Wednesday, May 28, 2008

"Make A Difference!" New Sermon Series

All the statistics of late point to the obvious -- the church's influence in society is in steep decline. This Sunday, June 1st I will begin a new series of messages that will help us address this decline of influence and some suggestions on how we can impact our community with the Good News of Christ.

What is the solution? How can we as Christians make a difference in our culture? Are there some things that we do as Christians that are counter-productive to influencing our culture positively for Christ? The solutions are not going to be easy. They will require some honest self-examination. However, if we will have an open heart and a willingness to be honest, God will reveal our true condition and renew us so that we can truly live as God intended -- living to make a difference in our world.

The sermons in this series of messages is as follows:
June 1 -- Make a Difference! By Living by the Spirit (Galatians 5:13-26)

June 8 -- Make a Differnce! By Imitating Christ's Humility (Philippians 2:1-11)

June 15 -- Make a Difference! By Being a Real Man (Acts 6:8-12; 7:59-60)

June 22 -- Make a Difference! By Seeing People As God Does (Matthew 7:1-5)

June 29 -- Make a Differnce! By Living As Christian Citizens (Matthew 5:13-16)

For His Glory!
Pastor Joe

Posted by Joe Alain at 9:52 AM
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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

"Christians Get on My Nerves"

Ed Stetzer, director of Lifeway Research and Lifeway’s missiologist in residence writes about the declining state of the church in the latest edition of Faith and Family Values (2008/Issue 2), a Southern Baptist Publication. Of interest are some of his statements on the diminishing influence that Christians are exerting on society. Stetzer laments that “Perhaps the most sobering statistic is that 44 percent of people agreed (somewhat or strongly) with the statement, ‘Christians get on my nerves.’” Apparently, in the eyes of many of our fellow citizens, the salt has lost its saltiness and is good for nothing (Matt. 5:13).

Stetzer may be on to something significant but you probably won’t here much on the subject. The greatest hindrance to church growth is not our church budgets (the lack of money) or buildings or even baptism statistics (the 3 B’s). We need to only look in the mirror to see that the problem is us – the church itself. Too many Christians simply do not speak and act like their namesake – Christian. Too many Christians are professors of Christ in name only, lacking the essential fruit of the Spirit and having bought the delusion that because they are American and nominally church going, they must be Christians. After all, “isn’t America a Christian nation!” Yet it is often the people that I just described who are guilty of spewing hatred toward others, resolving their problems with anger and intimidation, and living for the most part no differently than the supposedly unregenerate heathen.

Frankly, many Christians get on my nerves! Easily swayed by popular preaching (mostly fundamentalist rhetoric without any consistent biblical hermeneutic), dogmatic in their views (“Don’t confuse me with the facts. Ignorance is bliss”), and unloving toward people who do not fit into their Jesus box. I can see why so many people dislike Christians.

The church is not growing because Christians are too busy cursing the darkness instead of living in the light. We spend an inordinate amount of time, energy, and money trying to convert the CEO’s of the likes of McDonalds, Disney World, and others to our way of thinking, as if that is ever going to happen. And is that even what we are supposed to be doing? And when we’ve won them to our way of thinking, is it because they have been compelled by the love of Christ? Or do they capitulate because of fears of angry and prolonged boycotts (economic reasons)? Maybe it’s time to practice what Jesus said. Before you go on a toothpick pulling crusade, you better remove the telephone pole out of your own eye.

I know that this will be a startling revelation, but the solution for regaining our Christian influence in the world is not another Lifeway program or a more juiced-up pastors pep rally. The solution is to first, present a realistic view of what it means to follow Jesus. Being a Christian is more than just a nice cultural designation. Following Jesus means that we take His words seriously. We prayerfully seek to live out the teachings of Christ in word and in deed. Living as Jesus lived means we will live as resident aliens.

Second, the solution is for genuine Christians to repent from our lovelessness, our selfish agendas, our power struggles, our pride, and our judgmental spirit. Then put on the mind of Christ. It’s time to put away our witty Christian slogans and start living out the presence of Christ. We need to ask, “How would Christ live and minister?” For one thing, Jesus did not win people by lambasting the institutions of his day (even unjust ones), such as the Roman government. This is not to say that Jesus was not concerned with society or justice (just check out what God thinks in the Old Testament); nevertheless, His focus was on people making a radical decision to live as God’s citizens. The cost of following Jesus was high then and we must not cheapen living out the crucified life. When people take seriously this call to live as God’s citizens, society and institutions will invariably be changed. The leaven of the Gospel is too volatile to be contained. It will burst forth! Old wineskins cannot contain the new wine of the Gospel for long.

