Thursday, September 29, 2011


Ministers are leaders in modern church life. I'm not saying that's the way it should be..but is the way it is. So then leadership leads. But where leadership leads can be disastrous if people follow without question. Modern day ministers, as leaders, are making some huge mistakes in my opinion and I want to gently point out a few that I believe need to be examined carefully. 

Were someone to ask how huge I believe these mistakes are, My answer is..big enough to write about them and that may be because I think too many seem to be following without question.

The first huge mistake is in viewing the role of the pastor as all important. The word "Pastor" only appears once in the scriptures [Elder and Bishop however appear over forty times each.] and out of all the letters written to churches none were addressed to the Pastor. They were generally addressed to the people as the church. 

In fact, you would be hard-pressed to find anyone in the New Testament who would think of a single person as pastor [local fellowships had a plurality of shepherds/Elders] and they certainly would never make the mistake of thinking of a single person, including a pastor, as the head of the church. That place was reserved for the Lord Jesus Himself. 

No one is disputing the need or purpose for having in the body some who shepherd the flock, but in the New Testament it was never to the point of one man/one teacher/one preacher in any gathered group. [Local Church]. That's a modern day mistake made by those who lead that way and the churches that follow them.

Where it has disastrously led us is to the unbiblical place where you can find a local body [church] having "lost" a pastor to another church. They are, thus, handicapped by being "without a pastor" and cannot function in worship or training until one is "called" and sets out his "vision" for the church.

Do you see where this is going? We may not want to call a pastor the head of the church in Baptist theology but we sure live like he is the head.

A second huge mistake made by modern day ministers as leaders is to think of political processes as the way to change a society into what it ought to be.  No one would disagree that things in America are in a mess. But attempting to change society into what it should be by legislating a particular set of Christian values and ethics through the legal processes is a colossal mistake. It would have been unthinkable in the New Testament.

In doing what I just described, Ministers/leaders are forgetting at best or even possibly purposefully ignoring the fact that New Testament believers lived under some horrible and oppressive political systems and yet never attempted to shame, condemn, change, or force their society to become what it ought to be by their Christian definition

They, rather, spent their time in obedience to their Lord, in loving their enemies, doing good to those who used them, and, rather than attacking their enemies verbally, with grace they presented the message of redemption found in the person and work of Christ who is Himself God's Son and who came for fallen human beings. Yet, by any way you choose to measure it, they turned the world upside down with that simple theology and methodology.

I think the simple reason is they never thought of the church as a business to be developed. To them, they were the church, and the scriptures always spoke of them as being a body, a bride, a temple, a holy nation, a peculiar people, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, instructed by the Word of God, belonging to God and strangers to this earth and any era.

It simply would have made no sense to them to form protest groups or establish lobbying groups to change culture or society. That lay in the realm of a returning Lord who will make right all things in its time. 

It was in their message of the gospel that the unique power of God was presented which was sufficient to change people. And it was the deliverance of that message that would not allow any other message to capture their attention or occupy their time and energy. 

More to come.....

Paul B.

Sunday, September 25, 2011


I'm writing this as an American citizen who is both appreciative for and concerned about our unique system of government. It is my concern that causes me to reflect on a speech given by Edward Erler, professor of political science at California State University, San Bernardino California. Dr. Erler delivered a speech at a National Leadership Seminar held in Dallas Texas last May and has appeared before the House Judiciary Committee on the issue of birthright citizenship as well as being the co-author of a book entitled The Founders On Citizenship And Immigration.

What Dr. Erler said has caught my attention. I'm going to be paraphrasing much of it but will attempt to capture the salient points that serve the purpose of this post.

One of his points made was that the Framers of our Constitution understood limited government in a different manner than is being propagated by the Tea Party movement of the present day. The Tea Party seems to be advocating a limited government which is synonymous with small government and is similar to what the Anti-Federalists held who opposed the ratification of our Constitution. They preferred a form of government in which the states held the top spot of priorities.

The Federalists, on the other hand, viewed it next to impossible to have a States/Federal system because any attempt to hold to both multiple states rights AND federal sovereignty was a lost cause since one or the other would have to give up their sovereignty and that would render ineffective the governing of the whole nation.

The framers decided on a new and unique system never before tried that James Madison called "partly national and partly federal." Madison explained his point this way..."For some purposes we will be one people: for other purposes, we will be many peoples. So for those purposes that concern the nation as a whole___the federal government will have sovereignty___complete and plenary power to accomplish the things assigned to its care in the Constitution."  [Those things are principally found in Article I, section 8 of the Constitution.]

Dr. Erler went on to make a second point that if those assigned federal responsibilities are to be fulfilled, the federal government must be given the necessary means to achieve those ends. He also said..."If this entails large government___and today it does___then large government must be compatible with limited government."

