Tuesday, August 25, 2009


I am continuing with my analysis of the “Key Characteristics” of our church as defined by our church constitution. We have already covered the first characteristic, which is “Faith”. Today, we will consider “Family”. The church constitution reads as follows.

Family: To be family is to have a common origin. We have been created by the Loving God, in His image. To be family is to seek the common good. Our caring is not only for ourselves, but also for the rest of the family. To be family is to foster growth. In the family of faith, this growth includes bringing others into the family and helping all the members of the family to reach maturity in Christ.

I believe that the future of the church, as an institution, will be determined by how strong the families are within the body of Christ. Spiritually strengthening families instead of only focusing on individuals, will have a greater impact on the work of contributing to God's Kingdom, than simply opening our doors and sending forth an evangelistic message.

Until Moses wrote down the history of the world leading up to his day, the history and traditions of the Hebrew people were passed down orally. Stories were told about how God had delivered them during times of need. Visual aids were introduced to make sure the children knew of those traditions as well.

One of the most common examples of this was the Passover. As you know, Passover was the celebration that commemorated the night the Angel of Death “passed over” all of those who had placed blood over their doors in Egypt. It was because of that night, that Pharaoh finally let the Hebrew slaves go free. The Passover celebration involves certain foods that are symbolic of slavery, and the wandering in the desert.
The symbolism of the food is just one of the ways the Jews passed the story down.

There were also four questions that are traditionally asked during the family Passover meal. They are actually a series of questions, that answer one main question, that is asked by the children in a family, which is, “Why is this night different from all other nights?” The answers tell the story of the Exodus from Egypt, which educates all generations about the goodness and providence of God. (You can read all of the questions and answers here)

What are we doing at EFBC to foster spiritual growth in our families? Lately, we are doing a great deal. Our Associate Pastor of Worship has developed a Family Worship Guide. This is more than a devotional. It is a guide to lead families to the throne of God in their homes. For most of Christian and Jewish history, this is where spiritual education was nurtured. It has only been in the last few centuries that we have shifted the responsibility of teaching our children about Christ to the church.

I believe God is calling us back to family worship and Greg has done a wonderful job of leading us in that direction. My family has been using his guide and we find it to be extremely easy to work with, and have seen our children respond to it well. As parents, we have also enjoyed the opportunity to worship together as a family. I highly recommend this guide to every family that wants to see spiritual growth occur in their homes. You can obtain a copy for your family in our church office, or you may access a guide online here.

As important as our individual families are, we are also a church family. As such, we need to foster spiritual growth in our church as well. We provide many opportunities through the week to plug-in and participate in areas that can assist in your Christian life. There are Bible studies, Sunday School, Sunday morning worship, Wednesday night prayer meeting, and many other activities that will help you mature in Christ. There are also a number of opportunities for discipleship that are coming in the near future.

I believe God is moving in our church body, and is beginning a great revival before our very eyes. I also believe that God is beginning that harvest in the field of family life in our church. God wants you to be an active participant in this movement in any way you can. Be obedient to Him in whatever He is calling you to do. Keep praying for our church family and all of the families within this body of Christ.
I’m so glad I’m a part of the family of God. I’ve been washed in the fountain, cleansed by His blood. Joint heirs with Jesus as we travel this sod. For I’m part of the family, the family of God. (William J. Gaither © 1970)
You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. (Deuteronomy 6:5-7 NKJV)

Monday, August 24, 2009


Faith is believing when common sense tells you not to. Don't you see? It's not just Kris that's on trial, it's everything he stands for. It's kindness and joy and love and all the other intangibles.

These words are a quote from Miracle on 34th Street. They are spoken by the character Doris Walker, played by the very talented Maureen O’Hara in the 1947 version of the film. Maureen’s character is a “no-nonsense” special events director, employed by Macy’s department store. She recruits a man named Kris Kringle to fill in during the Thanksgiving day Parade, since the previous Santa was not able to fulfill his duties at the last minute.

Despite Kris’ insistence that he was the real Santa, Doris was just too cynical to believe. It took a short jail term and a trial for her to finally believe in him. The quote above shows the radical turn she took when she allowed herself to truly believe in Kris.

Last week we analyzed our church vision statement to see how we measure up to what it says. This week we will begin taking a hard look at our church’s “Key Characteristics” to measure them against our actions.

The first of our church’s “Key Characteristics” that we will be considering over the next number of weeks is faith. The church constitution reads as follows.

Faith: Faith is the key to our identity. Our common faith in Jesus Christ defines who we are. Hence, we identify ourselves individually by His name, as Christians, and corporately as His body, the church. This common faith creates unity in the church and makes us family. Through faith we receive the grace by which we become daughters and sons of God, brothers and sisters to Jesus Christ, and brothers and sisters to one another.

