Observations for the Day After an Election

As I peck away at the keyboard, millions of Americans will go vote today. Sadly, only about 1 in 3 Americans who are of voting age will actually vote in this election and many do not even take thie privilege seriously. I recently overheard a man at a fast food restaurant proudly proclaim he had written in his dog for the U.S. Senate. I am not sure that our soldiers and patriots intended to die for that vote.

A lot will be made depending on how things shakeout today. If the GOP wins the Senate, it will be seen as a death knell to the President’s legislative agenda. If the Democrats maintain control, it will be thought that there is glimmer of hope for the President’s second term. No matter the election, the President is always on the ballot.

As a former political hack and junkie, I want to share some thoughts that are always helpful for me on the day after the election.

1. You will probably not like the people you voted for as much after they are elected. If the person you have hitched your horse to is elected today, you probably will not like them as much tomorrow. They are, in the end, a politician and they represent a large number of people. If their goal is to affect change, they will probably have to do some things you do not like. If they want to get ahead and advance themselves, they will have to do some things you do not like. If they never do anything you do not like, they will probably not represent you very long.

2. Washington changes people. This is a best guess on my part, but it comes from some pretty good observations. One of two things is normally true about people who go to Washington. They are either hardened politicians who are keenly aware of the political game, or they are idealist in for a rude awakening. Washington is a place of backrooms deals and political maneuvering. While I want a leader who is above such things, the people who do not play the game are normally not in a position to bring home the bacon. If we are honest, that is why most people vote for a certain person or party; they believe they or their district will get something in return.

3. Local elections are important. I imagine a lot of voters do not know anything about names on the ballot past the first couple. How much time did you spend researching the judges or county commissioners? Those people may affect more change on you than the ones who ran non-stop television ads. Not a lot of money to run television ads for the soil and water conservation district positions. Are they important? That is a matter of opinion, but they are on your ballot and surely you do not want to be the type of person that plays a guessing game with your vote. Local officials plan your tax rates and oversee your child’s education. Do not neglect to know who you are voting for locally. That decision may haunt you more than the people you ship off to Washington.

God willing, the sun will come up tomorrow, new public servants will take office in December and January, and we will move forward. If tomorrow is disappointing, remember, the Iowa Caucuses are less than 430 days away!

Time to vote…does it really matter who you vote for?

If you don’t think it matters who you vote for, consider this:

Residents of North Carolina had 19,818 abortions in 2013.

To put the abortion total in context by way of comparison, consider that 14.2% of resident pregnancies ended in abortion in 2013. For every six North Carolina mothers who gave birth to live babies in 2013, one child lost his or her life to abortion.

Among North Carolinians having abortions in 2013:

-26.5 years was the average age
-33.9% had repeat abortions;
-12.8% already had two or more previous abortions
-60% were already mothers of living children.
-Minorities continue to be disproportionately represented, with 45% occurring among African-American mothers.

When you vote for a pro-choice candidate, any pro-choice candidate, you are supporting someone who is okay with murdering 20,000 children in our state and will not do anything in their elected capacity to help stop it.

If you don’t think it matters who you vote for, you are wrong.

*data from the NC State Center for Health Statistics

From the Depths

Several months ago I began leading us through Psalm 107. We have seen examples of the greatness of our God’s salvation and how far His reach can be. The final example he gives begins in verse twenty-three. It is different. Honestly, I thought at first it was bit strange because these people were not really doing anything bad, but trouble comes upon them.

23Some went down to the sea in ships,
    doing business on the great waters;
24 they saw the deeds of the Lord,
    his wondrous works in the deep.
25 For he commanded and raised the stormy wind,
    which lifted up the waves of the sea.
26 They mounted up to heaven; they went down to the depths;
    their courage melted away in their evil plight;
27 they reeled and staggered like drunken men
    and were at their wits’ end.
28 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
    and he delivered them from their distress.
29 He made the storm be still,
    and the waves of the sea were hushed.
30 Then they were glad that the waters were quiet,
    and he brought them to their desired haven.
31 Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
    for his wondrous works to the children of man!
32 Let them extol him in the congregation of the people,
    and praise him in the assembly of the elders. (Psalm 107:23-32, ESV)

 

These men did nothing wrong. These people simply went out on the ocean. They are fishermen or merchants or in some other nautical profession. They have their business on the sea and are working. In fact, we are told they were looking at the beauty of God’s creation. They are witness to His wondrous works, but a storm hits. We are painted the picture that their ship is tossed about. Verse twenty-six says, They mounted up to heaven; they went down to the depths. Their ship goes up and then falls far down. Their courage melted away. They are scared. They stagger about the boat like a drunk.