But therein is the rub. If large government IS the antithesis of limited government as the Tea Party SEEMS to be saying, then we're in trouble. However, if limited government IS compatible with large government, because the issue is not the size of government, but the definition of limited, meaning the limited areas of concerns assigned, then we must make sure such assignments to the Fed are carefully approached and undertaken by the Fed in a fashion that does not allow for their violation. The States deserve that inherently. 

So it is obvious that since by "Limited Government" is meant the limited range of responsibilities, then whether a violation does happen or not will always ultimately have to be decided by the Supreme Court of the USA.

I expect some major decisions are on the way. As an American citizen I'm watching and waiting with interest.

Paul B.

Monday, September 19, 2011


I've been privileged to speak at Emmanuel Church, Enid Oklahoma this past Sunday as well as the upcoming September 25th Sunday. 

They asked me to write a brief article for the bulletin on the concluding service of my being with them. I was glad to do so. I just sent it to be published next weekend. 

What I said I would like to pass along to you as well. I'm making a point that is very valuable, it seems to me, concerning those times the church gathers for worship. Do you agree?

I'm so glad for a fellowship that is real. Mary and I have traveled rather extensively and are experienced with attending every size and flavor of local congregations. Not all are real.

What I mean by that is that, all too often, "going to church" takes on a "mask" kind of mentality. Whatever shape or form that mask takes, its purpose is to hide the real person, especially if pain, hurt and struggle are all part of that person's journey. Who wants to be real when real isn't too pretty? Right?

Well, real is beautiful, if the truth be known, and the alternative of pretense and fakery are about as ugly as people can get.

Jesus lived in reality. The woman at the well was a benefactor of that reality. Her failures and hurts didn't turn Him away and were some of the stuff that made the reality of Jesus so potent in that encounter.

Every time Mary and I attend Emmanuel we go away with that sense of reality the woman at the well must have experienced in the Lord. Mary and I struggle and fail, [and are open about it] but just keep going in our journey together.  But that doesn't seem to bother you folks at Emmanuel. In fact, you seem to thrive on accepting people who are on that kind of messy journey. 

Well, here is a "thanks" from two who love sharing the real journey with you. It's been our joy to be with you the past two Sundays.

Paul B.

Thursday, September 08, 2011


I'm known as a rebel by many who know me well and after this post I may also be known as a cynic. Although I think that would will miss the mark of reality a bit. I'm saying this because I want to address something that has bothered me for several years now and seems to be getting worse instead of better. It is the use of what I call Christian-ese.

Christian-ese, which cannot be found in Webster's dictionary, is a word of recent vintage that has come to define certain words or phrases used by Christians in everyday language that have become not much more than meaningless cliches. Christian-ese has developed over the past few years among some Christians and now seems to be something of a secret, coded language and is almost a badge worn by people who appear to find their comfort zone to be only with others like themselves. But I'm concerned that it may, in fact, unconciously feed a need to be known as spiritual as opposed to carnal. [Who can know the motives of another person with any certainty!]

My basic concern with all this is Three-fold.

One thing is that the Christian-ese lingo is generally thought of as conveying biblical truth when it doesn't really do that at all. "I feel in my heart God wants me to______" is not a biblical method for knowing and doing God's will. "Let this MIND be in you...who THOUGHT it not good to remain equal with God..." is the biblical pattern. [Phil. 2:5-6] The Bible always speaks of the thinking processes when discovering and doing the will of God. Paul said..."It seemed good to me."...when addressing something to be done except on rare occasions.

 In Romans 14 when addressing making choices about questionable things his advise was NOT "Feel God impressing your heart"...but "Let every man be fully persuaded in his own  mind." [14:5b]He said in another place.. "For we have the mind of Christ" [1 Corinth. 2:16]  which is further indication that it is the mind that is as important as anything in Christianity, with all due respect to anyone who might think Christians are only ignorant and emotional.

A second concern is that such lingo too often becomes a source of measuring spirituality or spiritual growth.  I've met new believers who sometimes end up feeling inferior or less "spiritual" because they don't know all the "right" phrases yet. Or worse, they think someone is spiritual who does use the language.

The truth is it doesn't measure true spirituality at all and, in reality, may hide an immaturity behind that kind of language. To continually say, as I once did, "well, praise the Lord,"  at ever opportunity, may sounds as if we're spiritually minded in all things, when in fact it can be as vain and empty as those who say "Well, fiddlesticks" [or worse] at every opportunity.  I'm speaking from personal experience here as you can probably tell.  

But a third concern is my greatest. It seems to me that it may forge an unnecessary stumbling block for unbelievers. I often wonder if non-believers hear some Christians talking and think, "Ugh, there go those Christians on their high-horse again using their silly, secret coded language." I know that I have that reaction sometimes and I'm in sympathy with the Christian message completely. It seems to me when we Christians develop our own private language to be used with one another, we may have really forgotten how Jesus made Himself accessible to ordinary people. Using Christian-ese often does exactly the opposite which models the Pharisees rather than the Messiah. 