Other recent studies have shown that people generally have a favorable view of Jesus, they just don’t like the church. Why is this? Perhaps people like Jesus because He is so down-to-earth and more human than what the church has become. Jesus did not hesitate to rebuke religious phonies, yet strangely He did not chastise the hurting in need of reconciliation. A bruised reed He never broke. To often the modus operandi of the church today is just the opposite of the New Testament. Phariseeism among God’s people (decried by Jesus) is exalted, while sinners in need of God on the outside of the church are dismissed almost as non-persons. Meanwhile, the chorus of hurting humanity in our neighborhoods continually cries out, “does anybody care?” Have Christians turned the “good new” into bad news? Could this be why Christians get on the nerves of people? Could this be why so few people have a favorable view of the church? If so, God help us!

Jesus was not impressed with building his own kingdom, the seemingly driving force behind many churches today. On many occasions Jesus purposely avoided the limelight. If Jesus wanted to bring about the kingdom in a majestic and powerful way, then He sure went about it the wrong way. After all, who wins the kingdom by willingly surrendering one’s life! Jesus brought us the kingdom through His sacrificial death and resurrection. As believers, we too will make the most lasting influence when we live sacrificially before others. “Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds” (Jn. 12:24). Not surprisingly, in the larger passage are Jesus’ words: “But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (Jn. 12:32). The sacrificial love of God demonstrated on the cross draws people to want to know this God of mercy and grace who would give Himself for us.

There was one group of people that Jesus got on the nerves of – religious people who were trying to protect their interests at all costs. Jesus attracted people rather than irritating them because He spent most of His time loving and helping “the least of these.” Pride, power, privilege, claiming His rights, none of these things mattered to Jesus. As long as these remain the crowns that we covet, I suspect that the church will grow increasingly irrelevant. Translated – we will continue to get on people’s nerves. Some radical changes are in order if people are going to see in us what are name implies – Christ! However, I am hopeful that when Christians start speaking and acting as Jesus did, then Christians will once again bring healing and hope to a world still in need of some “good news.”

For His Glory!

Pastor Joe

Let The Church Be The Church!

Following are some excerpts from a message that I plan on preaching this Wednesday, May 21.

Book of Philemon Background: Philemon, an active Christian in the church at Colossae, had been won to faith in Christ through the efforts of Paul. Philemon’s house served as the meeting place for the local church. Onesimus, one of Philemon’s slaves, had previously wronged, perhaps robbed, his master and run away. He made his way to Rome where Paul was imprisoned. He came in contact with Paul who led him to faith in Christ. An occasion arose which allowed Onesimus to return to Collosae. Onesimus carried this letter written by Paul to Philemon and the church. The purpose of the letter was to seek forgiveness for the slave Onesimus and at the same time to insure that Onesimus would be received as a Christian brother by the whole church.

Early in the book of Philemon (vv.1-7) we see some of the outstanding qualities of the people that formed the church that met in Philemon’s home. Though not a large church, this church stands out as a wonderful example of what the church of Jesus Christ is all about. It is still true that when the church is the church, it will be a light, a refuge, and an instrument of healing in our broken world.

What should the Christian church look like that you are a member of?
1. The Church Is to Be a Place of Fellowship and Reconciliation
There was an intimacy to the church that met in Philemon’s home. Regardless of who you were, there was a sense of unity and fellowship in Jesus Christ. Masters and slaves, Jews and Greeks, men and women, all changed by the grace of God – they worshiped and served together. For the church to continue impacting our broken and hurting world, the church must be a welcoming congregation of believers full of grace and God’s Spirit. Likewise, every member must give of themselves in service to God so that His kingdom purpose of reconciliation can be accomplished.

Paul was confident that his appeal for reconciliation on behalf of Onesimus would not go unheeded. The entire letter of Philemon highlights the reconciling power of God in Christ. God can change individuals but he can also change the hearts of the people who have been wronged. Jesus Christ makes reconciliation a reality. Are there brothers and sisters in Christ in your community who need the reconciling grace of a fellow member of the body of Christ? By your gracious words and actions, you could be a powerful instrument of God’s reconciliation.

2. The Church Is to Reflect God’s Love
Philemon was known for his faith and love. His generosity and faith refreshed the saints! Would that it be said of us that spiritually we are like a cool refreshing glass of water to thirsty and weary people around us. Does our Christianity bring refreshment to those around us? Loving others through giving of ourselves and sharing our blessings with others is the default mode of the follower of Jesus. The only way that people will ever know that we are followers of Jesus is by our words and actions.

