Blog Archives

Houses of worship: Tabernacle Methodist Church, Virginia Beach, Virginia

VAChurchesTabernacleUMCVirginiaBeach Copyright 2014 by Bob Rogers

This is the second installment in my photo blogs of houses of worship whose architecture I like. Tabernacle United Methodist Church is located in the Sandbridge area of Virginia Beach, Virginia.

This sanctuary is a white wood design that was popular among many Protestants in the 19th century, particularly Methodists. (This building was built in 1830). I particularly like how the building has an entrance that juts forward and then continues upward into a steeple. This congregation has also kept their building spotlessly clean and carefully landscaped. This is one of most eye-catching country churches that I have ever photographed.

Houses of worship: Richburg Baptist Church, Hattiesburg, Mississippi

MSChurchesRichburgBCHburg

Copyright 2014 by Bob Rogers

I love taking photos of houses of worship. Over the next few days, I will post some of my favorites, and share what I like about them.

I’ll begin with Richburg Baptist Church, Hattiesburg, Mississippi. This is a classic red brick worship center, especially popular among Baptists. Like many in this style, it has red bricks, with a white column porch in front. Yet this congregation added some other nice touches to that basic design. Notice the stained glass, the cross cut-out in the steeple, and the arched bell tower in front of the worship center, with a cross on top. Simple, yet beautiful.

Juggling Sunday

Juggling Copyright by Bob Rogers

A hymnal in my left hand, a Bible in my right

Tossing a communion cup on a one-foot hop.

Cascading with a committee on Sunday night

Spinning a budget, now what will I drop?

 

A juice-stained Bible by my foot on the floor

Heart cut on the cup, fingers shut in the door

I thought diabolo was a juggler’s trick

But I ended up falling on the devil’s stick.

x

x

x

x

(If you see a video ad below this post, please understand that I have no control over these ads, and that I do not necessarily endorse the product.)

 

Why do you go to church?

Sunday, August 11, is “Back to Church Sunday” at the church where I pastor, First Baptist Church of Rincon, Georgia. Thousands of churches across America will observe “Back to Church Sunday” sometime this fall.
We know that many people get out of the habit of going to church during the summer, and many have dropped out altogether. But we want to encourage you to come back! This is a good time, as the church begins its fall activities. Take my poll above, feel free to leave your comments, and watch for more posts about reasons to get back in church.

FREE BOOK GIVEAWAY- Discipling New Church Members

IAmAChurchMember I am giving away a free copy of Thom Rainer’s book, I Am a Church Member, this week on my blog. Here’s what you need to do to win:
1. Follow my blog. If you are not already following, click on the link at the right and sign up.
2. Leave a comment below telling me what your church does, or what you wish it would do, to disciple new members. You must leave me an email address in the comment, so that I can contact the winner.
I will select a winner based on the comments (the person must also be a follower of my blog), and I will announce the winner on Friday afternoon. LifeWay will mail the book directly to you. (By the way, the winner must live in the United States or Canada.)

A collection of Christian thoughts on the Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage

