring of Matthew, as it has been 8 months and I am only on chapter 13 (or, are they tired of the preacher???). I can always threaten to preach Durham's sermons. Actually, I read through the first chapter already, and was amazed at the depth and beauty of Durham's spirituality and teaching. Amazing stuff! A wonderful example of 17th century puritanism.

Archbishop James Ushher, A Body of Divinity
* From the man who gave us the Annuals of the World and the (erroneous) belief that the world is just 6,000 years old (yes, Ushher first "deciphered" that number and it has been gospel to many naive souls through the years). We cannot blame Ushher, though, as he was a product of his times. In fact, Ushher was a brilliant man with a strong command of several academic disciplines. His Body of Divinity greatly influenced the framers of the Westminster Standards.

Joel Beeke, The Heritage Reformed Congregations: Who We Are and What We Believe
* "Just for fun reading". I'm not planning on converting. Interestingly, this is a "KJV" denomination, though for altogether different reasons than those given in the anti-intellectual fundamentalist camp.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

What Kind of Reader Am I?

What Kind of Reader Are You?
Your Result: Obsessive-Compulsive Bookworm

You're probably in the final stages of a Ph.D. or otherwise finding a way to make your living out of reading. You are one of the literati. Other people's grammatical mistakes make you insane.

Dedicated Reader

Literate Good Citizen

Book Snob


Fad Reader

What Kind of Reader Are You?
Create Your Own Quiz

Saturday, October 13, 2007

New Poll

I've added a new poll (see left side bar) regarding the use of labels in one's Christian self-identity. Which term best describes you?

Meeting of the Minds

For those planning on being in northern Michigan this coming Tuesday, a group of us are planning on getting together for a time of fellowship, prayer, and discussion.

Who: Pastors. No denomination is specified, but most of us will be Baptist (or Bible) churches that have left the militant/legalistic fundamentalist movement (recently or in the past). Most of the pastors present will be 1st generation leaders of the transition.

Where: In Alanson, Michigan (roughly 30 minutes south of the Mackinaw Bridge). Shoot me an email (jgelatt at gmail com) for specific location.

What: This is a time of prayer, fellowship, and discussion. We are seeking to make connections, build inter-church relationships, encourage one another, and even learn from one another.

When: Tuesday, 10:30 AM. We will probably go out for lunch.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Pastor's Gone Wild - #008: The Case of the Pistol-Pack'n Pulpiteer

A new series highlighting the odd, bizarre, funny, or perhaps even heretical behavior of those who claim the title "pastor".

Case #008 - The Case of the Pistol-Pack'n Pulpiteer

There are three types of pastors:

1. Pastors who never use props.
2. Pastors who effectively use props.
3. Pastors who shouldn't use props.

Probably most of us are familiar with the first style of pastor. Though noble and faithful preachers of the Word, their sermons can become a bit tedious. Of course, if the pastor is engaging enough this can be overcome. Some of the most outstanding preachers I've ever heard never used props.

The second category can be a real joy. They have the ability to use objects to illustrate a bible story or lesson. Whether it be a fishing boat on stage, or a large wooden staff, they use props to effectively help the audience engage scripture.

The last category is, thankfully, the minority. In it exists those poor creatures who lack the ability of category #1, and lack the creativity of category #2. Sadly, I've seen pastors wear clown costumes, croak like a frog, and even yodel in order to hit a sermonic home run (though, clearly, these were foul balls). Yes, they get an "A" for effort, but they flunk every other test.

A pastor in North Carolina left his creativity--and common sense--at home last November when he drew a revolver from a shoulder holster during the sermon. It seems he was trying to make a point about his new life in Christ, and felt the best way to do so was to wave a gun around in front of the congregation.

Hhhhmmmmm. If a sermon on our new life in Christ gets a pistol, I wonder what prop he will use when he preaches about heaven?

