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‘Ministry Posts’ Category

  1. How Should Christians Respond to World Vision?

    March 25, 2014 by Jeff Wright

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    As you’ve probably seen, evangelical relief organization World Vision has announced that they will now be hiring persons who are in same-sex unions.  This is an unfathomable error and one that leaves Christians asking how they should respond to an organization that is intentionally distorting the gospel of Jesus Christ.  So what does a Christian who is concerned about meeting the practical needs of the weakest members of humanity and being faithful to the truth of Scripture do?

    First: if you aren’t sponsoring a child now is a perfect time to begin!

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    As best I’m able to determine both Samaritan’s Purse and Compassion International  are organizations doing work of practical good on par with or exceeding World Relief while also refusing to concede Biblical truth for the sake of changing cultural trends.  It appears World Help, despite some troubles in recent years with a rogue consultant, does an admirable job of connecting donors’ dollars with needy individuals and groups. 1 I encourage you to partner with these organizations to turn the failure of World Vision into a positive force for the cause of Christ.  Furthermore, shame on us if the only time we pay attention to relief organizations is when it becomes  a political issue; let’s get increasingly involved as donors for the glory of Christ!

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    What about those who are sponsoring children through World Vision?  

    Let me encourage you to be proactive and vocal to World Vision about your disappointment over their error and your intentions to distance yourself from their organization in the future.  You can find their contact information here and/or let them know through social media (a means often more useful in getting the attention of an organization) on Twitter and Facebook.  Understand that it is their donor base which will have the greatest impact on World Vision.

    Should you stop sponsoring your child?

    World Vision has put Biblically faithful believers in the awful position of having to choose between being clear about the gospel and supporting a child who needs their aid.  Here’s my suggestion: (after you let World Vision know you will be distancing yourself from their organization in the future) continue to support your child until the natural termination of support then move on to a relief organization with more integrity (again, let World Vision know this is your plan).  The child you are connected with is an innocent victim of World Vision and will likely not be able yet to properly process the catastrophe of the organization’s decision.

    While in that relationship of support let me encourage you to take full advantage of your relationship with the child!  Write them letters freighted with the gospel, the beauty of Christ, and His care for their circumstances.  If you can, go visit the child.  Do everything you can to help that young bearer of the image of God know the Father who gave His Son for their salvation and calls His followers to care for his or her needs.

    The fact that World Vision has so intentionally failed their own cause and their donor base doesn’t meant that the avenues they have established can’t be used for good until the natural point in which they can be abandoned for those provided by a more Biblically faithful organization.

    Notes:

    1. If my research is faulty please let me know and I’ll edit the post to describe these organizations more accurately.  I would also welcome information about other worthwhile organizations.

  2. Evaluating a Sermon

    February 26, 2014 by Jeff Wright

    One of the things I want to remain committed to throughout my life is becoming a better preacher.  Furthermore, my church has been blessed with a number of young men whom God has called into vocational ministry.

    Toward the twin aims of helping those at my church growing in their skills as preachers and my own improvement I created a sermon evaluation form.  I’m posting it here for the use of others with a similar desire.

    I hope it’s profitable for you.  One request: if you use it would you please let me know by leaving a brief comment?  I would be interested to know how (if?) it is being used outside of our church.

    Midway Baptist Church: Sermon Evaluation Form (Right-Click and select “Save link as…” to download PDF)


  3. The Logic and Burden of the Law

    February 21, 2014 by Jeff Wright

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    In Luke 11:46 Jesus accuses one of the religious lawyers of His day of load[ing] people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers.

    If we are going to understand the nature and severity of Jesus’ rebuke we need to understand the basic logic of the Law which is do this and you will live with the implication that those who do not do do not live.

    i. Revealed in the Old Testament

    Leviticus 18:1-5Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘I am the Lord your God. You shall not do what is done in the land of Egypt where you lived, nor are you to do what is done in the land of Canaan where I am bringing you; you shall not walk in their statutes. You are to perform My judgments and keep My statutes, to live in accord with them; I am the Lord your God. So you shall keep My statutes and My judgments, by which a man may live if he does them; I am the Lord.

    Deuteronomy 27:26Cursed be anyone who does not confirm the words of this law by doing them.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’

    ii. Explained in the New Testament

    Galatians 3:10-14For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.”  Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.”  But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.

    The Law, then, becomes a set of hoops far too high to jump through; a treadmill that never stops moving your feet on and on, faster and faster; a burden whose weight collapses the shoulders.

    In fact, when Jesus the Greek term that Jesus uses here that we translate burdens hard to bear he is using a term normally used to describe a ship’s cargo.  The load placed on people by the Law through false religion is far beyond the ability of men to bear.

    B. The Misery Created – you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers

    When religious authorities use their positions to broadcast the demands of the law, the same demands that are beyond human attainment, they fail in their most basic responsibility – to point to the grace of God as the only means of relief from the demands of the law.

    In our day this pattern is particularly twisted because it co-opts the language of grace to press law further and further.  For instance, when a mother of a sick child is told that if she will simply have faith that her child will be healed and that child dies the mother is left believing that either she has failed to believe well enough to protect her child.