Think about how many times we see this image of a dangerous sea in the Bible. We see it with Jonah. We see when Jesus calms the storm. The sea must have been a terrifying place to be. There was no radio communication. There was no one you could call for help. There was no Coast Guard. You were simply out there on your own. If the ship was destroyed, you were going to the bottom of the ocean and no one would see you again. Your family would not know where you sank nor would they know how you died. So to go on a ship, and make these types of voyages, you had to be a person of great courage.  This storm makes even that melt away.

Sometimes, we come to God when we go through a storm and we have nothing left. These people, however, are not pictured as having nothing. They, most likely, had whatever they needed. They are doing business. They are doing well and yet, God sends the storm so that they will see their need for Him. That may have been your situation in life when you came to Christ. That is when some of you gave up doing your own thing—going in your own way—and followed after Him. You realized your inability when the storm hit and you knew without Him you were not going to make it. The waves were crashing to and fro and you finally realized that you could not do it on your own.

If that is the case you should say so. If that was the case and you cried to the Lord, He listened, He saved you, He calmed the storm, and He brought you to the place that you were needing to go, shout it from the roof tops.

The Psalmist even tells us who should be the audience of our thanks. He is very specific and I think there is a point to this.  First, he says the congregation of the people. That was the gathering of the religious people. He says you should talk about it when you get to the worship gathering. You should talk about the fact that God has brought you out of this storm. You should allow other people to celebrate with you. It should be exciting when God does something. It gives us hope. It gives us courage for the future. What encouragement it gives me when I get to share in the joy that God is providing someone else. How helpful it is for me as a pastor when I get to hear what God is doing in the lives of the people under my care. Sometimes I am privileged to hear this on a day when I do not feel like He is doing something in mine. In the same way, I want to share with others when God does something in my life because it can encourage us. It pushes us along. It helps us to get through our own dark times and our own storms. We should share in the congregation of the people.

Next he says, And praise him in the assembly of the elders. This would be the public gathering. He says do not simply go to the religious gathering, share it in public. Elders here are not referring to elders as we would think of in the New Testament.  In the Old Testament world, cities would have elders as leaders of the city. Many times they would be religious, but this is a public gathering. It is not enough for us to share with each other what God is doing but rather we must commit ourselves to sharing it outside the walls of our church. He is working in our lives. Share it to the religious and share it to those who are lost. Share the blessings that God has given.

Book Review: The People of God: Empowering the Church to Make Disciples

The People of God: Empowering the Church to Make Disciples by Trevor Joy and Spence Shelton, B&H, 2014

If you are numbered among those who believe that the church in the United States has problems, you have probably spent at least some time contemplating what is at the root of those problems.  We might tracpeople-of-god-covere it to theological impurities brought about by the abandonment of orthodox Christianity in many realms of Christendom.  Others may claim that we simply live in the most secular age of history and therefore the task of pointing people toward our Savior is harder than ever.  Still another group may say we have left our old time religion and replaced it with contemporary notions that look little better than the unregenerate world around us.  These and countless others can be offered up as the reason for the decline of growth and the lack of influence the church has in our context.  However, they are not the root cause.  They are merely symptoms of a nearly systemic problem found in the vast majority of our churches: we have ignored the Great Commission’s call to make disciples.

The People of God provides us with an encouraging and practical call to take seriously the way God has ordained for people to come into a relationship with Him and grow in their knowledge of His Kingdom.  The authors build on the premise that human beings have been created for community, both with God and with one another.  The Church has been created by Christ to be a community and the growth of Christ’s followers through the disciple-making process is done within this context.  For Joy and Shelton this is an intentional, theologically driven process.

Our authors explore the distinctives of a gospel community while also presenting us with the common hindrances to that same biblical community.  Within any context of discipleship, the Gospel must be at the forefront.  The Gospel provides us the pattern of discipleship as we are constantly reminded of our need to turn from our sin and our desperate reliance on Christ.

For me, the most helpful chapter in the book is the authors’ discussion of alignment.  The book calls on churches to align their teaching/preaching/discipleship/small group activities together.  While in no way new or revolutionary, it is a seemingly radical idea.  For most churches, there is very little connection between the focus of the sermon and the teaching that takes place during Sunday school.  Small groups are not connected to the spiritual emphasis of the worship service.  Children have lessons that are completely different from their parents.  There is no alignment of the things that are taught.  This method of conducting the teaching ministry of the church provides very little opportunity for depth and growth.  However, when discipleship is intentional and the ideas of the worship gathering are reinforced in Sunday school or small groups the people in our churches have a chance to understand more deeply the things of God.  When we are intentional about aligning our sermon, Bible studies, small group lessons, and discipleship efforts, we will find that the mission and vision of the church will be constantly reinforced and remain abundantly clear to those who participate in the life of the community of faith.