CourtDefendMarriage In June 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Federal Defense of Marriage Act, allowing federal benefits for same-sex marriage partners in States that already have legalized same-sex marriage.
How should we respond to this? Here are a some brief thoughts of my own, and links to what other Christian bloggers are saying:
1) We must respond with Christ-like love. Ranting and raving on Facebook and Twitter and angry words to our friends and family will only confirm the unbeliever’s preconceived notion that Christians are judgmental and narrow-minded.
LifeWay researcher and Southern Baptist author Ed Stetzer calls for gracious, Christ-like responses in his blog: http://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2013/june/prop-8-doma-and-christian-response.html.
2) We must prepare to live in a non-Christian culture. Our parents lived in a generation where Judeo-Christian values were the norm. That is no longer the case. We will need to stand by Christian values that are at odds with our culture, and be prepared to graciously endure persecution, if needed, when submission to anti-Biblical standards are demanded of us. Do not conform to this world, but be transformed (Romans 12:1-2).
Sylvania, Georgia youth pastor Steve Dresen reminds us of how the early church responded in a culture that did not share our values: http://stevendresen.wordpress.com/2013/06/27/scotus-same-sex-marriage-and-the-churchs-identity
3) We must not give up. Don’t forget that the majority of States still do not allow same-sex “marriage.” In many nations around the world, such as Africa and Eastern Europe, homosexuality is still considered sinful by the overwhelming majority of people. Just as the prophets in the Old Testament boldy spoke truth to their culture, we too must proclaim the truth, rather than concede defeat. Last year I preached a sermon entitled, “What the Bible teaches about homosexuality may surprise you.” You can read it here: https://bobrogers.me/2012/07/09/what-the-bible-says-about-homosexuality-may-surprise-you/
Roman Catholic scholars make some good points about how the Supreme Court decision does not end the debate and that “gay marriage” is not inevitable. Here is the report from the Catholic News Agency: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/gay-marriage-is-not-inevitable-analysts-say/.
4) We must remember that God is on His throne. God was still on His throne when Noah built the ark, when Moses fled from Pharaoh, when Jerusalem was destroyed by the Babylonians, and when Jesus died on the cross. The demise of God and godliness has been overstated many times before, and God always turns it around for good. Rather than despair, Christian, let us get on our needs and pray for a new movement of God that is totally dependent upon the power of God, not the power of politics.

Book Review: “I Am a Church Member”

IAmAChurchMember If you are looking for a resource for your church’s new member class, this is a book you will want to read.
Thom Rainer, CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources, has written I Am a Church Member: Discovering the Attitude that Makes the Difference. It is a short book that can easily be read in one sitting, but it has the potential of making a big impact in local churches.
The book opens with a story about two members of the same church with completely opposite attitudes about church. Then he zooms in on the Biblical attitude members should have in six short chapters, based on Rainer’s extensive research in attitudes among church members. These chapters teach members to be active, bring unity, avoid the tendency to insist on personal preferences, pray for leaders, lead their own families to be involved, and to treasure church membership as a gift. The main point of the book is that church membership is not like a country-club membership with perks and privileges.
There are some churches that reject the term “membership,” saying it is an unbiblical modern term. Rainer disagrees, pointing out that 1 Corinthians 12:27-28 speaks of the “individual members” of the church. Rather than reject the term, Rainer seeks to give a Biblical definition of the term “membership.” He emphasizes that Biblical church membership is a treasured gift, just as our salvation is a gift, and thus we should serve in our churches gladly, not begrudgingly.
One of the strengths of this little book is that each chapter includes a pledge of loyalty for members to make. This requires the reader to respond to the challenge of the book. Each chapter also includes discussion questions, making this book an outstanding resource for small group or one-on-one study for church members, both new and old.

Unusual church names

StrangerChurchSign
Copyright by Bob Rogers
Recently I heard about a church named “Church by the Side of the Road.” I’m sure there was a good reason to name the church that, but for some reason it conjured up pictures in my head of a church broken down and abandoned on the roadside.
I once served as pastor of Calhoun Baptist Church in Hot Coffee, Mississippi. Hot Coffee is the name of a rural community with two country stores and one church. I always thought it would be fun to change the name of the church to Hot Coffee Baptist Church, but I found out that I would be getting into hot water to suggest such a radical change. They might have decided to send me to Boiling Springs Baptist Church, which is in Soperton, Georgia.
Nevertheless, that experience caused me to pay attention to unusual church names.
A real tongue-twister from Mississippi is Eastabutchie Baptist Church. (Try saying that aloud really fast.) Saint James the Less Catholic Church in New Orleans has to be careful how they display their name on their sign, because they don’t want anybody to think they’re “Less Catholic.” I wonder if Spray United Methodist Church in Eden, North Carolina believes in more than just sprinkling. Cape Coral, Florida has a congregation named “Church Today.” Can you imagine the confusion when you ask a member, “Have you been to church today?”
Lots of churches are named “Unity” and “Harmony,” but in Miller’s Grove, Texas, they were honest enough to name the church Divide Baptist Church. I wonder if they split off from Petty United Methodist Church, which is also in Texas.