When we make faith one of our key characteristics, and place it in our constitution for everyone to see, we had better be able to back it up. Are we a people of faith? When God moves in our church or in our individual lives to accomplish something, what is our first reaction? Do we move ahead with whatever God has laid on our hearts, or do we check to make sure all the money is in the bank and that we have a backup plan? What did Abraham do when God called him out of Ur? He left. He did not question or squabble. He simply obeyed. This certainly puts Hebrews 11:1 into perspective, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

Another point that this “characteristic” makes is that our faith in Christ unites us together as a family. We do seem to have more of a family atmosphere at EFBC, than some other churches I have been to. However, is it truly our faith in Christ that binds us together, or is it simply the common interests that many of us share? Perhaps there are so many who are biologically related in our church that is gives the impression that we are all bound by Christ.

Faith is the building block for all Christian life. Without faith we can do nothing. Without faith, we are not cleansed by the blood of Christ.

When you go to the dinner table for supper and sit down, do you wonder if the chair will hold you up? No. You just sit. That is an act of faith. You have faith that the chair will do its job. Likewise, we must have faith that God will do what He says He will do.

In our individual lives and in our church, God gives us a vision for who He wants us to be. Along the way there are a number of tasks that must be accomplished. Our job is to do the tasks even when they don’t make sense. For example, God told Abraham that he would be the father of many nations even though Abraham had no children, Sarah was past the point of childbearing, and Abraham was very old. When God gave them a son, God told Abraham to sacrifice him. This made no sense, but Abraham obeyed.

When God gives us a vision and the tasks that go with it, what will our response be? Will we try to make all the pieces fit, or will we simply obey? What about in your own life what will your choice be? My prayer is that we will truly make faith a characteristic of our personal lives and in the life of our church. I we will, then nothing is impossible.

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2 NKJV)

Family Worship

I believe that the future of the church as an institution, will be determined by how strong the families are within the body of Christ. Spiritually strengthening families instead of just individuals will have a greater impact on the work of contributing to God's Kingdom, than simply opening our doors and sending forth an evangelistic message.

To that end, I invite you to take a look at this website, which is devoted to family worship. (click on the words "Family Worship" in the title above.) This is more than a devotional. It is a guide to lead families to the throne of God in their homes. For most of Christian and Jewish history this is where spiritual education was nurtured. It has only been in the last few centuries that we have shifted the responsibility of teaching our children about Christ to the church.

I believe God is calling us back to family worship and Greg Pittman has done a wonderful job of leading us in that direction. My family has been using his guide and find it to be extremely easy to work with, and have seen our children respond to it well. As parents, we have also enjoyed the opportunity to worship together as a family.

I highly recommend this guide to everyone.

May God bless you!


Monday, August 17, 2009

Vision Part 2

To inspire and nurture the human spirit— one person, one cup, and one neighborhood at a time.

The phrase above is the official mission statement of Starbucks Coffee. Maybe you’ve heard of them. They sell coffee. However, they have turned a simple cup of coffee into a whole lifestyle. How? They formulated a mission, and then carried it out. The statement is very clear and well defined. They intend “to inspire and nurture the human spirit.”

They also make sure they know how they will accomplish the first part of the statement. They don’t just see their business as selling coffee; they see each individual as valuable and make them feel important as well. Their approach is to start with the individual (one person), then attend to their wants and needs (one cup), and then through them to influence others (one neighborhood). Go into any Starbucks and I’m sure the person behind the counter, called Baristas, can recite this mission statement for you.

I promised in the last column, that we would analyze our own vision statement and the five “key characteristics” that our church adopted some years ago to see how we are measuring up. Can you recite our vision statement? Have you ever heard it? Have you ever seen it on any publications from the church? My guess is that most have rarely seen or heard it, and fewer can recite it. The vision statement is below.

We are a caring, growing family of Christian faith who, in partnership with God’s Holy Spirit, are committed to sharing God’s love in Jesus Christ and fostering growth through the spread of the gospel and lifelong discipleship.

As vision statements go, it’s not too bad. It was carefully thought out, and seems to include all aspects of who we should be as Christians. In all it is a great statement. While it does have some elements of purpose, it isn’t short enough to commit to memory and incorporate into everything we do. When that is the case, many times organizations find themselves not measuring up to their vision, because they forget what it is and can’t articulate it.

How do we measure up to our vision statement? Let’s take a look at some key phrases in it and consider whether or not we are truly living up to these words in this church body. As you read each one, ask yourself the following two questions. How do we rank as a church in fulfilling this part of our vision statement? How do I measure up in doing my part to help fulfill them?

Caring- We are truly a caring group of people in this church. There is no doubt about that. However, to what end are we caring? Are we caring for the physical well being of others, but forgetting to care for the soul? When was the last time you asked someone about their spiritual well being? Caring is wonderful, but as Christians it is not enough to care for the body. We must care for and nurture the spirit as well.