I was thoroughly impressed by the relevance of this book for churches of all sizes.  While both authors serve on staff at churches at are among the largest in the country, their ideas are relevant and useful for my church which is small and in a rural context.  We are all aware that this is often not the case with books produce in mega churches.  Because these concepts are so biblically based, they are functional within a myriad of church contexts.

Many of us stand concerned about the state of the church and the work of the Kingdom.  We are weary from trying to make things work the way we want and convincing people they need to do better.  The heart of our problem is often a lack of discipleship.  It is not a cure-all secret formula.  It is however, Christ’s pattern for growing His Church and expanding His Kingdom.

1976 Nova Concours For Sale – $4,500

I’ve owned this car since I was 16 years old.  They body is in great shape and the car is almost completely original. Could be restored or drove as is. Only 52k original miles and I have put about half of those on it since 2000.  Clean title, but misplaced so waiting for the state to send me the new one.  Email me if interested: mpardue@fbicard.org   

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Book Review: Autopsy of a Deceased Church

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Autopsy of a Deceased Church: 12 Ways to Keep Yours Alive by Thom S. Rainer (B&H Books, May 2014)

An autopsy is an unpleasant thing. It is most often a sign that someone’s life did not end in a natural way. The necessity of an autopsy is an indication that there are questions that remain unanswered.

Christ did not intend for His churches to die. The death of the church is the result of sin and neglect. In his book, Autopsy of a Deceased Church, Thom Rainer serves as a pathologist, conducting a post-mortem on churches that have died in unnatural ways.

Rainer’s dissection reveals 10 symptoms which led to the untimely demise of the houses of worship studied on his examination table. I found these observations to be beyond sobering. Toxic poisons are present at different stages of their terminal work in many of the churches I have observed. Rainer has analyzed these cancerous conditions and the disastrous effects they leave behind.

Most disturbing is how many of these ailments are silent killers. They often lie dormant for years. When they do surface, they often fester slowly, eating away the health of the church. Those who comprise the church are under attack from foreign invaders, and yet go through the motions with no knowledge that they are rapidly dying.

Rainer conducted his research with churches who have already succumbed to the poisons that infiltrated their body. The members, now separated from the body, are left to consider what tore them apart. Many of their symptoms are easy to recognize as the autopsy progresses.

For example, in churches that have met their doom the past was celebrated as a hero. The church’s identity was tied to the things that had once given cause for celebration. However, the fixation on the past resulted in neglect of things important for the future.

Dead churches refuse to adapt to the world around them. Many were located in communities that changed. The people who lived near the churches were different from those in the church. At the same time, church members moved away from the church to get away from the changing neighborhood. Over time, the church became deserted.

As the demographics around them changed, their budgets focused more and more away from their community. Seeing no reason to invite those in their community into the church, the congregations invested more in themselves. Their needs reigned supreme and, therefore, the work of the Great Commission was nowhere to be found. Instead of striving to live by the commission given by the Savior, the church set their sights on their own preferences. They were not focused on the work of the Kingdom.

With this mindset in place, leadership was hard to maintain and pastoral turnover was frequent. The church that died rarely prayed together. It was simply not important. Without prayer and with short-term leadership, churches who were once alive had no vision.

There was no purpose in their decisions as they simply went through the motions. While there were no wise plans for ministry, the facilities of these churches became their obsession. Some even split over minor disputes involving their facilities.

The autopsy report is definitive. Neglect and poor priorities are lethal to a church. With the examination complete, Rainer poses a question: Is there hope for dying churches? Not every church is at the same place in their decay. Therefore, Rainer offers four responses for each stage of the decline of a church. He encourages his readers with responses based on whether a church is showing signs of sickness, deeply in the throes of illness or audibly exhaling a death rattle. These responses are helpful, serving as good medicine for ill churches. I will let you read the book to discover your diagnosis and consider Rainer’s prescription.

Autopsy of a Deceased Church is a brief but terribly solemn read. My thoughts were drawn to the church I pastor. Could there be places where we are allowing a terrible poison to seep into our body? Are there areas that we have neglected and by doing so exposed ourselves to an infection that could one day cause our body to fail? Christ’s church is a living thing designed to grow and be vibrant. Autopsy of a Deceased Church serves as a good reminder that we must guard ourselves, watch our priorities and be about the work of the Kingdom. If we are not, our church may find itself on the cold slab of the autopsy table.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Micheal Pardue is pastor of First Baptist Icard, Connelly Springs.)