A member of North Spoon Baptist Church in Pearl River County, Mississippi, told me they chose their name “because there was already a South Fork.” Somewhere in Africa, there is a Wet Cow Manure Baptist Church. Apparently when the tribal chief asked what they should name it, the missionary told them to name it after something precious to them.
The state of Georgia, where I lived for years, is full of interesting church names. I’d love to visit Star of Bethlehem Baptist in Douglasville at Christmas, and I’d love to celebrate communion at Church of the Living Bread in Stone Mountain. I’m sure that Georgia New Seoul Baptist Church in Tucker is a Korean congregation, but I love the double-meaning.
Whispering Pines Baptist Church in Hephzibah sounds like a peaceful place to worship, and God’s Acre Missionary Baptist Church in Atlanta must have the perfect location. I’ve always heard that there is no perfect church, but the folks might disagree at Ideal Baptist Church (located in Ideal, of course.)
Which reminds me that, while there is no perfect church, there is a church that is ideal for you, if you’ll just look around with an open mind and heart and seek a church that loves Jesus, loves the Bible, and loves people.

Church signs attempt Easter humor

easter-bunny-rise

Easter is a happy time. After all, we’re celebrating Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, right? So it should be no surprise that during the Easter season, many churches try their hands at humor on their church signs. I say “try,” because some are failed attempts.
It seems that the Easter bunny is the favorite target of church marquees at Easter time. Some of the signs are cute, like this one:
“NO BUNNY LOVES YOU LIKE JESUS.”
Others are hopping mad at that pagan symbol, such as these:
“EVERY BUNNY KNOWS EASTER IS ALL ABOUT JESUS.”
“THE EASTER BUNNY DIDN’T RISE FROM THE DEAD.”
Then some are simply corny, like this one:
“HOW DOES THE EASTER BUNNY SAY ‘HAPPY EASTER’? HOPPY EASTER!”
My favorite bunny sign is this one:
“EVERY BUNNY IS LOVED BY JESUS”
Of course, church signs don’t just go after the bunny; they also remind us that Easter eggs don’t really relate to the resurrection, either. Read this one:
“EASTER IS MORE THAN SOMETHING TO DYE FOR.”
Then there are a few Easter messages directed at those who attend worship. Some are negative, like these:
“EASTER COMES ONCE A YEAR. HOW OFTEN DO YOU?”
“DON’T FORGET, JUDAS ALSO LEFT EARLY.”
Others are more positive, like this one:
“BEAT THE EASTER RUSH- COME TO CHURCH THIS SUNDAY.”
Personally, I think the best Easter humor is to focus on Jesus Himself. That’s why I like this one:
“YOU CAN’T KEEP A GOOD MAN DOWN. HAPPY EASTER.”

Church football– the other Sunday sport

ChurchFootball

Many NFL fans are not aware that there is another form of football played on Sunday. It’s called “church football.”

This game is often played by “bench warmers” who do not sing, pray, work or do anything much in the church but sit. They like to put the “backfield in motion” by making a trip back and forth to the restroom or water fountain. During “halftime,” when the music has ended and the sermon has not yet begun, they like to play “staying in the pocket,” keeping their money to themselves as the offering plate is passed.

Church footballers allow their children to run a “draw play” with the bulletin during the service. When the “two-minute warning” sounds and the sermon is almost over, they will try a “quarterback sneak,” leaving quietly during the invitation.

The preacher often tries to catch bench warmers in a “trap play” by calling on them to pray while they’re doing a quarterback sneak out the door. Church footballers often try to avoid the trap play with the “end run,” getting out of church quick, without speaking to the preacher or any other members. Then there is a “blitz” to the local restaurants. Many will also exercise the “halfback option,” as 50% of the congregation will not return to the evening service, especially on Super Bowl Sunday.

But then there is another breed of church football players. They are real winners who refuse to punt when the devil has them down on fourth and long. They choose to get into the game, block for their pastor, and tackle thorny problems. The preacher likes to put these people on the first string. When “sudden death” comes, they are the ones best prepared for the “overtime,” because they have committed the Head Coach’s playbook to memory and trusted Him to be right. They really believe they will win, no matter how big the opponent is, and because of their faith, they experience the thrill of victory, not the agony of defeat.

Which kind of church football player are you?

