My church has graciously granted me a 3 month (!) sabbatical. I am very grateful. Though that does not mean I should necessarily take a sabbatical from this blog, I am planning to do so. I have been trying to post twice a month for the last couple years, and it has been a blessing to be able to do so. But I will take a break from this blog until early October. I would appreciate your prayers for a fruitful time of rest
I have had the opportunity to travel to Central Asia the last few years to help several Christians in their efforts to reach the unreached. It has been a great blessing to be a part of. I realize there are many different situations, but having been a part of at least seven or eight short term mission trips, here are a few things I think every faithful short term team would want you to know, if you are either a missionary on the field, or a local church inviting us to come help you in your work:
- We are so thankful for you! You are likely a part of the few who felt the burden to not stay, but rather to go. That means you likely sacrificed in ways most of us never will, all for the sake of the gospel. Thank you for being on the front lines of the Great Commission!
- We do not want to be a burden. We are only coming because we think we can help you. We would not come unless you invite us. So please do not invite us simply because you think that is what you are supposed to do. If you are having to create work for us, do not invite us. If you have more work than you can handle, that is exactly why we hope to come.
- We are willing to lead or follow during the trip. Just be clear about what you want. As a local church, we have our sights set on preaching the gospel to unbelievers, discipling believers, and organizing local churches. We are happy to lead in that. But since you are on the field in a context that is foreign to us, we are happy to follow you. Let’s just communicate clearly.
- We are willing to pay for as much as we need to. Let’s simply communicate clearly about that as well
- We do not want to sightsee. Please do not feel like you have to show us around. We are there to work, not play.
- At the same time, we are not there to work 24-7. We will benefit from as much rest as is normal for the Christian life.
- We are a local church. You are likely a missionary without normal church life, or a young church who needs help growing ecclesiologically. One of the goals in missions should be to establish healthy local churches. That means by God’s grace we have something to offer you missiologically. Please do not be offended if we try to offer it. We are simply trying to do our job, and trying to help you do yours.
I cannot stress to you how thankful we are for you, and how much we love praying for you. I look forward to discovering how God used all our efforts together to grow the Church
We just had our second annual church retreat/camp. We were blessed to be able to bring a speaker from my former church for the second straight year. Pastor Ryan Fullerton brought great teaching on building a culture of evangelism. A few reflections:
- I pray every single one of our members have these words ringing in their ears in every relationship with non-Christians: connect-God-man-Christ-response
- I pray for every single one of our children to be saved, and that we have a culture that says, “I welcome advice in parenting”
- Preaching the gospel to yourself is how you will persevere in this life, and we cannot expect to be effectively evangelistic if we are not rejoicing in our own salvation
- Ryan Fullerton is still my favorite preacher in the world
Listen to his Sunday sermon here
We recently moved to weekly Communion on Sunday mornings. The two best reasons I have ever heard for not doing it weekly:
- It will become less special
- In order to really guard the Table, we should do it less
Regarding number 1, is there really anything else that we treat like that? Regarding number 2, is there really anything else we treat like that? For both, I think the answer is to just do it well every time. I try to kiss my wife goodbye everyday when I go to work. As long as I really mean it, I think it is a valid kiss. And even sometimes when my mind is not as fully there as it should be, it is still a good thing.
To those I will add one more possible reason for not doing it weekly: in Calvin’s Geneva, the civil government did not allow it. Ok, maybe in that case, that is a good reason to not do it weekly.
Outside of that, there are a lot of reasons to do it every time the church gathers for worship on the Lord’s Day:
- It appears to be the NT pattern (Acts 2.42, Acts 20.7)
- As often as you do it, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes (1 Cor 11.26). I repeat, as often as you do it, you proclaim the death of Christ!
- It forces Christians to examine themselves every week
- It helps non-Christians in attendance see who the Body of Christ is, and understand they are not a part of it yet
- It is the central benefit to church membership- anyone under the discipline of a church should be barred from the Lord’s Table; taking the Lord’s Supper once a month is like barring everyone three times a month
I could go on and on. It really comes down to what you think “this is my body” and “this is my blood” really means. Unless you say “I think Jesus meant this is not his body and blood,” I think you always give up a good thing if you do not practice it on any given Sunday.
What it is not:
- an evangelistic rally of some sort- any church who makes Sunday morning more geared for the non-Christian than it is for the Christian is at best a parachurch ministry
- the church- we often say “let’s go to church” on Sunday morning. We kind of know what we mean. Or do we? Any church who thinks of “church” as mainly Sunday morning is confusing a little bit what the church does versus who the church is
What it is:
- the main gathering of the church (Acts 20.7)
- a mixed gathering in most places I know of, where it is mostly the church, often mixed with visiting Christians looking for a church, and almost always mixed with some unbelievers who either think they are Christians or are looking into Christianity
- a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus (Matthew 28)
- the main time of the week where the flock (Christians) are to be fed, pray together, fellowship, and break bread together (Acts 2.42)
- a great time for unbelievers to be saved (1 Corinthians 14.25); the church should evangelize 7 days a week, and they should not depend on the preacher to evangelize their friends, and Sundays are mainly for Christians to get fed. BUT, it is still a perfect time for the unbeliever to hear a skillful delivery of the gospel, and to see what the gospel does to the Church.
