October 2017

Who will perish?

October 31 2017 by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor

Driving down an interstate highway recently, I noticed the gasoline gauge was sending me a message. I understood the message. Find a gas station!
 
Soon I was driving up an exit ramp where a traffic signal made me stop long enough to see a man walking energetically up and down the street, holding high a Bible and a sign that read “Repent or Perish.” Both of those objects in his hand made a strong statement, even if most did not know his intentions.
 
In what we characterize as “John the Baptist boldness,” the street preacher obviously wanted to say something. He was passionate, and he had an audience with travelers at a busy intersection.
 
I don’t know how many drivers and passengers understood the man’s message, and I’m not sure his method is the best way to witness, but I will not condemn the man. I’m not God, and I’m not in charge of that man’s life.
 
But, I admit – he made me think about what it means to perish.
 
At a church event the night before, a good friend quoted a scripture verse that included the word ‘perish.’ It stuck in my mind. Now, the street preacher underscored the significance of ‘perish’ again.
 
In Matthew 18, Jesus said His mission is “to save that which was lost.” He followed that statement with the parable of the lost sheep.
 
Jesus explained that if a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, the shepherd will leave the 99 and go to the mountains to look for the one that is lost. The parable closes with this, “Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish” (Matthew 18:14, NKJV).
 
Jesus said it – perish!
 
He said it several more times in Luke 13. In a discussion about “worse sinners,” twice Jesus said, “but unless you repent you will all likewise perish,” (vv. 3, 5). In other words, if you want to talk about who is the worst sinner and whose sin is worse than yours, know this: everyone must repent or perish.
 
I decided to look up the meaning of the word ‘perish’ in Strong’s Concordance. It means, “to destroy fully.” It means to die – and even worse, to die with no hope, to face a time of judgement. That’s a horrible prospect to face.
 
Think about it. Lostness dominates our state. In the cities and towns where we live, most of the busy people around us will perish.
 
They face eternity with no hope because they did not repent. Maybe no one has ever called on them to turn from sin and take a deliberate turn to God through His only Son, Jesus Christ. They will perish, and that should not be acceptable to a follower of Jesus.
 
In His mercy, patience and grace toward us, God said He is, “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9, NKJV). The message is plain. God does not want anyone to perish.
 
Even that often quoted, favorite scripture text says, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16, NKJV).
 
Jesus did not simply talk about the problem of perishing, he personally gave Himself to provide the solution.
 
Perish or everlasting life – those are the conclusive options. There are no other choices. If we believe the Bible, there are no second or third religious systems that are pleasing to God.
 
North Carolina Baptists will gather in Greensboro Nov. 6-7 for our annual meeting. On the agenda will be a budget, strategies, breakouts, reports and elections – all to reach those who are perishing, to impact
lostness.
 
We can’t lose sight of our purpose. We are the bearers of God’s gospel that Jesus Christ was crucified, buried and rose from the grave in order to give us eternal life.
 
You and I may not be walking around with a sign that says, “Repent or Perish,” but everywhere we go that message must be lived out and communicated in everything we do.
 
Because of the love of God for every tongue, tribe, race and nation, I will not perish. But too many around me have not yet heard John 3:16.
 
That is not acceptable to God. He does not want one of them to perish.
 

10/31/2017 8:32:55 AM by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor | with 0 comments



We can’t do it alone

October 16 2017 by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor

I believe the most profound moment in life is when we discover our limitations and admit we need others. What we thought could be accomplished alone just can’t be done unless others are invited to share the load. The barriers of self-sufficiency crumble, we humble ourself and ask for help.
 
This not only describes the open door to personal salvation through Jesus, it also includes every step we take through the discipleship process.
 
We can’t save ourselves, so we reach out to the only One who can forgive us of sin and give new life.
 
If we are going to grow in Christ, we will never do it alone, so we connect with a local church, a Bible study group and a personal mentor – a “Paul” who will encourage us and hold us accountable for godliness and maturity.
 
That process must keep expanding.
 
A pastor is tempted to do ministry alone. He may believe that others are too busy or not trained to serve with him. But he must come to the conviction that he can’t lead the church alone. He needs deacons, elders and other church members on the team.
 
Breaking the crippling walls of isolation, a leader has to realize the value of others outside the fellowship of the local church and involve them in his Christian growth. Internet sites cannot replace interaction with friends, fellow pastors, directors of missions, state convention leaders and other Christians.
 
The Kingdom of God is much larger than any one of us. We need each other.
 
Churches also need to arrive at this place of discovery. Every church needs other churches in Kingdom ministry. No church can reach the world alone. That’s why we form associations.
 