How to deal with disputable matters in church

loving divorceCopyright by Bob Rogers
Two churches were located a few blocks from each other in the same small community. The leadership of the two churches felt it would be wise to merge into one larger, stronger congregation, and so plans were set in motion. But it never happened. Why? They could not agree on the wording of the Lord’s Prayer. One group preferred “forgive us our trespasses” while the other wanted “forgive us our debts.” A newspaper article reporting the failed merger noted that one group went back to its “trespasses” while the other returned to its “debts” (Kenneth Boa and William Kruidenier, Holman New Testament Commentary: Romans, p. 417-418.)

Unfortunately, churches and church members often divide over many minor matters.

In Romans 14:1 (NIV84), Paul says, “Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters.”

There are all kinds of disputable matters that come up in churches today. Church members debate over the translation of the Bible. Church members debate over whether to use organ and piano or use guitars and drums in worship. Church members debate over how much of the budget should go to missions, whether to tithe the gross or the net, and what Sunday School literature to use. Church members debate about whether it is proper for a Christian to have a tattoo or whether to wear dress clothes or casual clothes to church. Some churches debate over whether or not it is proper for a man to wear short sleeves and a woman to wear makeup. Some even debate over the color of the carpet.

So how do we handle it when disputable matters come up in the church?

Romans 14:4 asks, “Who are you to judge someone else’s servant?” The point Paul is making is that the Lord Jesus is the Master, not you or me, so don’t get critical over sideline issues.

How do we define a disputable matter?

This raises a question, however. How do we define what is a disputable matter? After all, most people would agree that whether I preach from the King James Version or some other translation of the Bible is a disputable matter, but for some people, it’s not even open for debate. How can we know? Here are some guidelines:

1) What does the Bible teach on the subject?

First, what does the Bible teach on the subject? Take the example of drinking alcohol. Some Christians drink alcohol, while others feel you cannot be a true Christian and drink alcohol. So what does the Bible teach? The Bible says in some passages that wine was consumed by good people (Melchizedek brought out wine and bread to Abraham in Genesis 14:18; Jesus turned water into wine in John 2:1-11), but it also says that drunkenness is sinful and foolish (Proverbs 20:1; 23:20, Isaiah 5:11). So according to the Bible, drinking alcohol is not a sin, but getting drunk is a sin. So the first principle is to ask what the Bible teaches on the subject.

Of course, there are some areas where sincere Christians have honest differences of opinion about what the Bible teaches on a subject. For example, I believe that the Bible teaches that Jesus’ Second Coming is premillenial. However, I used to believe it was amillenial, and I finally changed my mind after continual study. The reason for differences of opinion is that a person can take scripture and make arguments for both sides, based on scripture. And if two Bible-believing Christians can back up their viewpoints from scripture, then they should respect their differences of opinion.

2) Is the dispute over a practice or a principle?

There is a second guideline that can help us, however. Paul says later in this chapter, in Romans 14:17, “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” Notice that he is making a distinction between practices and principles. “Eating and drinking” are practices. “Righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” are principles. Worshiping the Lord is a principle; playing the organ or playing the guitar are practices. We should stand on our principles but be flexible in our practices.

What really matters

Arizona Cardinals v Philadelphia Eagles
Copyright 2013 by Bob Rogers

Millions of people gather around their television sets to watch sports championship games. Some will be very happy after the game, and others will be very disappointed. But in the end, it really doesn’t matter.

Philippians 2:10-11 says that in the end, “At the name of Jesus every knee will bow… and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.”

In the end, it will not matter what team you follow, but it will matter whether or not you followed Jesus. In the end, it will not matter what nation you lived in, but it will matter whether you were you in the kingdom of God. In the end, it will not matter what terrorists you feared, but whether you feared God. In the end, it will not matter which church you attended, but whether you were part of the body of Christ.

In the end, it will not matter what your political affiliation was, but whether your affiliation was with Jesus. In the end, it will not matter where you worked, but whether you served Jesus. In the end, it will not matter what family or culture you were born in, but whether you were born again into the family of God. Because in the end, what will matter is not whether you got your name in the history books, but did you get your name in the Lamb’s Book of Life?