- It is a time of worship! It is for God. It is to please Him. It is to approach and engage the living God in exactly the way He desires to be worshiped. Every decision about Sunday morning that does not begin with God in mind is a decision starting off on the wrong foot.
What we try to do on Sunday morning is make it so for God, that it will automatically be foreign to the unbeliever. If an unbeliever ever feels right at home in our worship gathering, something is seriously missing. One of the things we have been trying to communicate recently to guests is that if they are not a Christian: 1) We are so glad they came! 2) Until they become a Christian, they can only observe worship; they cannot truly participate.
May the Lord increase the number of His worshipers on the Lord’s Day!
Last week I got to spend time with my old church, Immanuel Baptist Church in Louisville, KY. If you have not heard of Ryan Fullerton, you need to add him to your podcast list. He is an anointed preacher. And I mean Lloyd-Jones-type anointed.
But Ryan is just one of 14 pastors at Immanuel. They have led that church toward greater and greater health and vitality over the years. They continue to grow, and continue to be a great blessing to me many years after leaving there.
They started the Immanuel Network a few years ago, and this year was the first year we had an open conference, where about 100 of us gathered for a conference on what gospel-loving church life looks like. The Immanuel Network is a partnership of like-minded churches and leaders around the world, who all were sent out by Immanuel Baptist at some point in time. Including Immanuel, there are currently 5 partnering churches in the network (KBC is one of them). There are also 10 partnering individual ministry/church leaders spread around North America. There are also 8 or 9 missionaries spread out around the world. Everyone in the Network is Reformed and Baptistic. This past year there were 7 churches planted around the world through this network!
KBC is a Southern Baptist church. We are also affiliated with The Gospel Coalition. But I am probably most excited to be a part of the Immanuel Network. One simple reason: I can trust EVERYTHING that happens in our network will be faithful. We are not the only faithful network out there, but in God’s providence this is the actual network He has placed me in, with brothers and sisters around the world I actually know personally and love. And I am so thrilled that over time my own church will get to know them and pray for them, and be prayed for by them more and more.
For more info on the Network: http://www.immanuelnetwork.org
Lord willing, and to the praise of His glorious grace, we will be baptizing two young men in a couple weeks. At our church, we make sure we completely immerse someone in water. Unless someone is completely immersed in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, I am inclined to say it might not be Christian baptism. Many of my professors from seminary would say it much stronger than that. And I understand. Either way, everybody should think the mode, or the method or the form, of baptism is important.
Why do Baptists care about the mode of baptism so much?
- Westminster Confession of Faith says “Baptism is a sacrament of the New Testament, ordained by Jesus Christ, not only for the solemn admission of the party baptized into the visible Church; but also to be unto him a sign and seal of the covenant of grace, of his ingrafting into Christ, of regeneration, of remission of sins, and of his giving up unto God, through Jesus Christ, to walk in the newness of life. Which sacrament is, by Christ’s own appointment, to be continued in His Church until the end of the world.”–mind you, it was Presbyterians who wrote this, who largely disagree with Baptists on the mode of baptism. But we all believe Christ appointed something “until the end of the world,” and that something means a lot of good things for the believer. We should want to do exactly what Jesus commanded when it comes to the sacraments.
- Related to this, the word “baptize” in the Bible clearly means either to immerse or dip or wash. Paedobaptists believe “wash” can include sprinkling. Baptists are famous for over-emphasizing “immerse” as the only meaning of that word sometimes. I have been guilty of that. But I do assert that “baptize” means “immerse.” It can mean other things, but it does also mean “immerse.” And if burial with Christ is really meant to be communicated in baptism (Rom 6.4), then immersion is a fine form, is it not? Some argue that Jesus was buried above ground, therefore, you do not have to “bury” someone under water. Even if Jesus’ tomb was above ground, I am fairly confident you could not see any part of his body sticking out of the tomb. In other words, he was buried! Because of all this, why not err on the side of caution when it comes to one of Jesus’ sacraments, and immerse?
- When Jesus says “be baptized” regarding baptism, it is the equivalent of him saying “take and eat” regarding the Eucharist. Some have argued that for Baptists to care about mode so much means they should never have grape juice for the Lord’s Supper! Nice try. We can argue about what “fruit of the vine” means later, but that is an argument about outward elements, not mode. We all agree water is the outward element in baptism (please tell me we all agree on that!). But the issue in this post is mode. The equivalent of “be baptized” in baptism is “take and eat” in the Lord’s Supper. Do you think Jesus cares whether you actually put elements in your mouth and swallow in Communion? Then you should equally care whether you are immersed or washed or sprinkled.
To not care about the mode of baptism is like saying “I’m going for a run” and then walking, or “I’m going to kiss my wife” and then shake her hand. To not care about the mode of baptism is to not care about what baptism is. And if you do not care about what it is, it is probably because you do not care enough about what it means.
Thankfully, there are probably millions of believers who do not care much about anything I’m talking about here, yet because of God’s grace, will receive all the benefits of the Son, and baptism, through their faith in Him.