How Many Churches Will Close?

I just read about another church closing.  Ten years ago, few would have predicted this particular church’s closure.

It didn’t close because it compromised its conviction, doctrine or changed their bible. They closed because they failed to allow God’s transforming power to change them. God’s path to abundant life for a church or Christian is transformation/change. That is true for anything God is involved in.  There are two options: change or die.

What kind of change is needed?  Let me begin by saying the needed changes can only happen in God’s power.

1. We must stop trying to live in the past. It does us no good. As a Pastor, I can assure you easy growth is not a reality for any church. Why? People no longer come to church because they believe they must do so to be accepted.  “The old saying, “they know where we are, they can come if they want to” is poison. The Great Commission  for Christianity is about going; it’s not about y’all come.

2. We must cease seeing the church as a place of convenience, comfort, and stability in our fast changing world. Certainly, God’s truth is unchanging,  should  we expect our church not to change methods, approaches, and man-made traditions? We must  make a difference. We must not accept  “We’ve never done it that way before;” that mentality will kill our church.

3. We must abandon the entitlement mentality. We must not only be willing to give of our time to attend church. We must be willing to call, visit, pray, guard our speech, and be encouragers.  If someone speaks against our church family we must show displeasure toward their action.

I ask you to pray a simple prayer, ask God to give you witnessing opportunities. You may be surprised how He will use you.

4. We must understand “Discipleship” does not mean caretaking and “Fellowship” does not mean entertainment.

5. We must stop shooting our own. This tragedy is related to the entitlement mentality. If we don’t get our way, we will go after the pastor, or the church member who has a different perspective than our own.  Don’t let disgruntled members and perpetual critics control the church. Don’t shoot our own.

6. Business, finance, and some meetings are needed, but we must stop wasting time in unproductive meetings, committees, and business. Wouldn’t it be nice if every church member could only ask one question or make one comment in a meeting for every time he or she has witnessed during the week of said meeting.

7. Our church must be a houses of prayer. We are  doing too much in our own power. We are really busy, but we are not doing the business of God.

Around 200 churches will close their doors this week. We must make some necessary changes.  For many of your churches the choice is simple: change or die.

Please, for the sake of the gospel, will you forsake yourself and make the changes in God’s power.

Tony Kelly, Pastor

Five Pastoral Challenges

I want to share what I feel are some of the major challenges for me as a pastor. I pray they will help you better understand me.

1st Challenge: Being sensitive to someone who wants to tell you something, many times something negative about someone else, right before you preach. Any Pastor worth his salt puts hours into his sermons. He is focused on prayer and clearly presenting God’s Word before he steps into the pulpit.  When someone approaches him about a matter or issue that could have possibly waited until the service was over it can break his focus. I try to show grace but it’s sometimes a challenge!

2nd Challenge: Knowing what do with a church member who is not contributing  positively to the ministry.  One who takes every opportunity to impact the ministry with negative criticism or their belief, which is often contrary to the churches doctrinal position. 

The challenge is, do I write them off, even if they are an ill fit for the church or accept their challenging behavior and move forward knowing even though their behavior is un-Christian, it will help me grow stronger as a christian and Pastor.

3rd Challenge: Loving people who seem to be your critic. We want to be Christ-like and love people unconditionally. I admit that I sometimes see critics of the church and the pastor through their hypocritical false words instead of seeing them through the eyes of Christ.  However, it is a challenge!

4th Challenge: Preparing more than one quality sermon a week. As a pastor, I want to present “hit it out of the park for the glory of God” sermons every week. Frankly, that is a tough challenge, especially when you know some of your sermons may hit the congregation in the “Oh Me” part of the heart.  Very few people know the prayer, research and hard work that goes into his sermon preparation. So, when you smile and let him know the sermon helped you in your spiritual life, it is like saying sick’em to a mad bull dog.

5th Challenge: Doing the funeral for a non-Christian person.  I am not a judge, but the bible gives us the guideline to be a good fruit inspector.  We can always hope the deceased had a deathbed conversion that we are not aware of.  My biblical belief is that a sure sign of a christian life is a transformed life (Rom. 12:1-2). We can share the gospel to those present, but it is extremely difficult to talk about the deceased if he or she was lost.

I hope these five pastoral challenges will help you better understand your pastor and know more about how to pray for him.  I truly love every person who walks through the doors of my church.

The Pulpit Must Be Committed to the True Scripture of God’s Word.