As it happens, the police in North Carolina are not too keen on sermon props--at least ones that involve devices that discharge metal projectiles. The following Sunday morning, the pastor was arrested mid-service by pistol-pack'n police officers.

Do you have a "Pastors Gone Wild" tale? Submit your stories to Please read the Submission Rules page before submitting a story. Your name, and a link to your site, will be included if the web owner uses your submission.

Beginnings of a Paper

I have started writing a research paper on Bunyan's controversy with other 17th century Baptists on the issue of baptism & church fellowship. You can see the thesis statement and proposal here.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Lessons Learned In My First Year of Ministry: Lesson #6 - The Need is Not the Call

This post is part 5 of a 10 part series of the most important lessons I have learned in my first year of ministry. While I understand that family, friends, and congregants will read it, please remember it is written more to other pastors--especially those new in ministry.

Previous Posts in this series:

Lesson #9: They had to hate someone, it might as well be me.

Lesson #8: Poor Pastors Have Pretty Knees

Lesson #7: Know the Waitress by Name

Current Post:

Lesson #6: The Need is Not the Call

In the first chapter of his gospel Mark writes:

At evening, when the sun had set, they brought to Him all who were sick and those who were demon-possessed. And the whole city was gathered together at the door. Then He healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and He did not allow the demons to speak, because they knew Him. Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed. And Simon and those who were with Him searched for Him. When they found Him, they said to Him, “Everyone is looking for You.”But He said to them, “Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also, because for this purpose I have come forth” (Mark 1:32-38 NKJV).

It begins well: they brought to Him [Jesus] all who were sick and...demon-possessed. Furthermore, it specifies that the whole city was gathered. Either they were looking for healing, with someone who was looking for healing, or hoping to watch a healing. There is no indication that there were any evil or judgmental people present---just individuals in genuine need. This is Jesus at his finest, a Jesus we can understand. We love the phrase "He healed many".

The Jesus we know poured himself into people. He had compassion, and he cared. He saw the great needs of the crowds, and He responded to those needs. For many, this is the Jesus to emulate and mimic. In this light, Jesus is seen as the selfless hero who sacrifices himself for others.

But something amazing, and disturbing happens next. The disciples search for Jesus the next morning because so many people are looking for him. Once again, the location fills with people in legitimate need. While there may be charlatans in the crowd, the text does not present the crowds presence as a negative. By this we can assume that at least the majority of the people were truly in need and anguish.

Jesus, the healer, would do what is right and natural for him: namely, heal. But...he refuses. Not only doesn't he heal them, he actually commands the disciples to leave the area with Him. He intentionally ignores the true need of many (perhaps hundreds or thousands), and walks away from them.

Can you imagine the scandal? Perhaps he was accused of being unloving, or lacking compassion. Perhaps others thought that Jesus considered himself "better" than everyone else. He walked away from people and left them in their misery. For some, He even left them to die.

Why? Because Jesus was making a forceful point to His disciples. He was telling them that the need was not the call, the call was the call. In other words, God didn't call them to meet the needs of people (spiritual or otherwise), God called them to obey Him. Jesus modeled a person who wholeheartedly followed after God. He listened to God, He obeyed God, He was devoted to God.

Of course, meeting the needs of people is part of following God, but only part. As pastor, I routinely get sucked into the notion that it is my job to meet the needs of my people. While that is part of my call, it is in reality secondary to my true calling; which is obeying the Father. If I fail to meet the needs of some will I be accused of being lazy or uncaring? Yes. But it doesn't matter. Meeting the needs of others, and most certainly receiving their approval, isn't my calling.

Consider this post more an exercise in self-talk rather than a statement of what I have already accomplished. I am learning this lesson intellectually, and not really sure I have even begun putting it into practice. Make no mistake, pastors (of all believers) are called to radically love others, and sacrifice ourselves for them. But, my Father comes first. Everyday I enter my office and there is a list of important things to do on my desk. Most of those items have something to do with people. I am learning that many times I am called to walk away from that list just to spend time with God.