Why Men Hate Going to Church

It has always concerned me that there are more women than men in church, which is why I was eager to read Why Men Hate Going to Church by David Murrow.

Murrow says that men like challenge and taking risks, but Christians have made church a place of nurturing and building relationships.

Murrow says that there are three gender gaps in the church: the gap of presence, the gap of participation, and the gap of personality.

The Gap of Presence: He says that in the USA, 61% of the church attendees are women, but only 39% are men. This trend is also found in other nations around the world. Interestingly, nondenominational churches had the smallest gap, while the biggest gap was found in Episcopal Churches.

The Gap of Participation: He says that women are 57% more likely to participate in Sunday School, and 33% more likely to volunteer for a church than men. Christian book sales are 75% to women, and the Christian radio audience is 63% female.

The Gap of Personality: He says that while 62% of the general population has a passive personality, 85% of Christians have passive personalities. There are greater numbers of artistic and homosexual men in church than the general population, but lower numbers of what he calls “risk takers, fun lovers and dangerous men.”

After I read this book a few years ago, I asked readers on a previous blog to tell me why they thought fewer men went to church. I received over 100 comments in one week! Here are the top reasons they gave:

1) Failure to let men lead. This may be controversial, but it was the most-often mentioned reason, both from men and women who commented. Many blamed women who would not let men be leaders in church. Others, especially men, blamed the men for not taking their leadership role.

2) Overemphasis on relationships. Women are social beings who cherish relationships; men not so much. It is interesting that this was the most common answer given by women who shared why their husbands did not come, but it was also mentioned by several men. Telling men they need a “personal relationship” with Jesus and “fall in love with Jesus” does not appeal to men as much as it does to women.

3) Overemphasis on sensitivity. “Gentle Jesus, meek and mild” and “sharing what’s on your heart” may make a man feel like he is stripped of his masculinity.

4) Not enough action. Most men want to be active; they don’t want to just sit and listen to a long sermon. They want to do things. David Murrow says, “men learn side by side, women learn face to face.” That’s why he recommends women have a conference to learn together, but men go fishing or hiking or build something together.

5) Men lack spirituality. Several who gave comments, mostly men, seem to blame men for lacking spirituality.

6) Need a challenge. This answer came almost exclusively from men. Several men mentioned that men need to be challenged.

7) Music is too feminine. This was another answer given by men themselves. They feel that too many songs are about “loving Jesus” in ways that are very feminine and the lyrics are words men would never say to another man.

So what do you think? Leave me a comment and join the conversation.

What is a healthy church?

Copyright 2012 by Bob Rogers

Recently, Outreach magazine published its list of the 100 largest churches in America and the 100 fastest-growing churches in America.

But when we read about the church in the New Testament, we do not find a list of fastest-growing churches. Not many numerical reports are even given, other than the 3,000 baptized at Pentecost (Acts 2:41) and the fact that the number had grown to 5,000 a little while later (Acts 4:4). After that, numbers are rarely given. We don’t read Paul reporting to the church that when he left Ephesus they were running 200 in Sunday worship. Instead of talking about numerical growth, he emphasizes spiritual growth. So why don’t we?

It’s time to change our terminology. Instead of so much emphasis on church growth, we should talk about church health. So what makes a church healthy, anyway? Paul gives us a full description in Ephesians 4:11-16.

1. Leaders who equip

“And He personally gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers…” (Ephesians 4:11, HCSB)

Healthy churches have leaders who equip their members. The best test of the leader is that he has followers who learn from his teaching and example. Healthy churches have leadership that inspires the overall congregation to follow Christ and serve their community.
In this verse, the last two leadership gifts are indispensable to local church health. In Greek, the terms go together, “pastor-teacher.”

Pastors (translated “shepherds” in the ESV) bring guidance and comfort to the flock of God.

Teachers instruct the church in correct understanding of the Bible and Christian living.

Notice in verse 12 that these leaders have the purpose of training, or equipping, the church to do their work.

If a church is going to be healthy, it must have a pastor/teacher who is feeding the congregation God’s Word on a consistent basis.

2. Members who serve

“… for the training of the saints in the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ…” (Ephesians 4:12, HCSB)

Healthy churches have members who serve. Don’t join this church to sit back and be entertained. If that’s what you are looking for, please go somewhere else. We need members who serve.