Every season of transformation and every historical account revival has been proceeded by biblical preaching. It is this preachers belief that the only true transformation in mankind’s life must come from the Word of God. Someone once said, “as the pulpit goes, so goes the church.”

The fact is, biblical preaching has always been the leading factor in any revival. History bears witness to the fact that every great revival in the church has been ushered in by a return to biblical preaching.

I believe that the most urgent need in the Christian’s life today is biblical preaching; it is also the greatest and the most urgent need in the Church, and the world.

If a transformation is to come to the church, it must begin in the pulpit.

In his day, the prophet Amos warned of an approaching famine, a deadly drought that would cover the land. But not an absence of mere food or water, for this scarcity would be far more fatal. It would be a famine for hearing God’s Word (Amos 8:11). Surely, the church today finds itself in such similar days of shortage. Tragically, bibical preaching is being replaced with entertainment, doctrine with drama, theology with theatrics, and preaching with performances.

What is so desperately needed today is for pastors to return to their highest calling, “to preach the word” (2 Tim. 4:1–2).

What is biblical preaching? The public exposition of Scripture by the man called and sent by God, in which God Himself is present in judgment and in grace.  What I am saying is that preaching that brings God’s  presence, by His Spirit, in the preaching of His Word. Such preaching starts in a biblical text, stays in it, and shows its God-intended meaning in a life-changing fashion.

This was the final charge of Paul to young Timothy: “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching” (2 Tim. 4:2). Such preaching necessitates declaring the full counsel of God in Scripture. The entire written Word must be expounded. No truth should be left untaught, no sin unexposed, no grace not offered, no promise undelivered.

That is why we must make sure our pulpit is always a place for the declaration of the Bible; the kind of preaching that gives a clear explanation of a biblical text with compelling application, exhortation, and appeal.

Anyone who is invited to stand behind our pulpit must confine himself to the truths of Scripture. When the Bible speaks, God speaks. The man of God has nothing to say apart from the Bible. It’s neither a place for unbiblical personal opinions nor a place for worldly philosophies.

The preacher is limited to one task – preach the Word. If we want souls to be saved, we must put more of God’s Word into our sermons.

We need a new generation of Godly men to step forward and speak the unadulterated word of God, loud and clear.  Always remember as the pulpit goes, so goes the church.

We Have Victory In Christ! – 1 Cor. 15:57-58, Rom. 8:11

Because of our victory in Christ we should live from the position Christ won for us.  When we’re fixed in our faith, God uses us!

Can you say, my face is set. My stride is fast. My goal is heaven. My road may be narrow, my way rough, my guide is reliable and my mission is clear?

Can you say, I do not want to be bought, compromised, detoured, lured away, turned back, deluded or delayed?

As a child we played a game called “you flinched.”  If you flinched it was a sign of weakness in adversity. I do not want to bargain with the enemy, get caught up in the desire for popularity, or fall to mediocrity.

 Can you say, I won’t give up, shut up, or let up until I have stayed up, stored up, prayed up, paid up, and preached up for the cause of Christ?

Realize you are a disciple of Jesus. That means you will  give until you can’t, preach until all know, and work until He comes. And when He does come for His own, He’ll have no problems recognizing you.

1 Cor. 15:3-4, “for I passed on to you as most important what I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the 3rd day according to the Scriptures.”

Is something holding you back?  As Christians, we must be forward-focused in serving our Lord and trusting God for results.

God has won the victory. You are fighting from ‘Victory.’

Are we giving our best to Jesus’ work? 1 Cor. 15:58, Romans 8:5.  I knew a preacher once who would wear him self out on Saturday and could hardly make it on Sunday.

How do we do his work?  To teach our children about Jesus at home and at Sunday school. We serve.  We encourage those believers who are down, we call and lift up others.

A church is a caring body. But when loafers don’t pull their part of the load, it falls on others to do it.

The word says, be “always abounding in the work of the Lord.” Always. Over-and-above. Knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.

Some people hate washing dishes because more dirty dishes magically appear overnight. Sweeping and vacuuming are the same way. Things never stay clean. Someone is always tracking in dirt. You get discouraged. It’s only when you consider the alternatives that you get out your vacuum cleaner and have another go at it.

Your wife may not keep track of how often you change the spark plugs. Your husband has no idea of how often you have to dust.

But God keeps track of our faithfulness in His work. He sees us serving Him when no one else sees; and seeing us hanging in there brings joy to his heart.