Growing-This word is mentioned twice in this sentence. It says that we are growing, and that we want to foster growth. Let’s hold up the “measuring line” to this one. How are we growing? Is it numerically or spiritually? Is it both, one or the other, or neither? We say we want to foster growth, but which kind of growth? How are we going to foster it? The statement says we will accomplish this through both sharing the gospel and through lifelong discipleship. Are we as a whole church body doing both of these things?

Partnership with God’s Holy Spirit-The Holy Spirit needs to be the leader in all that we do. We are partners with Him only in the sense that we are the hands and feet and He is the driving force. The decisions about the direction of our church should never be made in “partnership” with the Holy Spirit. They should be made in obedience and submission to the Holy Spirit.

Committed- Are we truly committed to sharing God’s love? Are YOU truly committed to this task or have you left it up to others? Are we sometimes more committed to other things in our lives than seeking God’s will and sharing His love?

My prayer is that we would begin to own our vision statement and live out its words in all of our church life. This week, try to do something towards that goal. Next, we will begin to analyze the five “key characteristics” of our church which are listed in our church constitution. May God richly bless you as we work through this together.

Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it [perfection]. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained.
(Philippians 3:13-16 NIV)

Monday, August 3, 2009


I shared this post with my church family in our weekly newsletter. While the information here may be directed to our particular church, I think there may be others who can glean some truth, and maybe even some wisdom, from this journey we are on. I welcome any comments you would like to make about this or any subsequent posts concerning God's vision for our churches.

I want all of you to know how much I appreciate your kind comments about this column that appears each week in the Herald. I have also heard from many who do not receive the Herald, who read the column on EdgefieldDaily.com and on my blog. I know there are many who look forward each week to reading the words contained in this short forum.

However, this week will mark a departure from my usual writing. I feel the leading of the Holy Spirit, to call church members and friends of our church to prayer. I have been burdened for some time about the course and vision of our church. I’m truly not sure that any of us have a clear vision form God about where He wants our church to be in the immediate and long-term future.

I hear a lot of ideas put forth about new things we need to do, and new ministries we should be involved in. I am alerted to ways in which current programs could be better. I get the feeling that there is a movement of the Holy Spirit in our midst, but due to fears of being labeled a “troublemaker” or a “rebel” many of us squelch those feelings and thus do nothing.

We have many opportunities in our church. We are right in the middle of town, we have some of the most influential men and women in Edgefield County as members and friends of our church, and we have some of the best ministry programs available in our area. However, if we lack a clear vision for where God is leading us, then we are simply “rearranging chairs on the deck of the Titanic”, as I like to say. Are we so busy doing ministry that we forget to ask God what He wants from us?

At some point, we at Edgefield First Baptist, must ask ourselves the very difficult question, “Why do we exist?”, and seek God for the answer. However, it does not end there. When we prayerfully seek God and His vision for our church, we must not then be afraid to move ahead on the path He has laid out for us.

The problem is that we must first take a hard look at ourselves. What do we do well? Where do we fail? There may be some ministries of our church that we are continuing simply because it has always existed in our generation, not because it is ordained by God or is even effective. There may be other ministries that need to begin, but are held back because resources are being funneled into non-effective areas of our church life.

The prophet Zechariah had a vision of a man with a measuring line in his hand, who was going to measure Jerusalem. When Zechariah asked about this, God told another angel to give him the message, “Jerusalem will be a city without walls because of the great number of men and livestock in it. And I myself will be a wall of fire around it,' declares the LORD, 'and I will be its glory within.” (Zechariah 2:4-5)

If we truly wish to be a church that honors God in all we do, then we must take measure of ourselves. We must discard the notion that we are limited by our past or our present condition. Robert Kennedy once said, “There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why... I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?”

Only when God’s people truly begin to hear His voice, and heed His words will he extend His blessings upon us. Without His guidance in all we do, then we are reduced to nothing more than a charity organization that provides a little entertainment on Sunday mornings. Is that what we want for our church? I think not.

I love this church. I love the people in this church. However, I love God more and I hope you do also. If we truly want Edgefield First Baptist to be all that God wants it to be, then it is time to stop playing church and going through the motions, and fix our eyes, ears, hearts and minds on Him and Him alone. Then, and only then, will we be a church “without walls” with God as our center and protector as Zechariah describes.

In the weeks leading up to our revival, which begins on September 27, I will devote this column to analyzing the Vision Statement and six “Key Characteristics” that this church adopted in 2003. We need to hold up the “measuring line” to see if we truly embody, not only that vision and characteristics, but also the call that God is extending to us to be His church, for His glory. I know this may be a painful, yet necessary, journey to undertake, but my prayer is that we will begin to see how we measure up to God’s standards, and develop a true sense of where God is leading us as a family of believers.

Saddle up your horses. We’ve got a trail to blaze.
Through the wild blue yonder of God’s amazing grace.
Let’s follow our leader, through the glorious unknown.
This is a life like no other! This is the great adventure!
(Steven Curtis Chapman)

Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually.

(1 Corinthians 12:27NKJV)