Questions to Ask Before You Ask, “How Do We Connect?”

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It is a question that is being asked by educators. It is being asked by politicians. The corporate world spends untold amounts of money trying to answer the question. 

Religious leaders are also involved in this discussion. At least those who are really leading and not merely “keeping house” are asking the question.

What’s the question?

How do we connect?

Educators wonder how to best connect with students.  Politicians want to connect with voters. Those who have a product to sell or a service to offer want to connect with consumers and those who would benefit from what they have to offer.

What about those of us who preach and teach God’s Word? Increasingly, I am hearing of changes that need to be made in wardrobe, facilities, worship styles, communication methods, etc. in an effort to connect with some nebulous group called “the unchurched.”

As kindly as I know how, I would like to suggest that we have already minimized our responsibility by using that term. People outside of Christ are not merely unchurched. They are lost

It seems to me that the seriousness of that condition means that there are some questions we need to ask and have answered before we ask how we make a connection. These questions are not difficult to understand, but they may be uncomfortable to answer.

Here are some of those questions:

  • What or who needs to be connected? 

Are we trying to connect the church with society in a way that would make the church “fit in” better with the world? Are we trying to connect people with us? Are we trying to change the message of the gospel (not the methods of presenting the gospel) to connect with modern cultural norms? Who/what needs to be connected? With whom or with what do they need that connection?

  • Why does a connection need to be made?

Is our goal “church growth?” Is it really all about numbers? Is it acceptance in the community? Do we want people bragging on us? Exactly why are we so interested in connecting?

Can we truthfully say that our goal is to connect people who are lost with the only hope of eternal salvation available to them? If so, then we need to work on the methods that will best accomplish that. Then, and only then, does the “how” question become relevant. 

I’m thinking that we need to get our answers to the “what,” “who,” and “why” questions correct before we tackle the “how” question.

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[Quote] The Top Priority in Your Home

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Donna’s Summer Garden Salad

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I have seen so many great pictures of beautiful produce many of you have grown and harvested from your gardens. I love this time of year and the blessings that come along with it. The colors of the many vegetables and the wonderful taste they have are just two of those blessings. I love to see the work many of you put into canning and freezing your vegetables so that during the long winter months you can be reminded of the blessings that come from the garden.

I thought I would lighten up my post this week and simply share with you one of my favorite summer salads. I have combined two recipes and turned it into “summer garden salad.” I hope you will enjoy it as much as we do. (At least it will help you use some of the bounty from the garden.)

Summer Garden Salad

3 medium yellow summer squash, sliced ¼ inch thick

1 each sweet red, yellow, orange and green pepper, chopped

1 small red onion thinly sliced and separated into rings (any onion works)

1 can shoe peg corn (white corn) drained

1 jar pimento (drained)


1 cup sugar *

½ cup Canola oil

¾ cup apple cider vinegar

1 tsp. salt


Place vegetables in a large bowl.

Combine dressing ingredients and boil together.  Let cool and pour over vegetables.  Mix well.  Refrigerate and enjoy for several days.

  • Note:  Splenda may be used and there is no need to boil – just whisk the dressing ingredients together and pour over the vegetables.  Refrigerate and enjoy.

“You cause the grass to grow for the livestock and plants for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth…”  Psalm 104:14

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How to be Balanced in What We Sing in Worship

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As a preacher, I am reminded often of the need for balance in preaching. We need to preach “hard” sermons and encouraging sermons. Preach from the Old Testament and the New Testament. Preach first principles and theologically rich concepts.

Certainly, it is a challenge, but it also ensures that there is never a lack of material!

But preaching is not the only part of our worship in which balance is needed. In the songs we sing in worship, we also need a balance.

As you read this article, consider the last few Sunday worship services. Don’t just think of one week, but consider a few. Over time, a congregation should sing several different types of songs, but it is easy to fall into a rut of singing not just the same songs, but the same types of songs over and over.

Instead, there needs to be a balance. Here are a few to consider.

Praise AND Practice. How many songs do we sing about the work we have to do here on the earth? If all we get is a steady diet of “practice” songs, we are missing the number one priority of our singing: praising the Lord! One test of this is to see how many songs we sing that speak of “I,” “me,” “us,” and “we” versus how many we sing that speak of “You,” “Your,” “Thee,” and “Thine.” Both are necessary to our growth as Christians. So, sing both “Lord, We Come Before Thee Now,” and “Each day I’ll do a golden deed…”

Comfort Songs AND Challenging Songs. I don’t mean the musical nature of the songs. What I mean is that we sing a lot of songs about God loving us and, basically, the comfort we feel due to His grace and mercy. We should never stop singing those, but we also need to sing songs teaching each other that there is work to do, and sometimes that work is challenging. So, sing both “Christ’s Love Is All I Need” and “Go Into the Field.”