Our Christian service is not done in vain for three reasons:

1. Christ’s work is built with our service; that phone call, kind words, prayers. 
2. Seeing your faithful service brings joy to God’s heart.
3. God will reward you for your faithfulness, even when no one else sees. Notes of service are made every time you serve Him. In a word, your labor is not in vain in the Lord.

Yes, I get discouraged and so do you. But God keeps bringing us back to this verse to build us up and help us to see the importance of faithful service. Don’t give up. Your labor in Christ is not in vain.

God wants your best not your leftover efforts. God gave his best, in Jesus his Son!

Be immovable. Stand in the victory that is yours. And give God your best. Leave the results to Him.

How Do I Overcome Negativity and Live an Abundant Positive Life?

As a christian, how do I overcome Negative thoughts and live an abundant  positive life as Jesus said in John 10:10?

Most people don’t see things as they are, they see them as THEY are.  Having a positive mental attitude is asking how something can be done rather than saying it can’t be done. “It’s better to be an optimist who is sometimes wrong than a pessimist who is always right.”

Negative thinking starts with a thought or a feeling. Then it starts to drag you down to feeling sorry for yourself, even thinking “what’s the point of taking any action at all?” So, you walk around in a funk with your own personal rain cloud above your head.

Once the sin of negativity gets inside of you or in the world around you,  you quickly become toxic and you do not have the life they want.

The following behaviors have helped me, and still help me to prevent and to overcome my own negative thoughts.

1. When you’re in a negative situation, look for  positive  thought. What’s one good thing about this situation? What’s one thing I can do differently the next time to likely have a better outcome.

2. Reminder: people don’t care that much about what you say or do. It’s easy to fall into negative thoughts when you think about what people may say or think if you do or do not do something.

We can zap our personal power and may trap ourselves in analysis paralysis. Getting stuck in your head and in thoughts like that will drag you further away from what you want and from reality.

Because the truth is, people don’t have that much time, attention or energy to think or talk about what you do. They have their hands and minds full with their life.

3. Question our thought process. One thing I like to do when a negative thought taps me on the shoulder and tries to start growing in my mind is to question that thought.

I ask myself:  Should I take this seriously?  This most often leads me to say: well, no, I honestly shouldn’t, because at that moment in time I may be tired, or hungry, or overworked and so negativity can try to cloud my mind.

I can’t be too focused on one small mistake or one bad day instead of focusing on the other 95% of my life that tends to be positive. Sometimes this question helps me to see more effectively. Because I did one small thing wrong doesn’t mean that I did poorly overall.

4. Replace the negativity in your surroundings.  What you let into your mind in your everyday life will have big effect on you. So start questioning what you focus on.

5. Stop making mountains out of molehills. To stop a small negative thought from becoming a big monster in your mind, confront it early. Ask this question, will this matter in 5 years? Or even 5 weeks?  This answer in most cases is likely that it won’t and that you were only starting to make a mountain out of a molehill.

6. Let it out and talk it over.  Keeping negative thoughts that are starting to cloud your whole mind bottled up won’t help.  So let them out. Talk the situation or your thoughts over with someone close to you. Just venting for a few minutes with a friend can often help you to see the situation in a new light.  If not, then a conversation about it where the two of you find a more useful perspective and perhaps the start of an action-plan can be both relieving and recharging.

7. Live in and come back to this moment.  When you’re tapping into negative thinking then you’re often thinking about something that happened. Or something that may happen. Or both, all jumbled up as your mood and thoughts sink.  Start making it a habit to spend more of your time in the present moment and you’ll have less negative thoughts and be more open and constructive.

8. Exercise a little.  I find that when I’m having trouble with thinking myself out of negativity then it often works well to change my headspace by using my body.  So I go for a 20-30 minute walk or work out. This helps me to release inner tension and worries and it makes my mind focus and become constructive once again.

9. Don’t let the vague fears drag you down.  One common mistake people make when it comes to fears is to become scared and run away from them instead of taking a closer look. It’s of course natural to feel that impulse and to want to avoid it, but when fears are vague they can become so much scarier than they need too.  So what can you do? One thing that has helped me is this question:  Realistically, what’s the worst that could happen in this situation?

When you start to ground a fear like that and begin to look at it with your feet firmly planted on the ground then you most often realize that the worst that could happen isn’t really that bad.

