Model For the Church

1 Corinthians 2:1-2 (NLT)
1 When I first came to you, dear brothers and sisters, I didn’t use lofty words and impressive wisdom to tell you God’s secret plan.
2 For I decided that while I was with you I would forget everything except Jesus Christ, the one who was crucified.

Greetings In the Name of the Lord:

It has become very popular in the church world today to follow the trends of society. Many church growth experts use the example of contemporary business models as a means to lead the church. However, we need to ask ourselves have we made a mistake? Should we be following the example of the world? Please don’t take me wrong there are some good principles in contemporary society and we can learn much from them. Yet shouldn’t we be following the principles of Scripture as our model for church? Following the trends of society certainly wasn’t Paul’s method. He didn’t use the logic and knowledge of his day that was being followed its philosophers. Instead of following the knowledge of his day, Paul chose to simply preach Jesus and the truth of the cross. In contrast to the scholars of his day, “Paul did not desire to display the breadth of his knowledge or impress them with the extent of his vocabulary. He was concerned about only the content of his testimony about God, Christ, and salvation. So he proclaimed it in plain, simple language” (Horton, I & II Corinthians). I am not saying that there aren’t things that we can benefit from in using some of the methods popular in our society. Nor am I saying that taking a new and fresh approach in doing church is a bad thing. However, what I am saying is that sometimes we may go too far. When we replace Scriptural methods with worldly methods we have stepped over the line. God gave us His Word not simply so that we could know Him better, but also so that we would know how to do His work more efficiently. When we get to the point where Scripture is no longer our guideline we are in big trouble.

In Christ,

Pastor Mark

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He Never Promised It Would Be Easy

Greetings In the Name of the Lord:

1 Corinthians 1:18 (NLT)
The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God.

We might think that Paul had an advantage in spreading the Gospel in his day. He didn’t have to deal with post-modern relativism, post-Christian skepticism, and the information age of computers and technology. We think for some reason that it is harder to be a Christian today than it was for Paul and the other writers of the New Testament. How wrong we are to think that way! Paul had to deal with Romans and Greeks who saw the message of the cross as absurd because crucifixion was considered a punishment reserved for the worst of all criminals. So brutal that it wasn’t even appropriate to mention the word in polite society. To the Jews that Paul was dealing with it was equally absurd because they all knew that Scripture taught that those who died on a tree were cursed. Furthermore, they couldn’t accept a suffering Messiah because they all were looking for a conquering King who would over throw the Romans and re-establish the throne of David. However, the one thing that Paul had going for him, and likewise we have going for us, is that those who experience the power of the cross know its incredible power. For those who have experienced it know “The cross of Christ is full of God’s power, for it was the means by which Jesus accomplished our salvation when He shed His blood and died for us. To try to explain the Cross or deduce its importance in terms of human wisdom and philosophy would rob it of its power, that is, of its ability to transform sinners into saints” (Horton, I & II Corinthians). This is where we today have an advantage. People in our post-modern society are very experience oriented in the approach to spirituality. They don’t want to know about a concept of God, rather they want to feel, touch, and experience Him. They want more than to know about God, they want to know God. This advantage is especially pronounced for those of us who are Pentecostal believers because through the baptism of the Holy Spirit we experience the power of God in very real and tangible ways. Just as Jesus said in the Book of Acts, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). Take hold of our advantage to share the Gospel with others and let them experience the power of the cross of Christ.

In Christ,

Pastor Mark

Whom Do You Follow?

Greetings In the Name of the Lord:

1 Corinthians 1:10-12 (NLT)
10 I appeal to you, dear brothers and sisters, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, to live in harmony with each other. Let there be no divisions in the church. Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose.
11 For some members of Chloe’s household have told me about your quarrels, my dear brothers and sisters.
12 Some of you are saying, “I am a follower of Paul.” Others are saying, “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Peter,” or “I follow only Christ.”