That’s why state and national conventions exist. Those connections are priceless.
 
At some point in the past, churches and church leaders decided they needed partnerships, affiliations and connections with others in the larger body of Christ. They looked for those whose doctrine and mission were close enough to form alliances.
 
They connected, shared resources, cooperated and watched their ministries expand beyond the small world of a single church.
 
We are a team. We need each other. Self-absorbed, self-sufficient living is a complete contradiction of Christian values. It is a total violation of the holy scriptures we stand upon. The Bible forbids it.
 
By choice, please join your team of North Carolina Baptists in Greensboro, Nov. 6-7 so we can grow in Christ together and impact lostness together. We can’t do it alone.
10/16/2017 1:25:38 PM by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor | with 0 comments



Another church closes

October 2 2017 by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor

I am deeply disturbed. I am troubled by the overwhelming lostness in our state, nation and world. I am concerned about the widespread hostility toward the Christian faith, Christians and churches – especially in the United States. But even more disturbing is the large number of churches that do not seem to be equipped to face the needs around us.
 
The inadequacy I speak of is not due to uneducated or incompetent people in our churches. Actually, Paul reminded us in 1 Corinthians 1:26-29 that God prefers to use those who are not among the “mighty” and “noble” – those we might brand as foolish or lowly.
 
My burden is that our churches are failing in large part because many are caught in the traps of meaningless tradition, obsession with structure and frustration over a few who want to manage God’s church for Him. Are these self-inflicted wounds making us impotent and keeping us from doing what God has called us to do?
 
There are many ingredients in the struggles that churches face. I’ve served churches that had 125 people in Sunday worship and another that saw more than 2,500 worshiping together. I understand many of the complexities of people, churches and cultures.
 
My ministry with the Biblical Recorder opens the door for a lot of fellowship, conversation and correspondence with a wide cross-section of church people in North Carolina. I’ve never met a perfect person. Obviously, everyone speaks from one point of view – their own.
 
But over the last couple of years, it seems problems in churches have only worsened. After hearing the continual heartbreak of both pastors and church lay leaders, I want to lay out a few thoughts.
 
I hear tales of churches dividing, good people leaving their church and pastors being forced out of once healthy congregations. As a pastor who has experienced his share of church conflicts, it is very grievous to hear another pastor or lay leader pour out his heart over the demise of the church he loves. The most common battles are connected to church structure (government) or individuals who insist on “running the church” their way.
 
Some call these individuals power-brokers, church bosses or church bullies. Whatever the label, they are contributing to the death of many churches every week.
 
We wonder how a good Christian can be deceived to the point they believe they are doing Jesus a favor when they insist on having their way in church decisions. They seem to have convinced themselves they are serving God, but their agenda for the lost and God’s agenda for the lost are miles apart.
 
There is nothing biblical or godly about being a church bully. The opposite is true.
 
In the absence of a servant’s heart, pride dominates our behavior. It takes control with a vengeance.
 
In Galatians 6:7, the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write, “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap ...” The next few verses explain that if we sow to the flesh, we will get what the flesh does. If we sow to the Spirit, we will get the results of what the Spirit does. Then Paul said, “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10).
 
Three statements summarize this scripture. First, don’t sow fleshly, self-centered deeds. Second, invest your life and all of your actions in that which is godly, that which is led by the Spirit. Third, most emphatically, do what is good for the health and witness of the church, or as Paul calls it, “the household of faith.”
 
We are quick to identify fleshly activities as adultery, pornography, drug abuse and the like. But the scripture does not limit itself to those subjects. It applies to any and all actions that are man-centered or works of the flesh.
 
Go back a few verses to Galatians 5:19-20. Included in the list of deeds of the flesh are “... hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies ...”
 
Thom Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian Resources, frequently addresses church conflicts and church health. A statement in one of his recent blogs caught my attention. He said, “Some committees attract control freaks. These control freaks tend to gravitate toward committees that deal with either money or personnel or both. And if the wrong people control the funds and personnel matters, problems can multiply.”
 
In his book, Autopsy of a Deceased Church, Rainer discusses many of the patterns that create unhealthy churches and eventually force a church to close its doors. I hope North Carolina Baptist church leaders and members will purchase this book and read it with a teachable spirit.
 
If there was ever a time when God’s people needed to seek Him, it is now. We are the light of the world, according to Jesus. But that light is no good if it is hidden under the bushel basket of church conflict. The light is not shining in the community when another church closes its doors forever.
 

10/2/2017 3:33:28 PM by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor | with 1 comments