Heaven Songs AND Everyday Songs. I think every Christian loves singing about heaven, but we must live in this life to prepare for that eternal home! Conversely, this life can be a struggle, so songs about heaven can spur us on in hope what something far better. So, sing both “That Heavenly Home” and “To Christ Be Loyal and Be True.”

Simple Messages AND Theologically Rich Messages. Too many songs, even of some length, do not really say much of anything. That is okay at times, but a steady diet of that is not healthy to the theological depth of the worshipers. On the other hand, if all we ever sing are dense songs with deep lyrics, we may lose younger people or those still new in the faith. So, sing both “God is So Good” and “In Christ Alone.”

Contemplative Songs AND Toe-Tappers. There are certain songs that just get your foot tapping and that people just belt out. There are other songs that are a bit slower and cause our minds to focus, almost prayerfully, on what we are singing. A mix of both types of songs helps worshipers with different frames of mind. So, sing both “Lamb of God” and “We’re Marching to Zion.”

And, yes, Old Songs AND New Songs. Yes, I went there! Just because a song is 250 years old does not make it better than something new. However, if we fail to sing the old standards, we are missing a chance to connect generations through one of the most powerful tools possible: music. Learn new songs (including some older songs that are so old they are new again!) and continue to use rich and powerful hymns of the past. So, sing both “Amazing Grace” and “Amazing Grace (My Chains are Gone).”


As is true with what we want in our preaching, the same should be true in our singing. Balance is the key. Most song books have 800 songs or more, but most congregations sing less than 75 of them (and some far less). A tool like Paperless Hymnal and/or ePraise adds even hundreds more.

However, it is not just about singing a bunch of different songs. It is about balance. It is about making certain that, even in our singing, we do not ride a hobby horse, or get in a rut. Singing, as an act of worship, should be done to the very best of our ability. Our Lord deserves no less than the best we can offer.

“Praise the Lord! Sing to the Lord a new song,

His praise in the assembly of the godly!” (Psalm 149:1)

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AUTHOR: Adam Faughn

“If You Touch It, You Will Die”

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King David presumptuously wanted to move the ark of the covenant without God’s permission. He was ready to bring it into his city and let it be the symbol of the power of the Almighty God. While transporting it on a new cart David and all of Israel played music and celebrated before the ark. But when the oxen stumbled at Nachon’s threshing floor a man named Uzzah tried to stabilize the ark by putting out his hand to steady it. Immediately upon contact, the Lord was angered at Uzzah’s disobedience and the Bible says, “God struck him there for his error, and he died there by the ark of God” (2 Samuel 6:7).
That’s when it all got interesting. David was angry because of God’s outbreak against Uzzah. Instead of continuing to transport the ark to his city he determined to leave it at a man’s house. He reckoned that the ark might be a curse rather than a blessing. So he decided to test it at another man’s dwelling rather than his own. The man’s name was Obed-Edom. Again the Bible says that David left the ark of the covenant at this man’s house because he was afraid of the Lord that day (2 Samuel 6:9).
Now let’s imagine the conversation between David (the king), and Obed-Edom (a common man):
“I am David, king of Israel. I am leaving the ark of God in your care. This ark contains manna, the Ten Commandments, and Aaron’s miraculous rod. It is overlaid with pure gold and belongs in the most holy place. Between the wings of the Cherubim is the mercy seat, and God dwells there. I need you to keep this ark in your house for a while. Oh, and by the way, if you touch it, you will die. I have a dead body we are carrying home to prove it.”
What would you do if you were Obed-Edom? How careful would you be if the ark of God was living in your home? How would you walk around the house? How far would you stay from it to make sure you didn’t bump it or trip into it? How would you behave in your house if it was there? What would you think about? What would you say? What kind of music would you listen to? What would you read or watch on TV? What would you do in your house every day if the presence of God dwelt in your house all day long?
We live and breathe by the grace of God. He is omnipresent; that is, He is everywhere all of the time. It is not that He doesn’t see and hear and know everything we do and say and think, it is just that we tend to forget or ignore His presence. If we would stop and remember a loving God who is always near to us, perhaps we would live better and holier lives in reverence and fear before His holiness.
The Bible concludes with this statement about the time that the ark of the covenant once stayed in a man’s house – “The ark of the Lord remained in the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite for three months. And the Lord blessed Obed-Edom and all of his household” (2 Samuel 6:11).
Jesus, the King by the precious sacrifice of His own blood, has invited the presence of God into the lives and homes of common, everyday people. We should not run away from a God who wants to dwell so closely to us that He actually desires to dwell in us. Instead, we should see that His presence is a blessing that will purify us from sin and give us peace in our lives and in our homes. David determined that the ark could, in fact, be brought into his city after 3 months of success at another man’s house. Perhaps we, like David, should embrace God’s presence as well.
“Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence?” – Psalm 139:7
(special thanks to Steve Higginbotham for the idea behind this article)
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If Appearances are Not Important

