Category Archives: Church Life

A Retired Preacher Who is Still a Pastor

How many of the following statements confuse you?

  • I began preaching full-time for a congregation in southern Illinois in 1978, but I was not a pastor.
  • I moved to another location in Southeast Missouri in 1985. For eleven years, I served as the full-time preacher there, but I was not a pastor.
  • I began preaching full-time for the Central church of Christ in Paducah in 2001, but I was not a pastor.
  • On December 21, 2003, I started serving that congregation as one of the pastors.
  • From December 21, 2003, until December 31, 2016, I was both a full-time preacher for the Central church and also one of the pastors. 
  • On December 31, 2016, I retired as a full-time preacher for that congregation, but I am still one of its pastors.

Is your head spinning yet? If it is, I think there may be a simple explanation for that.

It may very well be that you are thinking like many in the religious world think. You may be thinking that the local preacher is the pastor of the congregation where he preaches. 

If that is the reason for your confusion, I would encourage you to consult the New Testament. A careful study of that inspired document may clear up your confusion.

As you study, you will find that, in the New Testament church, there is a plurality of men who serve the congregation in a special way. There are different terms used to identify these men and their work. 

I do not intend to make this a tedious word study of either the Greek or the English languages. I will merely make a few points and leave it to the reader to follow the example of the Bereans who spent significant time “…examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so” (Acts 17:11, ESV).

I will refer briefly to only two passages of scripture in order to justify my statement that different terms are used to describe the same group of men in the New Testament. The first passage is in Acts 20:17-38. Among other things in this passage we learn that:

  • Paul was meeting with the elders of the church at Ephesus (v. 17).
  • He called these same men overseers (v. 28). It is interesting to notice in passing that the Greek word translated “overseers” here is translated as “bishops” elsewhere and in other translations.
  • He gave this same group of men an important charged. That charge was to “feed” or “care for” the church (v. 28). The Greek word used here is the verb form of the word that comes to us in the English language as shepherd or pastor.

The other passage where this “interchange” of terms may be seen is in 1 Peter 5.

  • Peter is writing to the elders (v. 1).
  • He instructs those elders to “feed” or “shepherd” the flock of God (v. 2). Again, that word is the verb form of the noun that, in the English language, is pastor.
  • Further, these elders/pastors are to “exercise oversight” (v. 2) or assume the duties of bishops.

In almost forty years of preaching, I have never been the pastor anywhere. I have served as the preacher for three different congregations. I have, for a number of years, been a pastor/elder/bishop for one congregation. 

Please allow me to add one more consideration to this discussion. In the New Testament, there are specific requirements which must be met in order for a man to serve as an elder/bishop/pastor. 

Are you familiar with them? You may find them in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. 

I will not take the time to discuss each one of them. I will only mention two and ask for you to consider them. Both of these have to do with what might be called “family requirements.” The Holy Spirit informs us that an elder/shepherd/pastor must be the husband of one wife and have believing children (1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:6). 

The man who was chosen by the Holy Spirit to pen those words (Paul) was not married and had no children, but he was arguably the best preacher (other than our Lord) the world has ever known. Because of the requirements he wrote down himself, he was never – and could never be – a pastor.

A local congregation may (and many times does) have only one preacher. If that congregation is organized the way the God wants it to be organized, it cannot have only one pastor.

When people ask me if I am the pastor for the Central church of Christ in Paducah, they may not understand what they are asking. They also may not understand my answer when I say, “I am one of them.”


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AUTHOR: Jim Faughn

Photo background credit: Adam Jones on Creative Commons

Episode 91: When Church is the Hardest Places to Go, and Combining Education and Fun on Family Outings [Podcast]

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On this week’s podcast, Adam and Leah share a short article about going to worship when it is the hardest thing to do, and then spend time talking about the importance of families taking educational outings together.

 

Resource

When Church is the Hardest Place to Go” (My Heart, His Words)

 

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Some Thoughts on God’s Thoughts (or, A Study of Isaiah 55:6-9)

The book of Isaiah contains many memorable and powerful passages. From the imagery of sin being like scarlet, yet God making them white as snow (Isaiah 1:18) to the prophecy of the “suffering Servant” (chapter 53), the book is filled with treasures.

One of those that is often quoted is found in Isaiah 55:8-9, where Isaiah declared,

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

I can’t even count how many times I have heard that passage used to speak about how God sees the big picture and how it describes the perfect knowledge of the Lord.

Oh, and I’ve used it that way many, many times myself.

And, most certainly, those things are true. God’s knowledge is perfect, and God is not time-bound, so He does see all things at the same time.

But, is that what Isaiah was saying in this context? Maybe not.