One of the greatest detriments of the Gospel is disunity in the church. There are many things that cause disunity, but the greatest is when we put other things or people ahead of Christ. This was the case in Corinth, where there was a “party spirit” caused by people following spiritual leaders in stead of following Jesus. Paul deals with this problem as he “Solemnly, but gently, he urges them to make a change from dissension to unity—not organizational unity, but spiritual unity, a unity where they would be (by a process of gentle restoration) perfectly united in mind and thought” (Horton, I & II Corinthians). It is difficult to convince people to follow Jesus when they see those who do constantly fighting each other and finding fault everywhere they look. Most people say, “why should I follow Jesus and come to church I already have enough stress in my life.” Sometimes this happens because we follow spiritual leaders rather than following Christ. It makes it very difficult for a new spiritual leader to follow a popular Pastor and then be bombarded with statements like, “well Pastor so-in-so did it this way.” Who exactly are we following? If we are following people we are going to be disappointed every time. Not to mention the problems this type of attitude puts on the spiritual leader who has to try and live up to that high an expectation. As Donald Stamps put it, “”We must always be careful to center our love, devotion, and loyalty upon God and His Word, not on any minister or person” (Life In the Spirit Study Bible, 1768). Let’s keep our eyes on Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.

In Christ,

Pastor Mark

 

Putting the Cart Before the Horse

Greetings In the Name of the Lord:

1 Corinthians 1:7-9 (NLT)
7 Now you have every spiritual gift you need as you eagerly wait for the return of our Lord Jesus Christ.
8 He will keep you strong to the end so that you will be free from all blame on the day when our Lord Jesus Christ returns.
9 God will do this, for he is faithful to do what he says, and he has invited you into partnership with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Christian church has been notorious throughout history in putting the cart before the horse. We can see this in Paul’s day and in our own. We have always sought a better way of doing things than the one God has already given. We think we can do it better than God, and for some reason think He needs our help. We can see this in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. “Paul is writing to a congregation who have all experienced the baptism in the Holy Spirit with the initial outward evidence of speaking in other tongues. Later (chap. 14), Paul addresses their overuse of the gift of tongues and directs the Corinthians in the proper use of the gifts for edifying the Church and reaching out to unbelievers. But the problem is with the Corinthians and their attitudes. There is nothing wrong with the gifts. Paul never wants them to stop responding to the Holy Spirit and His gifts. He wants them to know that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are the God-given means for edifying or building up the local church, both spiritually and numerically…Though human effort and modern business methods can bring together a great crowd, the Lord wants every local church to be Spirit-filled, Spirit-empowered, Spirit-gifted, and Spirit-led” (Horton, I & II Corinthians). One would think that after two thousand years of wanting to do things our way we would learn that doing things God’s way is always best. Now can God take modern business practices and use them in the church? Of course He can, but whenever we take God out of the picture we are in trouble. In other words, we should be trying to build the church on the principles of Scripture and the power of the Holy Spirit and not by whatever means is popular at the moment.

In Christ,

Pastor Mark

 

What Am I Doing This For?

Greetings In the Name of the Lord:

1 Corinthians 1:1 (NLT)
This letter is from Paul, chosen by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and from our brother Sosthenes.

Have you ever had days when you wondered, “who’s idea was this anyway?” Maybe you even thought to yourself “is this really worth the effort?” I am certain that Paul had days like that in his life. He was stoned, whipped, left for dead, abused, imprisoned, ship wrecked, and had assassination plots made against him. There’s little doubt in my mind that he sometimes thought, “what am I doing this for?” However, Paul had one driving force in his life, and that driving force was the call of God on his life. As my friend Dr. Stanley Horton said, “He was called and sent out by Jesus just as the other apostles were. His authority was confirmed further as being ‘by the will of God.’ It was not his own idea, nor did he desire to become an apostle when he was stopped on the Damascus road (Acts 9:1-30). Like the other apostles, he was chosen by Jesus” (Horton, I & II Corinthians: A Logion Press Commentary). Like Paul, we have all been chosen by Jesus and have a great purpose in life. Furthermore, like Paul, we will have days when we have doubts as to whether or not we want to continue. Yet the call of God, being chosen by Him, will lead us on, strengthen and encourage us to keep going. Many years ago someone who I had never met gave me a plaque that said, “The will of God will never call you where the grace of God cannot keep you.” Just remember with the call of God comes the power of God to persevere through the most difficult of circumstances.

In Christ,

Pastor Mark