Merciful Father,
Teach me to answer the call.
Teach me the sound of your voice.
Guide my steps to the place you are leading.

Rest and Renewal

This week my wife and I are in the beautiful Crystal Mountain Resort, taking part in a "pastor and spouse" retreat put on by Grand Rapids Theological Seminary. While we have had a few breaks from our church ministry during the summer, these were generally other ministry involvements (e.g. taking a week off from church to speak at a week long conference, direct a bible camp, etc). We did manage to take a couple of days as a family in August, but this does mark the first true vacation we've had in quite some time. It's also just Amy and I--the first time since we've been married that we have spent 4 days alone together.

The name of the conference is "Personal Renewal in Ministry: Pastor's Time Off". It is designed to bring rest, renewal, and refreshment to the body, mind, and spirit. I believe the seminary puts it on every year.

The lectures are fabulous, the food superb, the worship glorifying to God, and the housing gorgeous!

Praise God for His wonderful provision and blessing. Please keep us in your prayers.

Friday, October 5, 2007

The Biggist Problem in Fundamentalism & Evangelicalism

[HT: Dan Burell's quote of Dr. Charles Wood]

{I've only reprinted the first portion of this lengthy, but excellent article}.

“Last week I mentioned that I would tackle this subject this week so here goes. There is a lot of discussion today about social drinking and the Bible (the discussion was around more than fifty years ago when I can remember some rather heated exchanges around the coffee pot when in seminary). I don’t think that is the biggest problem we face by far. There is much discussion today about seeing movies in theaters (just about everyone watches them on DVD and other technological advances at home). Isn’t it neat how technology has enabled so many to agree to - or even sign - “church covenants” and other agreements without having to take then seriously? But this also isn’t, in my opinion, our greatest problem.

The music wars continue to rage (and, again in my opinion, do little to change the tastes and preferences of anyone, including those who readily sign statements on the subject and just as readily violate them at home, in the car, etc.). But no matter how much importance certain educational institutions attach to the subject, I’m not convinced that this is evangelicalism’s greatest problem. There are also battles about other issues such as standards, versions of the Word of God, degrees of separation, etc., but no matter how vehemently such peripheral issues are debated, they do not constitute the greatest problem we face.

Our society is beset by social issues of significant concern to evangelicals. Same sex marriage, school sex-education programs, the decay of modern higher education (so amply shown in recent headlines), and even abortion on demand (as horrible and dangerous as that matter is) are all current issues. I am not convinced, however, that even these issues with cosmic significance comprise the greatest problem we face.

The greatest problem? I am convinced it is the fact that hundreds of thousands of people sit in the pews of evangelical churches on a weekly basis who have never even so much as shared their faith with anyone else much less personally led anyone to the Lord. I serious doubt if many of these multitudes have even so much as ever invited someone to church (unless it was on the “pack-a-pew” night of an evangelistic meeting when they invited someone from another Bible-believing church to be their guest.)

The last words of Jesus didn’t include any mention of alcohol consumption, dancing, movie-going, Bible versions, standards, same-sex marriage, abortion on demand or even a diatribe on musical tastes and preferences. Surely some of those matters are of importance to many and some are to all who name the name of Christ, but they were not included in the words spoken during those precious last few days spent with His disciples. I have always attached greatest importance to the words spoken by someone who is in His right mind and knows he is dying. Jesus fits that picture, and it is interesting to note that His concern was with sending His disciples into all the world on a quest to make more disciples. How easy it is to get involved in “good” things and even “better” things and to leave the “best” things undone.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Pastor's Gone Wild: Case #007 - The Case of the Business Meeting Gone Wrong

A new series highlighting the odd, bizarre, funny, or perhaps even heretical behavior of those who claim the title "pastor".