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Have you ever noticed the difference between photos taken of a person when or before they are arrested and those taken when the same person has his or her day in court? Have you ever noticed that, in many instances, they almost do not look like the same person?

In many of the “pre” or “day of” photos, the person is unkempt and has an interesting (to say the least) hair style. Often the individual is seen proudly showing off all of the “art” and metal that they think makes them look cool, attractive, or something. He or she may be making sure that all of this is visible by exposing as much of the body as possible. Sometimes, a lot of skin is showing just to show off the skin.

However, when that same person appears in court, the metal is no longer there and the “art” and the “canvass” used for art has been covered up as much as possible. As he or she walks into court, it looks like the last stop before the entrance into the courtroom was at a barber shop or beauty shop.

Why? What accounts for the difference? If appearances are not important, why has there been such a drastic change?

Could it be that a lawyer has gotten the attention of his/her client? In more high profile cases, could it be that some sort of expert has been employed to prepare the defendant as well as possible for the trial?

I wonder if the message from the lawyer or advisor could be something like this:

“If I am going to represent you, you need to realize that you cannot walk into a courtroom in front of a judge and a jury looking like you normally look. You can argue all you want that your appearance should make no difference and that you have the right to look any way you want to look. You are exactly right about that. 

I admire the fact that you are willing to make what you think is a courageous stand based upon your principles and your rights. Many people would not make that kind of decision when they are facing incarceration – or worse.”

At the same time, I have some news for you. Unless you straighten up, clean up, and cover up, you will be sending a message you do not want to send. I will also tell you that, unless you do those things, you can find another lawyer. I will not represent somebody looking like you normally look.

Would you like for me to show up in court looking like you did before you were arrested?”

Those who know me should know that I’m not one of those old-fogey preachers who thinks that I have to wear a suit and tie when I mow the lawn or work in the garden. (Yes, I’ve heard of men who have done that.) 

At the same time, I realize that all Christians, whether they are preachers or not, represent at all times the One whose name we wear. Every choice I make should be based on that. 

What do others think of Jesus when they see and hear me? 

What do they think of Him when they see and hear you?

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[Quote] Balance in Parenting

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SOURCE: Be the Dad She Needs You to Be: The Indelible Imprint a Father Leaves on His Daughter’s Life by Kevin Leman (page 162)

The Hook

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This summer, I was able to go on my first mission trip outside of the United States. Every year, our youth group goes to the City of Children in Ensanada, Mexico, where they conduct two Vacation Bible Schools; one for the youngest kids and one for all the school age children. They also complete a service project, do benevolence work out in the city, and play with the kids from the orphanage. I’m not going to lie: It is hard work!

In the interest of full disclosure, the original reason I signed up for this trip was because our son, Luke, wanted to go and there was no way I was letting my child out of the country without a parent! Now, I have always been supportive of mission work, but I have been content to be the one holding down the home front while others did the traveling to unfamiliar places and cultures. But this time, whether I was ready or not, I was all in. I wasn’t afraid of the hard work or even of being in a different country, but I was apprehensive about possibly not being able to handle all the differences I would face.

Long story short … I loved it! I worked harder physically than I have in a long time. I ate with teenagers who delighted in pretending to not understand me and then giggled with their friends about the “Americano” who truly couldn’t understand them. When I laid down at night, I hurt. But I loved it. Why?

The hook. In my case, the main hook is named Leo, a 5-year-old with special needs. I had other “hooks” named Hector, Katia, Raysson, and Juan. On my day for benevolence, I met some adult “hooks” named Emilee, Sarah, Sarai and Rosario. Luke’s main hook is Josstin. The “hook” is the reason you will go back, year after year, to do exhausting work with people you can’t completely understand.

And then it hit me. I am the hook for God.

You are the hook for God. We all are the hook for God. Why else would He send His holy, perfect Son to die for us? [John 3:16] The hook is love. Just as I left pieces of my heart in Mexico, God sent the best piece of His heart to earth so that one day we can live in heaven with Him and not be separated anymore.

