What Too Many Want in a Preacher (Hint: It’s Not John, Paul, or Jesus)

I see them often (not because I am looking to move!). They are the “ads” for preaching openings, as congregations try to summarize what they are looking for in just a paragraph or two.

In a large number of these ads, you’ll find words like, “The [name of church] is looking for a younger man who will reach young families.” You might also find descriptions like “dynamic preaching style” or “accessible sermons.”

And if you poll a large number of Christians about the type of preacher they are looking for (or not-so-secretly wish they had), they will spend far more time talking about his style or his presentation or even the way he looks than they will about one very important factor: Does he preach the Truth, no matter what?

I’m afraid that, in our image-conscious and style-centered culture, we have put those things as the highest priority, even when looking for someone to preach.

Now, let me say this: preaching style can be important, and every preacher needs to seek to improve or even adapt at times. If the members can predict what you’re going to say every week because you always preach the same style (or, worse, are riding a hobby horse), that’s a sign that the preacher is not growing.

But too many Christians are more concerned with the externals than they are with whether or not that man spends time in the Word and preaches the Truth, even if his style may not be on par with the greatest world-class speakers we’ve ever heard.

It should be very concerning that if we were to look at what most congregations want in a preacher, that some of the greatest men of the Bible would never even be invited for a “try out.”

If John the Baptist sent his sermon entitled “You Brood of Vipers!” to an eldership along with his resume, do you think they would call him to come and try out for the open pulpit position? Yet, Jesus said that “among those born of women none is greater than John” (Luke 7:28). Do you think that someone like John might be needed?

What about Paul? Those who heard him speak said, “His bodily presence is weak, and his speech of no account” (2 Corinthians 10:10). We can’t have that as the public face of our congregation, now can we? We need someone who looks strong and who is a great orator, right? But don’t you think a preacher like Paul could do some good where you are?

Even the Lord Jesus Himself might not be welcome, if you think about it. When He starts talking about divorce or lust or even calling people hypocrites, do you think He would be allowed to stay very long? The cell phone of each elder would be blowing up with complaints!

Preachers should care about externals, but only to a minor degree. I remember growing up and hearing the late and beloved brother Wendell Winkler admonish young preachers to make sure they weren’t “slovenly” in the pulpit, but that they looked like they were serious, because the work they were doing is serious! A preacher should seek to grow in his abilities and talents.

But if the first thing we consider when we think of a “good preacher” is style and looks, we have missed the point of Gospel preaching! It is first and foremost about the proclamation of the whole counsel of God to save the souls of men and women.

Elders, I urge you to encourage your preacher to spend time in the Book and to not be afraid to preach the truth, boldly and in love. Help him know how to balance bold proclamation with loving rebuke, and how to balance sermons that “reprove, rebuke, [and] exhort” (2 Timothy 4:2).

Preachers, I urge us to seek to grow in our talents but to never lose sight of how we are to be sharing all of the Gospel, “in season and out of season,” and not to shy away from what might be difficult to present. (You know, those sermons that you not-so-jokingly call your “U-Haul specials.”) Seek help in how to have “complete patience and teaching” when the times come that people are not enduring sound teaching (2 Timothy 4:2-3), while never compromising Truth.

And Christians, I urge you to think about your attitude toward the preacher. He may not be the best orator you’ve ever heard, and he may get a little predictable at times. He may not dress in the latest styles or have a modern haircut. (And, horror of horrors, he may still wear a coat and tie instead of a sweater or skinny jeans!) He may even come down on you a little hard at times. But he loves the Lord, and he loves you enough to preach the truth to the best of his ability. If that’s true of him, thank him and love him for it.

No, he isn’t John or Paul or Jesus. But he’s a servant of God, and that’s what every congregation needs in the pulpit.


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AUTHOR: Adam Faughn

“Not My Jesus!”