It’s often something you can make a plan to come back from it were to happen.
You can also probably start listing and taking action on a few things that will reduce the likelihood of this worst case scenario happening.

By doing this you gain clarity about the situation and what you can do about it and so the fear does tend to become quite a bit smaller.

10. Bring positivity into someone else’s life.  If you get stuck in negative thoughts or victim thinking then one of the simplest ways to get out of your own head and the thoughts bouncing around in there is to focus outwards and on someone else.  By adding positivity to his or her life in some way you too can start to feel better and more optimistic again.

A few ways to add positivity to someone’s life are to:  Be kind. Give them a genuine compliment.  Help out. Give them some good advice that may have helped you.

Just be there. Listen for a few minutes in a focused way as they vent, or talk their difficult situation over to help them to start finding a way out of their situation.

11. Be grateful for a few of the things you may often take for granted.  When we get negative it’s easy to forget the positive things in life. Especially the ones that are just a normal part of life that we may take for granted a bit too often.

A few such things that I like to put my attention on and feel grateful for during such negative times are:

Food on our table.
A roof over my head.
As much clean water as I need.
Kind and helpful family and friends.

12. Start tomorrow in a way that sets a positive tone for your day.  How you start your day often sets the tone for it.  A pessimistic or negative start makes it hard to turn things around. But a positive start makes it a lot easier to just keep going with that emotion and the optimistic way of thinking until it is bedtime again.

In closing, God gave us great advise in Philippians 4:8 KJV.  “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”

God bless you

Hell is Not Hot Anymore

The doctrine of eternal punishment is a foundational doctrine for believers in Jesus.  Hell is not a popular subject and certainly not preached much anymore. Even in church settings, it is statically a fact that fewer and fewer people believe in hell.

Today some who call themselves Christians deny the doctrine entirely. Even some religious high profile television preachers admittedly avoid the doctrine.  The pastor of one of the largest churches in the country located in Texas told CBS reporter Tracy Smith he refuses to preach on hell. He said people already feel guilty enough.

A recent survey on Hell reports that 71 percent of adults in the good old USA believe in hell, but don’t want to hear about it .  Why? Because the influence of a secular society that stresses individualism over authority and the human psyche over moral absolutes.

The Pope has pubically said, Hell is not so much a torment by fire but it’s a separation from God. The worlds most popular evangelist, who preached to multiple thousands is on record as saying “He believed hell is essentially separation from God. Whether there is actually fire in hell or not, he said “He did not know.”

Jesus spoke often of hell with graphic details of torment from flames that never went out. In the book of the Revelation, John had a vision of a lake of fire.  The pastor of the Crystal Cathedral in California is on record as saying, “I don’t ever want people to become Christian to escape hell. Why not? In Luke 15 Jesus said to fear Him who can cast your soul into hell.  Hell appears 23 times in the KJV, 14 times in the NIV, but it’s changed to words like Hades, “the depths” and “the grave”. It appears 13 times in the NKJV.

The gospel is good news because it makes our life better, because Jesus paid the price for our sin so we can have eternal life and escape the eternal death.  Many who claim to be Christians do not believe that.

The truth is that Jesus spoke more about Hell than anyone else in Scripture. Jesus referred to Hell as a real place and described it in graphic terms. He described it as a place of fire that burns but doesn’t consume, an undying worm that eats away at the damned, and a lonely place of darkness. Jesus says the unsaved will be thrown into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth – Matthew 8:12.

Jesus taught that an unbridgeable chasm separates the wicked in Hell from the righteous.  The wicked suffer terribly, remain conscious, retain their desires and memories, long for relief, cannot find comfort, cannot leave their torment, and have no hope  – Luke 16:19 &31, Our Savior could not have painted a bleaker picture of Hell.

The clear teaching of the Word of God on both heaven and hell stands or falls together. If the one is real, so is the other; if the one is a myth, so is the other. The best reason for believing in Hell is that Jesus said it exists.

Isn’t it strange that we’re fine when Jesus says, My peace I leave you, my peace I give to you. We love it when Jesus says things like: Truly, truly, I say to you, if you ask the Father for anything in My name, He will give it to you. However, we’re not so excited when Jesus says things such as: John 5:28-29 “Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.

Matthew 25:41: Depart from me ye cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.

John 3:36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever believeth not the Son of God will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.

We cannot make Hell go away simply because the thought of it makes us uncomfortable. If I believe the bible I must believe Hell is just and right.