Why do I say that? Because of the previous two verses, where we read these words:

Seek the Lord while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that He may have compassion on him, and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon. (emphasis added)

Did you notice the reference in that quotation to the “thoughts” of “the unrighteous man?” And, then, verse 8 begins with the word “for.” In other words, this is all one context.

So, what Isaiah is speaking about when he says that the thoughts of God are not our thoughts is not necessarily the all-knowing nature of God, but, rather, the holiness of God. He does not think unrighteous, impure, unholy thoughts.

If I am correct about that, then it fits with the rest of Isaiah’s book beautifully. Often in this lengthy book, God is referred to beautifully as “the Holy One of Israel” (1:4; 5:19; 10:20; 30:11-12; et.al.). It is in Isaiah that we have the angels calling out to the Lord, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts” (6:3). And Isaiah constantly was calling the people of God to repent of sin and live holy lives again before Jehovah.

Yes, we should stand in awe of God for His infinite knowledge. He knows more than we do and He does see all time constantly. But Isaiah 55:8-9 is a call to us for something other than that. It is a reminder to us that God never thinks an unrighteous thought. He is holy, and it should be our constant prayer to be holy in all our thinking, as well.


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AUTHOR: Adam Faughn

Do Your Part

Today, I want to offer a word of encouragement for those who sometimes feel as if they aren’t doing enough for the Lord. It might be that their health no longer allows them to do what they used to do. It could be a young mother who admires the older ladies of her congregation and yet feels guilt that she can’t do as much. Please read the following and know that whatever the task God has given you to do, it is the right one.

I asked the Lord, “What shall I do?”
And my love flowed warm and free.
Then He pointed me out a tiny spot
And said, “Tend that for me.”

I quickly replied, “Oh no, not that.
“Why no one would ever see.
“No matter how well my work was done;
“Not that little place for me.”

The word He spoke, It was not stern,
He answered me tenderly;
“Ah, little one, search that heart of thine.
“Are you working for them or me?
“Nazareth was a little place, and so was Galilee.”

~ unknown

1 Corinthians 12:4-7:

“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit;
and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord;
and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.
To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit
for the common good.”

Do your part!


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AUTHOR: Amber Tatum

You Will Never Out-Dream God

“It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.” –Walt Disney

Congregations sometimes struggle with planning for the future. While there are many reasons for that, a number of those reasons come down to one factor: fear.

We are afraid we don’t have enough money.

We are afraid we won’t grow.

We are afraid that, even though this change has nothing to do with Scripture, people simply will not accept change.

So, we sit back and keep doing what we are doing. Or we make some plans, but they are not challenging in the least.

Of course, we must have a sense of realism, but may I remind us all today that there is no way we could ever out-dream God? Paul wrote of God that He “is able to do far more abundantly than all we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20). My paraphrase of that? Whatever your biggest dreams are, they aren’t close to what God can accomplish!

Don’t believe me?

The dream of Jesus was that literally every person on earth would hear of Him, and when He said that, it was addressed to a grand total of 12 people (Matthew 28:19-20).

The Spirit-inspired vision of a congregation is that every member “attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13). A congregation isn’t what God dreams of until each member looks just like Jesus!

Christ desired that His people be so unified that people would see the resemblance of the Father and the Son in all His people (John 17:21). Perfect unity for all believers is the dream.

The point is this: when someone puts forward an idea that seems too out-there or too difficult, it is so often just shot down by those who are frightened by the prospect of something that audacious.

But whatever dreams we have, they have never been as large as those of our heavenly Father, who “desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). If you and the congregation where you attend are not dreaming dreams that big, you just aren’t dreaming big enough.

Or, maybe, your view of God isn’t big enough.

It’s time we tried to dream like He does, and it’s time we started trusting that He will bless our efforts in His name, no matter how large they may be.


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AUTHOR: Adam Faughn

Why Is There Such Evil in the World?

The tragedy in Las Vegas this weekend has once again reminded us of the state of our world. So much evil exists, and so much innocent loss of life happens for no reason. One thing that I see people doing with every new difficult episode – is this continuous attempt to be able to wrap their minds around why all of these things are happening.

Why is our country so divided? Why so much hatred and strife? Why all the mass shootings across the globe? Why the constant threats of war and terror? Why does God allow for the world to continue with all that is going on?

I want to tell you that there is no easy answer. We can’t blame anyone or any movement in particular. Taking sides morally, religiously, or politically is not going to provide you with the peace you are seeking. As long as we are in the world we are going to experience tribulation, and only through Jesus, who has overcome, can we overcome (John 16:33).