Case #007 - The Case of the Business Meeting Gone Wrong

[Note: In light of my church's upcoming Annual Congregational Meeting, this article is particularly timely].

Let's face it, church business meetings are a drag. Many think they are long, boring, and people (including the pastor) drone on-and-on about things that seem trivial and stupid. The deacons take an hour to discuss financial spreadsheets, and the pastor insists on talking about "mission statements" and "core values".

Churches really should try to jazz things up a little. After all, Television and Hollywood learned this lesson long ago. Perhaps a choral number or interpretive dance would be a nice addition. Better yet, an animated cartoon strip would be a neat feature. Obviously sex and violence sells. But churches have rightly taken their stand against the sexually loose standards of this nation, so that option is out.

...but what about violence. Now there we go. Professional Wrestling still has a huge following, as does Boxing.

Think about it: Church Business Meeting + Violence = one interesting meeting.

One church in Florida is way ahead of us. In a recent congregational meeting, the Pastor decided to get into a wrestling match with another church leader in front of the church [see news article here]. It seems the meeting erupted in violence as a faction of the church was trying to oust the would-be pastor. Things got so ugly before the fight that sheriff's deputies were called. Things continued to heat up to the point that the fight broke out in front of a deputy (who had stayed behind to try to "keep the peace"--odd, I thought that was the church's job).

All I know is that I am definitely getting tickets to their next business meeting. I wonder if they sell popcorn?

Do you have a "Pastors Gone Wild" tale? Submit your stories to Please read the Submission Rules page before submitting a story. Your name, and a link to your site, will be included if the web owner uses your submission.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Newest (and most important) addition to my library

I don't really collect old books. By "old" I am referring to the age of the physical copy, and not reprints (of which many of mine go back hundreds or thousands of years).

There are those who collect old books simply because they are old. While "antiquing" is a noble hobby, personally I find it hard to admire someone who buys an antique book simply to let it sit on some shelf or under glass. A book isn't in the same category as an antebellum spoon or a 17th century door hinge. A book is to be a treasured friend, something to be read, studied, used, and adored. A lot of old books frankly are not worth reading, and I don't want them in my library simply because they look like "antiques".

Of course the major reason I don't collect old books is because of the expense. Reprints are cheaper--and since I graduated from being a poor seminary student to being a poor ministerial leader there isn't a lot of disposable cash for such purchases.

But today, I have made an exception! In today's mail my treasure arrived. It is an early 1900's facsimile reprint called Church Book of Bunyan Meeting: 1650-1821. The title of the original was "A Booke Containing a Record of the Acts of A Congregation of Christ, in and about Bedford", which later came to be associated with John Bunyan. It records the initial church covenant and constitution, as well as subsequent church records (deaths, marriages, church discipline cases, etc), and provides a rare look into the life of a 1600's era Baptist congregation.

The book is oversized (at least ledger size paper), and is in the original handwriting of the church clerks. The historical icing on the cake is that John Bunyan's handwriting is contained within the book. Of course, there is only one original. This facsimile reprint is #112 out of only 675 produced (only 300 originally sold in the United States).

This is by far the most important addition to my library. In addition to my massive exegetical collection, and my wide-ranging interests in systematic and historical theology, I am now concentrating my collection on the following:

1. General puritan works
2. Specialized Collection: Dutch Reformers--primary sources.
3. Specialized Collection: Jonathan Edward--primary and secondary sources.
4. Specialized Collection: John Bunyan--primary sources

This last collection is receiving the bulk of my attention (and resources) for the moment. Church Book of Bunyan Meeting is a rare copy of a unique primary source for studies on John Bunyan, and I am thankful to own it. In fact, I can't believe this has never been scanned and placed on the web.