I saw the sign. It said plainly, “Not my president!” Before you think this is a political commentary please understand that this sign could have been used in a march this week against Trump or last week against Obama. This sign is nothing new. You see, depending on the situation there are going to be some people who don’t want to submit to the existing authority. There are going to be people who don’t like who is in charge, especially if that authority figure doesn’t stand for or profess what they want to be doing.
But you know what? I am not concerned about the people who are saying, “Not my president!” I am concerned about the people who are saying about Jesus, “Not my Savior!” “Not my Lord!”
First, I am concerned about the people who reject Jesus as Savior. They do this by not believing in Him as the Son of God. They do this by not accepting the covenant He initiated by His sinless, sacrificial blood. They do this by not adhering to the purpose and plan of the gospel. They do this by following a religion other than Christianity. They do this by believing in evolution. They do this by following a culture that is humanistic and hedonistic.
I am concerned about these people because whether they choose to accept Him or not, Jesus IS, in fact, a Savior and more specifically, the only Savior of mankind (Acts 4:12). His future parents were even told, “And you shall call His name ‘Jesus,’ for He will save the people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). Jesus’ very purpose in coming was to be the Savior, and that is exactly who He is (Luke 19:10).
Second, I am concerned about the people who reject Jesus as Lord. They may be believers and followers of Jesus. They may even be “baptized Christians.” But just because a person has followed the plan of salvation does not automatically mean that Jesus has become the Lord of their lives. There are people who claim to be Christians who reject Jesus as Lord every day. They do this by not keeping His word. They do this by being their own masters. They do this by stubbornly following their own will, rather than accept His greater and higher will. Such is the sincerest form of hypocrisy. Jesus Himself said at the end of the Sermon on the Mount, “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ and do not do the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46).
People can protest against the government and hold up signs all they want. It’s a democracy. Let their actions proclaim their motives and let their political agendas speak for themselves. But woe to the people who protest against Jesus! Because in the spiritual realm it’s a monarchy. And Jesus is Savior and Lord forever! Those who reject Him are ultimately sentencing their souls eternally to a devil’s hell.
“Not my president!”? That’s a political statement. No big deal. It doesn’t make the president not be the president. The laws still apply. If followed by actions this statement will have legal consequences. But it only concerns a temporary kingdom with a temporary leader.
 “Not my Jesus!”? That’s a rejection of the love of God. It doesn’t change the fact that “God made this same Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36). And its concern is greater because Jesus’ is the eternal King of the everlasting kingdom. And the actions that follow such words will have eternal consequences. He has all authority (Matt. 28:18). He is coming to judge the world (2 Tim. 4:1).
“For it is written: ‘As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall confess to God.’ So then each of us shall give account of himself to God.” – Romans 14:11-12
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An Important Date & An Important Reminder

I am typing these words on January 20, 2017. As I type these words, millions of people are waiting for a new president to take the oath of office and begin a new era in our nation’s history. According to some information I have read, the cost of the inauguration will be somewhere in the neighborhood of $200 million. 

Flags are flying. Bands have been–and will be–playing. “Important” documents will be signed. Millions will witness the events, either in person or by means of some form of mass media.

While I love all of the fanfare, excitement, and meaning involved in every inauguration, this date is particularly important to me. Its importance is not due to the people involved or the location of the events. It is the date that I have on my mind.

Seventy-seven years ago today something happened that many people in the world did not know or care about. On January 20, 1940, my parents were married. 

Instead of millions of witnesses, there were six people present when my parents were married. The preacher who performed the ceremony, his wife, and a couple of my parents’ friends who served as the witnesses were the only people there with my parents.

Instead of a “state of the art” venue for that event all those years ago, the wedding took place in the kitchen of the house in which the preacher and his wife lived. It was cold in Pope County, Illinois on January 20, 1940. Apparently, the warmest place to be was in that kitchen.

There were no flags or banners. Instead, since it was so cold, the preacher’s wife had hung the week’s washing in the kitchen to dry. That meant that my parents and the others were surrounded by clothes lines, clothes pins, drying clothes, etc.

There were no bands. I’m not sure if there was any kind of music, but I’m thinking that it is doubtful.