Evil exists because of what happened in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 2:17). Satan came with evil intentions and he deceived the human race. His deception brought sin and death to the universe (Rom. 6:23). There is never going to be a time as long as the earth remains where evil won’t dominate our world. John wrote, “We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one” (1 John 5:19). He simply was pointing out that God’s people are in the minority while Satan is deceiving and having success with the majority.

So why did this happen in Las Vegas? Why does anything evil in our world happen? We need to stop blaming a group or a cause or a sickness and we need to realize that the reason has everything to do with the devil and with us.

While it is difficult sometimes to understand how God allows for the pain and suffering, perhaps the words from Jeremiah best explain the reason why such evil persists. He was addressing a people who were supposed to belong to God but who had rejected Him and thus were met with the consequences of that choice – “Your own conduct and actions have brought this on you. This is your punishment. How bitter it is! How it pierces to the heart!” (Jeremiah 4:18).

I see and hear people broken hearted about all of this evil and I feel what they feel. To be honest, all I care about right now is the state of the people who hurt. Natural disasters happen and people die. Politics and war occur and hatred persists and people are the collateral damage. Terror strikes and innocent individuals are murdered in senseless fashion. How should we respond? We begin by realizing it’s about the people who are hurting and not about the cause.

I think each person needs to stop and pray. Each person needs to repent and turn to God. Each person needs to forgive the ones who cause them pain and not retaliate. Each person needs to love God more and the human race more. Each person needs to have compassion for and assist those who are hurting. Each person needs to follow the higher will and rule of the Creator rather than their own selfish, mistaken, human will.

I believe we are all very tired. We are just so very tired of waking up in a world of hatred and evil and sin and death. So if we do wake up tomorrow, let’s decide that we are going to be a part of the solution. Let’s love each other. Let’s share our possessions and gifts and accept one another and seek to work on ourselves. Let’s find a place in our heart to be kind in the midst of all of the hate.

If we don’t wake up tomorrow, let us live in such a way today that heaven will most surely be on the horizon. Our hope is not here. Our hope is in the One who came to deliver us from the world of sin and death. All of this evil reminds us that this world is NOT our home because Jesus is preparing something that is far better. And we anticipate His return with joy exceeding and full of glory.

“He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming quickly.’ Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” – Revelation 22:20


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AUTHOR: Jeremiah Tatum

Episode 90: No Excuses! Spiritual Outings, and More! [Podcast]

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On this week’s podcast, Adam and Leah discuss how we need to avoid excuses in following God’s commands, how we should take our family on spiritual outings, and several things going on in our lives. We hope you enjoy the program and check out the links below.

Links

There are No Excuses” (Perspectives of a Bondservant)

Training Kids to Love God’s Word” (Come Fill Your Cup)

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With One Voice

And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” (Col. 3:14)

In high school, my favorite English teacher was Mrs. Dowdy. She has some pretty good stories she could tell you about my class, including one concerning a viewing of Romeo and Juliet our freshman year. I was blessed to have her again for College Prep English my senior year, and several assignments from that year made a lasting impression on me. There is one that I remember because of my failure.

We were to pick a single word and write a paper detailing that word’s history and usage, including if it was used in the Bible. Being the very clever and creative teenager that I was, I tried to pick an original word that no one else would even consider. My word was “harmony.” While I don’t recall the exact wording, I may never forget Mrs. Dowdy’s ingenious review of my paper, referencing its ironic lack of harmony.

Harmony is precious to me. Few things bring me more deep-seated joy than a well-rounded, full chord of beautiful music, particularly vocal music. From the deepest bass to the highest soprano, the chord is only complete with all of the intervals in between represented.

Perhaps that is why a recent explanation of 2 Peter 1:5-7 was so satisfying to me. Many people refer to this as the “add to” passage. I have heard many discussions about whether these aspects of character are stepping stones, or maybe links in a chain, or even sequential qualities, reaching its fullness in love. None of those have ever “rung true” with me but a recent explanation did.

I know I am biased about the speaker and the source she revealed (my mom, who referenced my dad) but when she said this, 2 Peter 1:5-7 finally made the most sense to me. She said these qualities – faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love – are to harmonize together, much like the notes of a well-developed chord of music. I immediately got a picture of a skilled maestro gesturing to each section of the orchestra to swell and fill in the chord in perfect harmony. All are equally important and yet unique. Each fills the precise need of the whole in order for it to be at its best.

With that in mind, read the following words from Romans 15:5-6: “May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” [emphasis added]

May we all live in harmony – with God, with each other, and with ourselves – to the glory of God.


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AUTHOR: Amber Tatum

Photo background credit: Southern Arkansas University on Creative Commons

The Unspoken Rule about Church Programs (That People Want Spoken!)

Call them “programs.” Call them “ministries.” Call them “opportunities to serve.”