So, those who want to believe Hell is not hot anymore are seriously wrong.  Hell is hot but Heaven is sweet. 

Thank you Lord Jesus, because I trusted you as my savior I am going to the beautiful Heaven not a hot hell.

How Do You See God In You?

Job’s main complaint against God is not His control or His care — His main complaint is: God, are truly aware of what I am going through?

Job pours out his heart to God, wanting assurance that God really knows what is happening in his life.   What  Job does is something that should bring us comfort when we’re hurting—that God is a Father who knows what we’re going through, who knows what we’re facing.  A God who has never left us in all our trials of life.  Job realizes how he sees God in the final chapter:

 Job 42:3 – God speaks to Job about Job  questioning God’s  wisdom. Job realized he (Job) was talking about things he knew nothing about, things far too wonderful for him (Job).  The word wonderful is used and it’s a word that you don’t expect to be used in the middle of discussing pain and suffering. When Job realizes what God knows, he truly sees God in the right way.

How do you see God? Hopefully, you see God as your guide, your master, your hope of eternal life through Christ Jesus being your Lord and Saviour.

God bless you.

Something to Think About

When it seems like everything is driving us to isolation, we get to unite as the Church.

Each person has a different impact – whether it’s kids at home from school, businesses closing, or health concerns; we all need to lean on each other for care, support, and encouragement.

This is when the Church gets to take action, when we reach out to the hurting and those with other needs.

Amen

God’s Calling is only to Servants, not Bosses and Bigshots

I often run into husbands who want to lord over their wives because “God made me the head of the home so, you need to submit!” Such men may call themselves whatever they choose, but their heart is not Godly.  They don’t know the word of God; they don’t know the first thing about God. If they did, they would know that they are sent as servants. “Even so, Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it.”

When I read 1 Peter 5, it reminds me of bullies on the playground or dictators in the pulpit who are like cancers on the body and must not be tolerated. 

The parable of all parables on this subject is Luke 17:7-10
7:  But which of you, having a servant plowing or feeding cattle, will say unto him by and by, when he is come from the field, Go and sit down to meat?
8: And will not rather say unto him, Make ready wherewith I may sup, and gird thyself, and serve me, till I have eaten and drunken; and afterward thou shalt eat and drink?
9: Doth he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I trow not.
10: So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.

Always remember, we must keep saying to ourselves – even when we have done everything Jesus required – “I am only an unworthy servant; just doing my duty because of love.”

God bless you.

The Resurrection – Is It Really Important?

Would it make a difference in your life if an archeologist announced he had found the bones of Jesus?  What would you say?  That would mean no resurrection. SO WHAT!!

1 Cor. 15: 17-19 says 17And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. 18Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. 19If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.

If Christ is not raised from the dead, if his bones are buried somewhere in Palestine, then we cannot know Him. That man is dead. We might read about him, we might revere him, but we cannot know him.

This is why the resurrection is so central to Christians: Christianity is not just a feel-good religion.  Christianity is a relationship with a living Savior, a Savior we can know, a Savior who infuses our life and empowers us, who transforms us into his likeness.

Today we will look at what the bible says about knowing Christ and what is this power of his resurrection? There are a lot of opinions about what knowing God means.

Some know facts about God, but do not know him.  I know more about my wife than any of you.  I could give you many facts about her, tell stories about her. I know her because for 46 years we have been in a relationship, sharing joys and sorrows. So, knowing her is much more than knowing facts about her life.

Again, knowing God goes beyond learning facts. We must have our own relationship with him. How?
a. Putting your faith in Him; believing that He is the Son of God,
b. Spending time in prayer,
c. Read the Bible and follow Him even if it doesn’t make sense.

Four aspects of knowing God’s resurrection power:
1. The Power to Have Sins Forgiven – 1 John 1:9
2. The Power to Conquer Sin – Eph 4:24
3. The Power to Be God’s Agent – Eph 2:10
4. The Power to Be Conformed to His Likeness – Rom 8:29

So, do you know the resurrected Jesus? Do you believe he rose from the dead? Has he been working in your heart? What better day than Resurrection Sunday to fall on your knees and acknowledge Him as your Savior!  Can you say with Paul that you consider everything else you’ve done to be rubbish compared to knowing Him? Do you know the power of the resurrection in your life? It’s one thing to make a decision to know Christ, it’s another to make a commitment to follow him, so that you might be conformed to his likeness.  Christ is risen from the dead! Believe it! And know Him!