There was no news coverage. It is probable that some family members and close friends learned about the marriage “after the fact.” 

So – what took place all those years ago was no big deal – right? 

It was to me! In fact, if that event had never taken place, there would be no me.

As I’m sitting in front of my computer and keeping one eye on the events of this day, I’m thinking that the event that took place seventy-seven years ago may serve as a reminder that ordinary people who do ordinary things are what make life meaningful. It is those people and those things that may have the greatest impact on individuals.

You and I may never “make the news.” Each of us, however, can make a difference. 

Presidents may make a difference in the history of a nation. Ordinary people can make a difference for eternity.

May God help us to remember what really is important on this day and every day.


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AUTHOR: Jim Faughn

[Quote] If You Don’t Know Christ… (Francis L. Patton)

SOURCE: Fundamental Christianity (Yale University’s James Sprunt Lectures of 1924), pages 94-95

It’s the Small Things

It was one quarter. Just twenty-five cents. However, it seemed to make all the difference in one particular woman’s day.

I’m an Aldi’s shopper, and I keep a quarter in a little compartment in my car when I go there so I can quickly get my shopping cart and begin saving all that money on groceries. It was right before the holidays and I was shopping as I usually do about once a week. When I finished loading my groceries in the back of my car I headed back to the store with my shopping cart.

I happened to notice a young woman on her way to get a cart, so I asked her if she would like to have mine. She started to hand me a quarter and I simply said for her to keep the quarter and let me have that tiny little blessing. She stopped, smiled, began to thank me profusely, and then she said, “You have just made my day. God bless you and your family.” It was such a small thing to do, but I think she felt good about it…and I know I sure did. 

When I got in my car and headed home I began to think about all of the little things we as followers of Jesus can do to help others feel better – things that don’t necessarily involve money.

Here’s my short list so far (and I hope you will add your ideas to it):

  • Smile and speak to the people you see – whether they smile or speak to you or not.
  • Let someone go before you in the grocery line if they have just a few items.
  • Sit down before church services with a widow or widower and just talk for a few minutes.
  • Give hugs freely at church (it isn’t hard to see those who need one).
  • Look into the eyes of those around you because the eyes are the windows of the soul.  If you take the time, you can see hurt, sadness, happiness, etc. and share with them.
  • Pat a teen at church on the back and let them know you are proud of them.
  • Tell your husband and children/grandchildren how much you love them…often.
  • Help someone in putting their coat on if you see they are struggling.
  • Walk with someone to their car if they seem to be having trouble.
  • Get down on a little child’s level and listen to what they have to say.
  • Check on a neighbor who may not have any family living close to them.
  • Let someone who’s trying to get in your lane of traffic go before you…even if the person behind you honks his horn.
  • Speak kindly and respectfully to waiters/waitresses in restaurants…and leave them a decent tip.

When I sit and think about the life of Jesus here on this earth, I think of a young man who loved and cared for others. I believe others were drawn to Him, in part, because He included little kindnesses in His everyday life. After all, wasn’t it Jesus who said, “…whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them…”  (Matt. 7:12)?

Now I keep several quarters in that little compartment in my car.


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AUTHOR: Donna Faughn

The Tradition of Being Non-Traditional

Almost every day I read or hear someone talk about how they wish their church would be “less traditional.” I read or hear people say that they would like to be more “non-traditional.”

Sometimes the reasons are wholly against Scripture, as some push for mechanical instruments of music (which violates Ephesians 5:19, Colossians 3:16, and other passages) or other changes.

More often, though, I read or hear these words when people talk about things like dress or the “formality” of worship. Comments are often worded in these types of ways: “I think more people would come to our church if we were not so traditional about how we dress.” Or, “Our church is so traditional about being formal in our order of worship. It’s song, prayer, song, sermon…. every week. We should be more non-traditional.”

This post is not meant to talk about those issues specifically. How we dress in worship or the order of our services is another post for another time.

What I want to challenge today is the constant push to be “non-traditional,” and how it is actually illogical.