Whatever you call them, every congregation has them. They are necessary to organize the work, so that people can serve in various capacities and use their talents to the glory of God under the oversight of the local eldership.

However, there is one problem with the myriad of programs and ministries that most congregations struggle with. Either they struggle in the planning phrase, or they struggle in the communication phase.

What is it?

People do not know which programs are for the whole congregation and which are for certain groups.

I can already hear the pushback. “We said this was just for those who were able to come.” Or, “We announced that this was for our senior saints.”

You may have, but here’s the deal: did you act like it?

In other words, you may have announced that this work night was just for those who could come, but when only a handful showed up, did you talk about how few came?

You may have announced that this event was for the senior saints, but when some of a certain age did not come, were you upset (even though you never defined what a “senior saint” was)?

Do you see?

Congregations need to be clear! There are certain events that should be, as much as possible, congregation-wide. And it should be clearly communicated that all members are expected to be present. Personally, I would advise that this not be every single event, but that there should be a few of these scattered throughout the year.

On the other hand, if an event is for a certain age group, or only for those who signed up, or for those who agreed to be on a ministry team, then encourage those people to come and make it clear that they are encouraged to come. And then? Do not hammer away at the whole congregation for not “supporting” some event! It wasn’t for everyone, after all.

But all this must be fleshed out ahead of time and then must be communicated clearly. In the planning stages of an event, ministry, or program, who is this really for? Is this a congregation-wide activity? If so, how are we going to make that known? Or, is this just for a certain group? If so, who? How are we going to make that clearly known?

And, once the event has happened, how are we going to evaluate? Are we going to remember who this was for and be consistent, or are we going to make it seem–after the fact–that everything is really for everyone?

Let’s just state the obvious: one of those is a good idea and the other is not!


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AUTHOR: Adam Faughn

The National Anthem and the Unpardonable Sin

Every human being is a free moral agent. God made us this way. From the Garden of Eden until now, people have had the right to make choices. Some of the choices we make are simply matters of opinion. Other choices we make will determine where we spend eternity.

One choice made this week that does not affect eternity was made by several NFL players. They knelt during the national anthem. This was their choice. Unfortunately, the whole issue over what to do at the playing of the anthem has gotten totally out of control. Some people want to make it about race, others politics, and still others, nationalism. As Americans, our flag stands for freedom, and it has been defended and fought for by men and women for a few centuries now. It has been established with the price of blood. I am thankful for those who have given us the right to be free.

The one thing that puzzles me about those who choose to kneel at the anthem is that they are in essence rejecting the very source of their freedom. Oh sure, you can kneel if you want to kneel. You don’t have to sing if you don’t want. You don’t have to put your hand over your heart and you don’t have to take your cap off. But in reality, those who disrespect the anthem and who want to make a statement in some kind of protest are being completely inconsistent with the reality we should all understand: If you live in this country and are a citizen and you have been given certain rights as a citizen – it is because of the flag, and the sentiments of the anthem, and because people have fought and died.

Jesus once said that there was a sin that could not be forgiven. “Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come” (Matthew 12:31-32). Now if you read the rest of the Bible, it consistently teaches that there is no sin that the blood of Christ cannot pardon. So what makes the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit not fit into that category?

The Holy Spirit brought the message of truth and salvation though preaching and revelation. The gospel is the power of God unto salvation (Rom. 1:16). Every person who does not know God and who does not obey the gospel will be lost eternally (2 Thess. 1:7). The blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is an unpardonable sin because in rejecting the Spirit of God and what He delivers to man we are rejecting the very source of our forgiveness. Thankfully, as long as there is breath in us, we can change our hearts from rejecting the Spirit to accepting and obeying what the Spirit says through the word and thus receive forgiveness.

As I was thinking about the choices people often make to disrespect the source of their freedom, it occurred to me that the foolishness of it all was a lack of appreciation for what has been done on their behalf. Some would say that people have died so that they could have the right to protest the flag. Maybe they should ask the people who actually died if that is what they were hoping to accomplish when they defended it.

I do know one thing for sure. Jesus didn’t die so we could have the right to reject the cross. We need not protest against what the Holy Spirit teaches. We can kneel at the anthem because the United States is simply a nation made up of people. And this nation is passing away. We do have the right to reject it and there will be no eternal consequences for that.  I think the problem is the attitude. It’s disrespectful and it does not understand the sacrifice. And the only people who can really understand that are the people who actually bled and died to establish it.

Some choices are just opinion, based on physical things. But other choices affect eternity, and they are based on spiritual things. There is a sin that cannot be pardoned. If we reject the very source of our spiritual freedom there is coming a day when we will be hitting our knees again. And there will be no protest on that occasion.

“He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him—the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day.” – John 12:48


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AUTHOR: Jeremiah Tatum