Wednesday, June 29, 2011

13 Characteristics of a Growing Church: Cling to Good

I am constantly amazed at the shear quantity of horrible and stressful things that happen in the lives and ministry of those in the church--and it all happens in the name of God and ministry. Over the past few months I have had a youth ministry friend who has struggled with finding joy in his ministry and his church. Things are piling up all around him and the stress in mounting. Students are flaking on responsibilities while he is given new responsibilities almost daily. He is frustrated and overwhelmed and doesn't know what he should. Today we are going to talk about clinging to what is good. That is my friend's hope right now. He must cling to what is good for it is just as vital in a growing personal relationship with Christ as it is in a growing Church.

So here's a quick recap of the Characteristics of a Growing Church:
1st Love Genuinely
2nd Hate What is Evil

The 3rd characteristic of a growing Church is to Cling to What is Good.
"Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good." Romans 12:9

There are several different ways that this verse is translated. I love what the ESV says...hold fast. When you cling to something or hold fast to it you basically have a death grip on whatever you are clinging to or holding on to. The key word here is "good". It won't do anything for you or for your church if you are clinging to your bitterness or anger or a dead program. You have to hold fast to what is good.

This same phrase is used in Psalm 63:8 when it says, "I cling to you; your right hand upholds me." Here the psalmist is talking about clinging to the ultimate good which is God. If we are going to have growing Christian lives and churchs then we should cling to God and His will for us and our church. Clinging to God means that sometimes we must let go of the other things that we have been holding on to for so long. Psalm 31:6 says, "I hate those who cling to worthless idols; as for me, I trust in the LORD."

The things that we are holding on to can be good in nature but if we are desperately holding on to them when God is telling us to let them go then they are what the verse calls "worthless idols" and they get in the way of holding on to God. These things that were "good" are now stumbling blocks in our growth and in our walk with Christ. Sadly that is what is wrong with many of our churches. We are dying because we are too busy holding on to the "good" things that we have always done instead of holding on to God. Sometimes we must let go of our ideas of what is good and our traditions so that we have our hands free to hold on to God.

More Resources:

Monday, June 27, 2011

13 Characteristics of a Growing Church: Hate Evil

Too many times as Christians we belive that we are better than other people or maybe we go too far to the other extreme that we always show love but we never stop to preach the truth of the gospel. Very rarely does God call us to live in either of these extremes. God is a god of balance and order. He doesn't want us to throw the baby out with the bath water but neither does He want us to allow wolves to live among our sheep. Last time, we talked about Love being the 1st Characteristic of a Growing Church. Today we will talk about the 2nd characteristic.

The 2nd characteristic of a growing Church is to Hate what is Evil.
"Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good." Romans 12:9

Love and hate are on the opposite ends of the spectrum. They are--by their very natures--opposites. How can we love and hate at the same time? I think in this particular case it's pretty easy because God is telling us the same thing in two different ways. First He told us to have a genuine and accepting love for the people in our lives. Now He goes further to tell us to hate what is evil. We are to accept the sinner but NOT the sin.

This all goes back to what I was saying last time about meeting people where they are, loving them and meeting their needs, and then pointing them to Christ. At the end of the last Bible study I included a clip of Jesus meeting the woman at the well (John 4). Jesus knew before everything about this woman before she even approached. Instead of shunning her He talked to her and met her need. He took the time to tell her about the water of life. He didn't hate this woman, but He did hate the sin that He knew she was living in. After showing her love through his time and conversation then He pointed to the sin that she needed to get out her life.

Jesus showed the same love for a sinner and hate for sin when He had his feet washed by the woman who washed His feet with her tears (Luke 7:36-50). There are so many other examples in the Bible of this love for people and the hate of sin. I know that as people we often fall short of Jesus' example but that doesn't mean that we shouldn't at least try.

This people where they are, love them unconditionally, and point them away from their sin and to Jesus.

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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

13 Characteristics of a Growing Church: Love

This week I have been prepping to preach the Sunday morning and Sunday night services at Villebrook Baptist Church while my pastor recovers from surgery. While I was studying and praying, God laid it on my heart that I should talk about characteristics of a growing church as laid out in Romans. I don't want to give everything away before I preach but I will give you the first point in my 13 point sermon and then for the sake of attention spans, I will break the other 12 points out over the next few weeks. Hope that sounds good to you because that's the here you go...the sneak preview of my GIANT HUGE 13 Point Sermon...

The 1st Characteristic of a Growing Church is Love.
"Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good." Romans 12:9

In the English language, the word love is tossed about WAY to easily! We love pizza. We love going to the movies. We love our favorite sports team--Go Cards! But what does it mean to have a genuine love?

I don't want to go into a ton of detail here about all the different words for love in the Greek language (For more about the 4 Greek Words for Love, Click here to visit my wife's blog). Basically, unlike English the Greek language has several different words for love and each of these words have a unique meaning and usage. The word translated here as "love" is the Greek word "agape". Agape is an unconditionally, Christ-like love.

According to Romans 12:9 a growing church should have a genuine Christ-like, unconditional love. That means that we really have to love people where they are. We can't say "I love and accept you" with out mouths and let our actions show them differently. If you do you can gaurantee that those people will not bother coming to your church again. We are to hate the sin and love the sinner (Jude 1:22-24). When Christ was reaching out to people around Him, He didn't tell them how awful they were or how bad their lifestyle was. First, He met their need and showed them love. Then He told them to turn from their sins and from their ungodly lifestyle and they did.

That's what it means to have a Christ-like love!

A growing church meets sinners (every single one of us) where they are, shows them the unconditional love of Christ, and then through that love and relationship points them to Christ!