If we take how we dress for worship as an example, people will often say that there is some type of unwritten dress code in a congregation and it pushes people away who do not have nice clothes. The argument, then, goes to how we should dress down so as to be more welcoming to other people.

Again, this post is not about that issue. It’s about the arguments that are often made.

Think for a moment. In an effort to push back against the “tradition” of dressing up for worship, there are calls to be more non-traditional…

…and now, being non-traditional becomes a tradition in itself! It becomes the unwritten dress code to dress down.

You see, one thing we must realize is that everyone has–or at least desires to have–traditions. By pushing for being non-traditional, one is actually trying to make a tradition out of being non-traditional.

In just the same way that there can be an unspoken dress code or traditional order of worship, the push to remove those things now becomes the unspoken set of rules for a congregation.

The first step in these discussions needs to be that we all have traditions. Some are good. Some are bad. Some are completely neutral.

But if you are arguing about “tradition” and wanting to push for something that is non-traditional, you are, in reality, not making an argument at all. You are seeking to make non-tradition the new tradition.

Our primary focus, instead, should always be on what is Biblical; not on what is traditional.


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AUTHOR: Adam Faughn

Which Commandments Should We Keep?

Many lessons and sermons have been taught and preached concerning the rich young ruler (Mt. 19:16-22; Mk. 10:17-22; Lk. 18:18-23). No matter how many times we have read these passages, there is always something new we can learn.

After this young man had come to Jesus asking him what he must do to inherit eternal life, Jesus responded about the goodness of God, and that one should keep the commandments (Mt. 19:17). In Matthew’s account, the rich young ruler responds this way – “Which ones?” (Mt. 19:18).

“Which ones?” What an interesting question! It sounds so similar to our culture and what many call “supermarket Christianity.” Can we pick and choose from the Bible? Can we keep only some commandments, binding some and disregarding others, almost like a person picking out the best tomato in the grocery aisle?

People who are afraid of being totally committed to Christ are very much like this young ruler. They might pick certain worship assemblies while blatantly disregard others. They might consider the elements of worship as very important but are not interested in being evangelistic. They might love personal Bible study at home, but feel like fellowship meals and gathering with the saints outside of worship is not for them.

The rich young ruler claimed that he had kept all the commandments from his youth, and yet when Jesus told him to keep the commandments it is obvious that he was hoping he could get by with just a few. This is the “easy way out” method or the “just get by with it” approach. Trying to do as little as possible and hoping that it will be enough to please God is not the attitude of Christ. It is not the attitude of genuine discipleship.

If we are going to belong to God, we need to stop looking for what we think is essential and embrace the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:26). There should be nothing that we aren’t willing to learn and do for the cause of Christ. We should call no time or earthly thing “ours,” but consider it God’s possession to be used to His glory.

The Bible says this man, when challenged to sacrifice the one thing that meant the most to him, “went away sorrowful because he had great possessions.” How tragic! In reality, we all know we own nothing. Everything is His, even our own souls, which he purchased with the blood of His Son.

Let’s not ask, “Which ones?” After we have kept all the commandments, let’s ask, “What else can I do?”

“Oh, that they had such a heart in them that they would fear Me and always keep all My commandments, that it might be well with them and with their children forever!” – Deuteronomy 5:29


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AUTHOR: Jeremiah Tatum

Jesus Wept at Jerusalem, Too

It has been my observation that it is very rare for a person to be totally undeserving of treatment that could be described as unfair. What I mean by that is that there may be some degree of justification for somebody being upset with you or me for something we said or did (or did not say or do). 

It could be that our timing was wrong. Maybe our intentions and actions were less than noble. Maybe our tone of voice sent a message we did not intend to send. We may have been totally unaware of how our action or inaction would affect another person. The possibilities are almost endless.

The bottom line is that none of us can claim sinless perfection (cf. Rom. 3:23). Neither can we claim a degree of wisdom that would guarantee that we would handle every situation in our lives in the best possible way.