I learned that laughter and smiles are universal. So are hugs and worship in spirit and truth. Those members of the Lord’s church in Ensanada share the same faith in God and hope of heaven as those of us here in Cookeville (or wherever you may be). But the greatest thing is the hook: love.

1 John 4:7-10 “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.  Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.  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.”

1 Cor. 13:13b “…but the greatest of these is love.”

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NOTE: The picture above is not of Leo. For safety’s sake, we cannot post his picture online. The photo used above is a free stock picture from, where we get most of our pictures for the site.

A Hashtag Won’t Save America

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Since the explosion of Twitter a few years ago, the social media world has become enamored with hashtags. Events, groups, and even major movements all try to come up with a hashtag that can be used to spread the word on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and elsewhere.

Some of these hashtags have become very well-known and have helped build movements through the use of social media.

As with anything else in social media, it is easy to try to reduce a major philosophy, movement, or belief to something extremely short. Twitter allows a little over 100 characters; not exactly the type of space needed to discuss a strong ideal. Instagram is based upon pictures, and most people post a very short caption that takes a second or two to read. It’s hard to imagine that changing many minds.

The hashtag is even shorter. In a little symbol (#) and usually 20 letters or less, supposedly a “statement” is made. Articles are shared with nothing but the hashtag as the reason for sharing them. A photo is posted on Instagram with just the hashtag as “commentary.” And so on.

I fear that there are people who really believe that, should enough people catch on to what some particular hashtag means, they are changing America. Yes, I use social media, and at times, I use hashtags. However, I realize that this alone is not enough to change minds.

America will not be changed by hashtags.

It will not be changed by tweets.

Our nation will not be changed by Instagram posts.

It won’t even be changed by sharing news articles on Facebook.

America will only be changed when people step away from the short, pithy, 140-character limits of social media and read, discuss, believe, and follow a book that has 3,566,480 characters.

Scripture–the divine Word of God–continues to be the only answer for America, or for any other nation, for that matter.

I will say this, however. The hashtag is close. You see, if you remove two lines from that little symbol (#), you are left with the only hope for mankind.


A cross.

When you are ready to discuss more than a tweet, and something far larger than a hashtag, it’s time to open Scripture and find our answer. Jesus has been, is, and always will be the only solution for any problem we face…

…if we are willing to actually seek His will, and move beyond a mere hashtag to carrying our own cross of Calvary.

“His divine power as granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness.”

(2 Peter 1:3)

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AUTHOR: Adam Faughn

“I Would Like to Raise Awareness”

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It is pink day or blue day or green day. Wear this color to raise awareness for this cause or that. You just received a Facebook challenge from a friend to do pushups, or have water poured over your head, or you are supposed to copy and paste a certain message to your wall. Everybody wants to raise awareness about everything these days. It may be cancer, or something political, or some travesty, or some compassionate plea for those who are hurting and need support. This is all fine and good. But I would like to raise awareness about a few things myself.
1. I want to raise awareness that people are lost. This includes some people who are religious and all people who are not religious (Matt. 7:21-23). The majority of the people in this world are not going to go to heaven (Matt. 7:13-14). So we need to preach the gospel and reach those people who have never heard the truth, or who have been persuaded by that which is false.
2. I want to raise awareness concerning the Bible. This past Sunday evening we had a speaker at our congregation who asked people to turn to Acts 29. Half the church tried to turn there. There is no Acts 29! We need to read our Bibles more. Even people who are Christians don’t know the Bible like they used to. I am astonished and confused and sometimes even disillusioned at how little people know about God’s book.
3. I want to raise awareness about the church. Yes, the church. Not the church on the corner, and not the church in the phone book. But simply the one church that Jesus built, the one body of Ephesians 4:4-6. I want people to know that there truly is only one church and that outside of the body of Christ salvation is impossible. I want there to be awareness that Jesus purchased the church with His own blood (Acts 20:28) – that when He was on the cross He was in death actually building His church. And if the church is worth dying for to Christ it ought to be worth dying for to me.
4. Finally, I want to raise awareness about Jesus. Taking guns away is not going to fix our problem. Marches are not going to fix the problem. Knowing about the situation we are dealing with is not the solution to the problem. Laws being passed and certain people being elected….these won’t fix the problem either. Only Jesus can fix it. Only His love, His cross, His words, His promises, and His example can ever fix the problems with our world, and with me and you.
So while everyone else is wearing different colors and making public statements raising awareness for all of these troubles we are facing in the world, I would like to raise awareness about the solution. We need to recognize we are lost, consult the Bible, locate the church, and let Jesus save us.
If we are going to be aware of anything, let’s be aware of the things that eternally matter.
“See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” – Eph. 5:15-17
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