More Resources:

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


This morning I was thinking about The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. I don't know if you have read the books or not. Over the holidays, Christiana and I listened to them on audiobook while we travelled back and forth spending time with our families. It was odd to think about it this morning though. I guess was sparked my thought process was my dwelling on a recent conversation I had about keeping the peace. Then I thought we are the Peacekeepers in the church.

Much like the Peacekeepers in Collins' novel, we are often fake and we only promote a false sense of "peace". We turn a blind eye to what is really going on around us because it is convenient for us to allow the behavior to go "unnoticed" so we don't have to say anything about it. Or we are too busy with our own agendas to have anything to do with it.

Don't get me wrong. Keeping the peace isn't about trying to watch everyone and make sure that they are towing the line or whatever other cliche you want to use. I actually think that there were times where simply letting things go does keep the peace. Just like how the Peacekeepers continued to allow Gale and Katniss to poach because it filled their bellies and provided for Gale and Katniss' families. That's really as far as that analogy goes though and I know it isn't perfect by a long shot.

But what I am getting at is that there is a right and wrong way to keep the peace in a church.

In Ephesians 4:3 God tells us to "Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace." What exactly does that mean?

I believe that in order to keep unity and peace in the church sometimes we have to swallow our pride and not say the things we really want to--even if they are absolute truth! Sometimes it is better to remain silent (Prov. 17:28). Does that mean that you let everyone walk all over you? No way! What it does mean is using wisdom and discernment when choosing when to speak and what to say and how to say it. I know this is really as clear as mud. For that I truly apologize. It's just so hard to get this out right.

Often keeping the peace relies on our ability to value others more than ourselves (Phil. 2:3). Ask yourself, "If I am brutely honest will I do more harm than good? Am I telling them this to build them up or to tear them down or to cause trouble? What are my motives?" I believe when we take time to stop and consider things then we are doing our best to maintain peace and unity.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Xtreme Makeover

This week is our annual Vacation Bible School at Villebrook Baptist Church. For the last two years, we have been coming up with our own themes and writing our own curriculm. This year we are doing Xtreme Makeover.

In the Bible, there are many stories of people who God took ahold of their lives and flipped them a complete 180. Just think about it...

  • childless man
  • No hope for an heir from his wife Sarai
  • Doesn't know God


  • Follower of God
  • Given the son God promised him thru Sarai/Sarah(Isaac)
  • Becomes the Father of all Jewish people

  • Poor Jewish girl
  • Living in captivity


Queen Esther
  • Queen of all Persia
  • Used by God to save the Jewish people

  • Kills Christians for a living
  • Does everything he can to stop the spread of the Story of Jesus


  • One of the greatest missionaries of all time
  • Spreads the gospel of Jesus and strengthens the church
  • Ultimately gives his own life for serving Christ

I look at these people and it gives me hope. If God can defy nature and give Abraham a son and he can use a murdered like Saul who persecuted the church to reach people for Himself, then surely he can use me too. We all have areas in our lives where God is calling us to do a 180. He wants us to allow Him to give us an Xtreme Makeover. He wants to be the builder and perfector of our faith.

Think About It:
  • What areas in your life does God need to change?
  • Are you willing to let God come in and tear those areas apart so that He can make them beautiful and useful?
  • Are you ready to let God give you an Xtreme Makeover?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Check Your Hearing!: Seeking God's Will Part 4

This is Part Four of a series called Seeking God's Will. If you are new to this series, I suggest you read Part One, Part Two, and Part Three before reading this post.

I was watching TV this week and I was struck by a commercial that I have seen about a million times. There's a good chance that you have seen it too. It's AT&T's "Hey Marcel!" U-verse commercial. Poor Marcel, he's sitting there trying to watch his show and all the other shows are literally screaming for his attention. The premise of this commercial is that you don't have to choose who to listen too because you can view multiple channels at one time so you don't miss a thing. I've included it below.

What jumped out at me wasn't that this is a great commercial, but how true it is that we have so many things in our lives that are screaming for our attention. They want to be heard and they will make their presence known. Last week we talked about hearing God, but how can you be sure that you are really hearing God when there are so many other voices calling out for your attention? That's what I want to talk about today.

I call this "Check Your Hearing". What I mean by that is that the third and often most vital step in seeking God's will for your life, is checking that you are hearing God correctly when He speaks to you.

How to Check that You are Hearing God Correctly:
Checking what you are hearing from God is called using discernment (to perceive by the sight or some other sense or by the intellect; see, recognize, or apprehend). There are a couple of ways that you can discern whether what you are really hearing is from God, and I recommend using more than one.
  • Reading Scripture
  • Talking to Older Christian friends and mentors (it's best if you talk to more than one person even)
  • Circumstances in your life
  • What you feel God is telling you through time in prayer
These items are in no specific order, and all of these things are important. Any one or two of these things by themselves can be skewed--Oh! there was an ad about a car sale in the paper today...God must want me to buy a car! I think you better stop and look at some other things going on before you rush out and sign those papers. The more of these things that come into line, the more sure you can be that you are truly hearing and seeking God's will for you.

Most importantly, take the time to find out what God is really saying and what is really going on. Very rarely does God lead us into the biggest decisions in our lives on the spur of the moment or a mere whim. God is a god of order. He has a plan and He has known it from the very beginning. He has been using the circumstances over the course of your whole life to prepare you for where you are right now. He isn't just going to throw things at you blindly.

Questions to Ask Yourself:
  • What am I learning from God's Word about this situation?
  • What do I feel like God is telling me when I pray?
  • What are the older Christians in my life telling me about this situation/decision?
  • Have there been any circumstances in my life that have confirmed what I have been learning in scripture and what I have been hearing in prayer and what my Christian mentors are saying to me?
  • Have a really prayed about this?
If you can answer "Yes" to all of these questions then you are on the right track to Seeking God's Will for your life!