How would you react if you were, in fact, totally innocent? What would you do if you knew that there was no legitimate or logical reason for the cruel treatment you were receiving? What would be your emotional state if you knew that those who had unfairly mistreated you were, as some say, “about to get theirs?”

The New Testament gives us a great deal of information about the only One who “…committed no sin, neither was deceit found in His mouth” (1 Peter 2:22). In the immediate context, the discussion is about how our Lord handled cruel and unfair treatment. The context also informs us that He “[left] you an example, so that you might follow in His steps” (1 Peter 2:21).

Recently, I was reminded of one particular incident during the earthly ministry of Jesus that demonstrates how He handled unfair treatment. At the same time, it serves as a challenge to us. You can find the inspired record of that incident in Luke 19:41-44. As you read those verses, you will read some very descriptive and disturbing words He used about the destruction of Jerusalem. 

That destruction would be due, in large part, to the rejection of Jesus by many of the citizens of “the city of David.” This would be especially true with regard to the religious leaders.

How did Jesus feel about that? Was there smug satisfaction? Did He gloat? Does a reader get a sense that Jesus was glad that so many of the people who had treated Him so badly and unfairly were going to “receive their just due?”

Here are the words the Holy Spirit inspired Luke to write:

“And when He drew near and saw the city, He wept over it” (Luke 19:41).

Most of aware of the fact that Jesus wept at Bethany after the death of Lazarus. Did you know that He also wept in Jerusalem – and for a totally different reason?

As you read (and I type) the following words, maybe we both need to pay particular attention to the portion I’ve chosen to highlight:

“When He was reviled, He did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but continued entrusting Himself to Him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:23).

The book of Acts begins with Luke informing the reader that his gospel had been written about “all that Jesus began to do and teach” (Acts 1:1). Please notice that order. He did not merely give orders or present theories. He did what He wants others to do and asks that we follow His example.

In The Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told His followers to “…Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matt. 5:44). He did just that. He challenges us to do the same.


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AUTHOR: Jim Faughn

Episode 71 : Forever His (with Shelley Hazel) [Podcast]

(Player not working or displaying? Click here to listen.)

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What can a congregation do to help families who have children with special needs? Forever His is a ministry that helps in that area. Recently, the Forest Park church of Christ in Valdosta, Georgia held a Forever His Bible Day Camp, and on the podcast this week, Shelley Hazel joins Adam to talk about this wonderful and uplifting day.

LOFpodcast

Links

Forest Park Church of Christ (homepage)

Video: Forever His [vimeo.com]

Forever His information at Karns church of Christ (includes registration form)

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The “Flip or Flop” Principle

Last week I was doing something unusual: I was watching TV during the day. I was home sick so my TV was tuned to a channel that I enjoy: HGTV. The show of the day (and I literally mean all day) was “Flip or Flop.”

I enjoy watching them take run-down houses and turn them into pretty homes for a profit. I also enjoy watching a couple – read: not me and my husband – differ on the spending-versus-return-theory involved. She always wants to buy higher end finishes to maximize the potential profit whereas he wants to do nice enough to guarantee a quick sale. It’s fun when it’s not you!

Often in the program, the husband makes the statement that “the bigger the risk, the bigger the potential reward.” This made me think about our spiritual lives. What are we willing to risk? Am I willing to risk my comfort level to invite someone to worship? Am I willing to risk my reputation to stand up for God’s laws? Am I willing to risk my friendships if the potential reward is an eternal soul saved?

You see, God already took all of the biggest risks. He risked His heart when He created man and gave him (us) free will (Gen. 3:8-9). He risked a second disappointment in man when as He placed the rainbow in the sky (Gen. 8:21-22; Gen. 9:16). Over and over again He took the risk as He gave mankind chance after chance to see that His way is best. In all culminated in the risk He took in sending His only Son (John 3:16).

But, you see, in God’s eyes, all of that great risk was worth the potential reward – your soul. What will you risk for Him?

In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” (1 John 4:9-11)


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AUTHOR: Amber Tatum