The “saints” are all the believers. “Saint” means a “holy one,” and every believer is called to be holy and set aside for God’s service.

It says the saints are trained by the leaders so that the saints can do the work of the ministry. So all members are called to serve.
Rick Warren asks, “If you are not involved in service or ministry, what excuse have you been using?
Abraham was old; Jacob was insecure, Leah was unattractive; Joseph was abused; Moses stuttered. Gideon was poor; Samson was codependent; Rahab was immoral; David had an affair; Elijah was suicidal; Jeremiah was depressed; Jonah was reluctant; Naomi was a widow. John the Baptist was eccentric; Peter was impulsive; Martha worried a lot; the Samaritan woman had five failed marriages; Zacchaeus was unpopular; Thomas had doubts; Paul had poor health; and Timothy was timid. God used each of them in his service. He will use you, too, if you stop making excuses.” (Rick Warren’s Daily Devotional, Day 357)

Healthy churches have members who serve.

3. Unity in the faith

“… until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son…” (Ephesians 4:13a, HCSB)

Healthy churches are united. Unhealthy churches are divided. Notice the two ways he says we are to be united: by doctrinal faith (“in the faith”) and by personal faith (“and in the knowledge of God’s Son”). I heard about a pastor who was called to a church with only 51% voting in favor of his call. A year later, they fired him. It was a unanimous. The pastor said, “I finally united the church.” Of course, that’s not the way we want to unify the church, but the church does need to be united.

Remember the lesson from Noah’s Ark. It may stink sometimes, but we have to stay together, because we’re all in the same boat!

4. Growth measured by Christ-likeness

“… growing into a mature man with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness.” (Ephesians 4:13b, HCSB)

Too often, churches measure themselves by numerical growth. And it is true that healthy churches should have numerical growth. However, there are churches that have numerical growth but they are not healthy. A tumor can grow, but it isn’t healthy. And some churches explode and then die down. Others grow and grow in numbers, but they are attracting people for entertainment or because their standards are lax, and people are not being discipled.

Imagine a church board meeting with Jesus. Pete calls the meeting to order, and says, “Jesus, we’ve been following you around for some time, and we are getting concerned about the attendance figures. Tom, how many were on the hill yesterday?”

Tom answers, “Thirty-seven.”

Pete says, “It’s getting ridiculous. You’re going to have to pep things up.”

John says, “I’d like to suggest you pull off more miracles, but more people need to see it so our crowds will get bigger.”

Pete agrees, and adds, “Publicity is essential, and you tell half the people you cure to keep it quiet. Let the word get around.”

Toward the end of the meeting, Judas adds, “I’d like tos ay that if we are going to continue to meet in this upper room, we ought to do something about the carpet…” (Adapted from Richard K. Wallarab, Christianity Today, January 17, 1979.)

Notice that verse 13 gives the correct measurement of real growth: “a stature measured by Christ’s fullness.” That is our measurement of growth: are we like Christ? If our budget grows but we spend our budget on a bowling alley for church members instead of helping the hurting and sharing the gospel, we may be growing in numbers but not in Christ-likeness.

Healthy churches measure growth by being more like Christ.

5. Teaching that provides stability

“Then we will no longer be little children, tossed by the waves and blown around by every wind of teaching, by human cunning with cleverness in the techniques of deceit.” (Ephesians 5:14, HCSB)

Another great sign of a healthy church is that the Bible is so consistently taught, that the members aren’t tricked by heresy and false teaching. If some clever teacher comes into the church and tries to lead people astray, a healthy church recognizes it right away and puts a stop to it.

A decade ago, we had a powerful wind storm blow an oak tree on our youth building. The tree had shallow roots, and when the winds came, it fell. A healthy church that teaches the Bible is like a healthy tree with deep roots. It doesn’t fall under the pressure of false teaching.

6. Honest and loving relationships

“But speaking the truth in love, let us grow in every way into Him who is the head– Christ.” (Ephesians 4:15, HCSB)

Healthy churches have honest and loving relationships. “Speaking the truth in love” means that we are honest with each other, we speak the truth, but we are also loving when we do it. We don’t just try to please each other. If something’s wrong, we deal with it, but we always seek to deal with it in love. That’s challenging, but it’s vital to having a healthy church.