If I get one of my friends with a digital camera to take a few shots, I will post the pics. Also, I would tell you the purchase price, but then my wife might find out......and that would not end well for me. :o(

Daily Devo - Tuesday, October 2, 2007

"Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation".
Habakkuk 3:17-18 (ESV)*

The world is full of miserable people. Find a spot with lots of people (the mall, the grocery store, a starbucks cafe, a church) and just watch their faces. Yes, there are a lot of smiles, but there is also a lot of pain, grief, and misery.

How wonderful it is when you find someone who radiates joy. The myth is that only successful people find joy--when in fact they are just as miserable as everyone else. Yet once in a while you find that person who seems to have a joy that seems "beyond" them. It's not because of what they have, or who they have a relationship with. Sometimes they are rich and healthy, but their joy doesn't seem to be based on those things. Sometimes they are poor in finances and health, yet those circumstances likewise do not affect their joy.

These people have stumbled upon a wonderful treasure...they have found that hidden storehouse that is filled with mountains of joy--the presence of God. The message of Habakkuk is dark and terrible. In it, God declares He will fiercely judge His people, and the evil nations. The prophet Habakkuk is given no promise that he or his people will physically be spared. But, that's OK, because his joy is not found here. Rather, his joy is located in the very presence of God, where no enemy and no circumstance can ever destroy it.

Is your joy found in things that will eventually fail? Or is it found in the eternal person of God, kept safely for all eternity beyond the grasp of evil and failure? Today, be joyful in your God.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Articles by John Bunyan

For those interested, I am posting articles written by John Bunyan which relate to his controversy with other 17th century Baptists over baptism, the Lord's supper, and fellowship.

Reason for My Practice (not yet posted)

Differences in Water Baptism, No Bar to Communion

Peaceable Principles and True (Bunyan's last word on the subject)

Lessons Learned in the First Year of Ministry: Lesson #7 - "Know the Waitress by Name"

This post is part 4 of a 10 part series of the most important lessons I have learned in my first year of ministry.

Previous Posts in this series:

Lesson #9: They had to hate someone, it might as well be me.

Lesson #8: Poor Pastors Have Pretty Knees

Current Post:

Lesson #7: Know the Waitress by Name

True Christianity, by its very nature, is marked by compassion. Many years ago Francis Schaeffer wrote a little book called the Mark of a Christian--a book that takes its place among his other great works. In it Schaeffer argues that Christians have a "mark" by which we can be identified as Christians: namely, love.

Consider the alternative to Christianity: atheism. While it is true that most atheists love others (at least some others), it is also true that there is no rational reason for them to do so. By abandoning the belief in God, atheists must also abandon the belief that their fellow human beings are created in the image of God. To the atheist, there is no afterlife nor is there a spiritual dimension to humanity. We are, they claim, simply material beings.

The sister ideology of atheism (evolution) teaches the survival of the fittest. I remember hearing of a university professor who gave a lecture actually arguing that rape must play a valuable role in society because the has "survived" for many thousands of years. As offended as many were, at least this man was being consistent with his evolutionary atheism. A system that teaches that everyone is out for themselves, and that others have no eternal significance, is only capable of producing a society that is inhuman and sociopathic. While they do love, they only do so by being inconsistent with their ideology.

Christians, by contrast, are supposed to be people who love. When we fail to show compassion, we are actually living like atheists and evolutionists. Whereas atheists are inconsistent when they love, we are inconsistent when we do not.

The need to continually demonstrate compassion to others has been greatly impressed upon me this past year. I am learning that this must mark all that I do, and be one of my foundational motivations. Daily I remind myself that everyone one I come in contact with is an image bearer of the living God, and therefore deserve whatever respect I can offer them.

The nurse, the mechanic, the waitress, the trash-hauler, the police officer, the check-out counter girl, the business owner---while they all play a function in my life, their value is so far beyond anything they do for me. The were created by the Father, and therefore deserve my love. They are the heart beat of ministry. Ministry is simply compassion in action. It is getting past programming and getting into people's lives. Find out who they are, and care about them and their situation.

Today, live as a consistent Christian and know the waitress by name.