 But therein lies the real problem. Our message of the gospel is, in and of itself, offensive to the natural mind anyway. We don't need to create unnecessary obstacles which trite, empty, meaningless, cliches tend to do. I think we, as Christians, may need a new discovery of Koine-English [Common English] as an effective tool of communication much as the early Christians found Koine-Greek [Common Greek] to be an effective tool for conveying the gospel message.

Let me give just a few examples of some Christian-ese phrases along with what is probably meant if the truth were to be known.

"I feel in my heart God wants me to_______"  Translated means... "I'm going to do it and I hope it's the right thing to do."

"I'm still waiting for God to open some doors."  Translated means... "I don't have a clue about what I'm going to do and I'm hesitant to do anything."

"I can't do_______, so Christ in me will have to do it."  Translated means... "I'm struggling with wanting to do this at all and sure don't want to do it right now."

"I need to share with you where the devil is attacking me."  Translated means..."I want to tell you where I'm struggling and some of my failures and I feel badly about them."

I'm wondering why we can't, as the post title puts it, say what we mean and mean what we say? 

Of course the answer to all this isn't to "not speak at all" but rather to talk like normal people and act in such a fashion [Grace, acceptance, forgiveness, love, integrity] that our lives stir some to ask us about what makes the difference in us and then share the truth of our Lord. 

I think that is what could be called...Christianity.  

If you wish to... just for fun...add any words or phrases that you view as the best illustrations of Christian-ese in the comment section.

Paul B.

Friday, September 02, 2011


This is the final summer rerun. This one is from 2007. I'll put up a new post next week.

There is a sense in which our message is single in it's focus. It is the "gospel." If we should ever lose our focus on the gospel we will be compromised as christians and the "salt" will truly have lost it's savor, if not it's soul, and the"light" will have been put under a bushel, if not blown out. If any other single issue BECOMES our focus, it will be to the detriment of the gospel. Let me illustrate.

No one despises a callous, shallow approach to the issue of abortion more than do I. But in our zeal to correct the law, which needs correcting in my opinion, we may have become other issue oriented and even bed-fellows with a political party. It seems all too often that conservative christianity, in the mind of our culture at least, has become connected to the Republican party and it may be more than just perception. But if we are to remain truly biblical our concern would have as much to do with feeding the poor, clothing the naked, investing ourselves in the lives of those who are incarcerated and their families, as it does with the genuine evil of abortion. 

That is made clear from the text of the scriptures themselves. ["In as much as you've done it to these..."] In fact, if I understand the gospel correctly, Jesus came, did what He did, and was raised from the dead to redeem us so we can do, in the power of the Spirit, what we are to do. That will always entail a strategy of redemption from, sin, hatred, prejudice, poverty, hunger, and sickness as we are able to accomplish such things.

But to focus on one issue to the loss of our unique message of redemption would derail the purposes of God, from the human perspective at least, and deplete the power of our gospel. This would be so if our message were to even become solely one of clothing the naked, feeding hungry, or helping the sick. Those things are all the result of the gospel, not the message itself.

The same might be said for correct doctrine. When we focus on the foundational truths of the gospel, the nature of Christ, the truth of redemption by Grace through faith in the work of Christ and the integrity of the scripture which reveals that event,  we will be on track to accomplishing the Great Commission as given to the Church. But to be side-tracked into focusing on being correct/united in the truths of lesser consequence, good though they might be, would be, as the opening illustration shows, a genuine tragedy.

We would then be bed-fellows with people who agree with us and enemies to those who don't. We become, as I believe the Pharisees became, a party of people who struggled with gnats while swallowing camels and was of no real value to anyone. To become a group known for a demand that "all agree" or " we're right" on every detail of doctrine is a death blow to the gospel. Ask the people who knew the Pharisees.

It is the same thing as being known or inextricably linked to the Republican OR Democratic parties because of a single issue, even family values, it is a death blow to the gospel.

The "uniqueness" even "dividing" nature of our gospel message is, in and of itself, hard for this pluralistic society to stomach. And we certainly must never compromise our message no matter how divisive or difficult it is for some to hear. But to "divide," with a superiority or elitist attitude, from other christians, over the lesser issues of doctrine, is the atmosphere in which that death blow to the gospel is wielded.

It is the "gospel" that must be the "great divide", not PPL, baptism linked to eternal security, Calvinism, Arminianism, Eccesiology, dispensationalism, or even women teaching men. We can have our "positions" about each of these, and that's OK, but our dividing point should be the gospel message itself. Have we "lost the gospel"? You tell me.

Paul B.