Years ago, The Betty Ford Story aired on television. It was a movie that told the story of the addiction and recovery of Betty Ford, the wife of President Gerald Ford. At one point in the film, there is an emotional scene where the family is sitting together confronting Betty Ford. Her son says, “Mother, you are destroying yourself; you are destroying this family, and you are killing yourself. Mother, you are a drunk; you are an addict.” His mother was infuriated. She told her son he was being very disrespectful and said, “How can you say these things to me? I am your mother!” Her son said, “Mother, I can say it because it is the truth.” As hard as it was, this confrontation was the catalyst for the establishment of the Betty Ford Clinic. (Tony Evans’ Book of Illustrations, p. 333-334)

A healthy church is a place where people speak the truth in love. Relationships are honest and loving. We don’t play games or try to please people, but we go out of our way to love people.

7. An environment that encourages involvement

“From Him the whole body, fitted and knit together by every supporting ligament, promotes the growth of the body for building up itself in love by the proper working of each individual part.” (Ephesians 4:16, HCSB)

Healthy churches create an environment that encourages involvement. “From Him (Jesus) the whole body, fitted and knit together… promotes the growth of the body…”

Many people think that it doesn’t matter if they are involved in the church or not, that the church won’t miss them if they are gone. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

On January 28, 1986, the space shuttle Challenger exploded just 73 seconds into flight. The whole nation was shocked. An investigation revealed that it happened because of one inexpensive O-ring. There were one million components in the space shuttle, but that one part destroyed the whole. Like the seemingly insignificant O-ring, one person failing to take his place in the church keeps the whole from being healthy. (Richard Swenson, Margin, 1992, p. 48)

A healthy church is a church where misfits can fit in. A healthy church is a place where the displaced can find a place.
This world is in desperate need of healthy churches in every community. Christian, are you allowing God’s Spirit to work through you to make and keep your church healthy?

Doing church New York style

Copyright 2012 by Bob Rogers

Years ago when I lived in Mississippi, I visited the Empire State Building in New York City, and I heard a Southern accent from some young ladies. They asked me and my wife, “Are y’all from the South?” We said, “Yes, we’re from Mississippi,” and they said, “Well, we’re from Georgia, and it sounds so good to hear somebody from the South.”Actually, they didn’t say “Georgia,” they said “JAW-ja.” (And I didn’t say, “Mississippi,” I said “Miss-IP-y.”)

I was thinking, how would I feel if I was from New York and came to church down South? There are some great churches in New York; in fact, the Brooklyn Tabernacle is one of the greatest churches in America. But New Yorkers and Southerners have a different culture altogether. I wonder how we could make them feel at home? My sister lived in Manhattan for years, and now lives in Brooklyn. She says a “New York minute” actually lasts 19 seconds. I believe her. So read this rapidly, and maybe you’ll get some ideas for doing church “New York style.”

1. Everybody would have to line up outside the church, and when the doors opened, they would have to rush in as fast as they could and get a seat or find something to hold on to, because the ushers would shut the doors behind them in 10 seconds. Then the pastor would announce in garbled English, “The J-train is leaving the station now. Do not block the entrances!”

2. There would be different seating for Yankees and Mets fans, with armed uniformed policemen separating them.

3. Each member of the congregation would be given a headset so he or she could listen to the sermon in traditional or contemporary English, Spanish, Romanian, Korean, Vietnamese, Italian, Mandarin or Cantonese Chinese, Swahili or Yiddish. This would allow them to understand the service without having to actually talk to anybody else.

4. If somebody tried to sit in your pew, you would block his way and say, “Don’t play with me, man.”

5. The pastor would begin his sermon with, “Yo! Youse guys! I’m TALKIN’ to you!”

Our New York friends then could visit JAW-ja or Miss-IP-y or Luzy-anna and feel right at home. After all, didn’t the apostle Paul say, “I have become all things to all people, so that I may by all means save some”? (1 Corinthians 9:22, HCSB).