Do you see how powerful the church can be in our world, in your community? All that people really need and are looking for is what the church can offer. People are looking for a sense of belonging – we call that Christian fellowship. People are seeking reconciliation with God and in their relationships – we call that a personal relationship with Christ. People are seeking peace and strength in difficult and unstable times – we call that the refreshing encouragement that God gives us through His Holy Spirit that is experienced as we pray for one another and encourage one another.

What people need (and what you can help provide) is for the church to just be the church! Let’s be the church! Let’s not forsake our gathering together as God’s people. Let’s support the ministry and activities of the church that we belong to. Let’s encourage one another with our presence and with our actions. Let’s be reconcilers and saints who refresh one another. Let’s be the church! Then let’s watch what our mighty and gracious God does in His world for His glory!

Pastor Joe

Monday, May 19, 2008

Sermon Text for Sunday, May 25, 2008

Sunday's Sermon Text: Matthew 6:24-34

[24] "No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money. [25] "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? [26]Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? [27] Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? [28]"And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. [29] Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. [30] If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? [31] So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' [32]For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. [33] But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. [34] Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

For His Glory!
Pastor Joe

Monday, May 12, 2008

Sermon Text for Trinity Sunday, May 18, 2008

Sermon Text for Trinity Sunday, May 18, 2008

Genesis 1:1-3, 26; 2 Corinthians 13:11-14 (NIV)
[1] In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. [2] Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. [3] And God said, "Let there be light," and there was light.

[26] Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground."

[11]Finally, brothers, good-by. Aim for perfection, listen to my appeal, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you. [12] Greet one another with a holy kiss. [13] All the saints send their greetings. [14] May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

For His Glory!
Pastor Joe

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Thoughts on "Tiptoe Through The TULIP . . ."

I came across an interesting article the other day on the Associated Baptist Press web site. The title of Ken Camp's article caught my eye. "Tiptoe through the TULIP: Must the new Baptist Calvinism divide churches, denominations?" This is a question that I have found myself asking lately. Having weathered the pastorate for the last twenty years, I've navigated many theological landmines along the way. From tongue speaking in the 80's, to the issue of innerancy in the 90's, and now to Calvinsim (just to name a few). When I began my ministry few of my fellow Baptist seminarians knew who John Calvin was. Even fewer people in the pews had ever heard of John Calvin or Calvinism. That's all changed. A recent study by The North American Mission Board and Lifeway Christian Resources reveals that about 30 percent of recent graduates of Southern Baptist Seminaries identify themselves as Calvinists.

In talking with a fellow Baptist evangelist the other day, his conviction was that Calvinism would be the next dividing point for Southern Baptists. I hope that he is wrong! Calvinists and non-Calvinists (not necesarily Arminians) share much more in common then they disagree on. Most Baptists believe in total depravity, that man is unable to save himself, that God must quicken His dead spirit. Likewise, I don't know of a Baptist that does not have a high view of the Bible and the sovereignty of God. Perseverance of the saints has been a hallmark of Baptist faith from our founding. Baptists that I know believe that salvation is a work of God's amazing grace.

This is not to say that there are not some serious differences between Calvinists and Non-Calvinists. This is especially true when it comes to one's understanding of the doctrines of election and the atonement. Nevertheless, I firmly believe that sincere Christians can differ with one another in a spirit of grace. After all, the Priesthood of the Believer (a forgotten Baptist distinctive) demands that we search Scripture out with an open heart, interpreting all Scripture in light of Christ. When that kind of interpretation is practiced, our knowledge of God is not only deepened but we are moved to treat one another with respect and grace.

Check out Ken Camp's article at

For His Glory!
Pastor Joe

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Pentecost Sunday and Mother's Day Sermon Text

Sermon Text for Pentecost Sunday and Mother's Day:

Acts 2:1-6, 14-21

The Holy Spirit Comes at Pentecost
[1] When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. [2] Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. [3] They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. [4] All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. [5] Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. [6] When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language.

Peter Addresses the Crowd
[14] Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: "Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. [15] These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It's only nine in the morning! [16] No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:

[17] " '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.
[18] Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
and they will prophesy.
[19] I will show wonders in the heaven above
and signs on the earth below,
blood and fire and billows of smoke.
[20] The sun will be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood
before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.
[21] And everyone who calls
on the name of the Lord will be saved.

For His Glory!

Pastor Joe