    Here the beauty of Christ is clearly seen in contrast:

    Matthew 11:25-30At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

    Christ is the opposite of these false teachers – where they use their power to further the burden and misery of men He uses His to take the load from their shoulders, to bear what they could not, and give them relief from their own failed efforts to be good enough to be right with God.  He is good enough for them.  This is the good news we call the gospel.


  4. How Low Elevation Church Has Stooped

    February 20, 2014 by Jeff Wright

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    Yesterday’s craziness surrounding the coloring sheet from Steven Furtick’s Elevation Church  shouldn’t over shadow the other news connected with Elevation – namely how they manipulate people into “spontaneous” baptisms.

    This second controversy is, in my opinion, far more dangerous.  I’ll quote from the article by WCNC Charlotte because they state well the problems with Elevation’s Spontaneous Baptism Resource Kit.

    The guide instructs, “Fifteen people will sit in the worship experience and be the first ones to move when Pastor gives the call. Move intentionally through the highest visibility areas and the longest walk.” 
        
    “They had people in the crowd stand up who never intended to be baptized,” said James Duncan, a communications professor at Anderson University and critic of Furtick. “They were shilling for Steven and the intent was these shills stand up and everybody else follows.”

    Stuart Watson, the author of the article, continues:

    More stage instructions tell volunteers to go to staging rooms outfitted with towels, pre-printed t-shirts, sports bras, boxers, makeup remover, hair-dryers and flip-flops. Volunteers are instructed to “pick young energetic people” to go on stage first to be baptized and “not necessarily those who are there first.” 

        
    “Think of the room in terms of a NASCAR pit stop,” the guide reads. “Quick in and quick out.” 
        
    It takes “30 to 45 seconds” to baptize each person as church photographers snap photos. 
         
    More volunteers are told, “You are looking for one or two great stories in your group. When you ID those individuals, place a ‘black wrist band’ on them so that the video crew can interview them….”
        
    The guide then tells the “media team” to be “mining great stories and pushing them up to the video crew.” 

    An additional disturbing detail comes at the end of the article:

    Elevation Pastor Steven Furtick asked me for a face-to-face, off-the-record meeting with me to ask me not to run this report. I spent an hour on the telephone and two more hours in person discussing my reporting, his church and his concerns. 

    Pastor Steven said I have been unfair and this report in particular would hurt Elevation Church members. 

    Does Furtick think that he is free from the consequences of his and his church’s scandalous behavior?  What right does he have to attempt to shift blame onto the news agency for reporting what his own church has freely and publicly published?

    Let’s be clear – Furtick, along with any one else involved in created and pushing forward these events, hurt the members of Elevation church.

    The repercussions of this kind of manipulative, pre-packaged faux-Christianity are clear.  In no certain order:

    • The central rite of Christianity, baptism, is undermined entirely.  Historically, no outward event is of more significance to the Christian faith.  Here Elevation and its leaders have reduced it to a canned production, not substantially different from a flash-mob dance performance.
    • The credibility of the Christian faith and the idea of conversion becomes more laughable and seemingly hollow to a world already plenty skeptical about such things.
    • Other ministries, more legitimate in their efforts to faithfully discharge the gospel call, are cast in a shadow by these big-budget, high-production hucksters while precious resources that could be legitimately used to help people are sucked into the black hole of manipulative pseudo-ministries like the ones taking place at Elevation.

     

    I am confident that a good and sovereign God will have, from the perspective of eternity, called men and women to a saving faith in Himself at these Elevation engineered events.

    Make no mistake, that will only come to pass because His overwhelmingly powerful grace will do good to lost men and women even in the midst of the worst conditions.

    This reality – that people are likely actually converted – in no way overshadows that in the highest degree of likelihood the majority of those involved as “converts” will have been deceived and thus, humanly speaking, hardened to the gospel.

    Furthermore, any legitimate conversions arising from these highly engineered productions does not mean that the productions are justified.  This is a stain on the public reputation of the church and, through it, Christ.

    May God grant Steven Furtick and the people at Elevation responsible for this abusive behavior repentance.  May He also grant that those who have been manipulated to see through the facade of Elevation’s misconduct to the beauty of Christ in the authentic gospel.

    Even so, come Lord Jesus.

    Further Reading
    Pajama Pages (Linked to Above): How Steven Furtick engineered a spontaneous miracle

    Patheos: Steven Futick and the ‘Disneyfication’ of Baptism

    Zwinglius Redivivus - Elevation ‘Church’ – Just Another Cult and Furtick is Just Another False Teacher

    Truth Matters Blog: Mass Baptisms, Invitations, and Southern Baptists


  5. Elevation Church: Where Does Unity Come From?

    February 19, 2014 by Jeff Wright

    Can someone at Elevation Church in Matthews, NC please explain this?  Surely there is some element not present in the page itself that will explain how this isn’t a whole bag of steaming craziness?

    UnityAtElevation

    I ask that because what actually is present on the page (absent some helpful explanatory word from Elevation) is poor proof-texting and cult-like indoctrination.

    1. Proof-Texting: Elevation’s artist did get a correct quoting of the NIV’s translation of Romans 13:1.  However, ripped from it’s Biblical context, combined with the image on the sheet, and the wording about Pastor’s Steven’s vision unifying the church makes that wonderful text justification for not just any craziness Steven Furtick chooses to spew (did I just become a hater?) but any dangerous abuser who lays claim to the title “authority.”

    2. Cult-Like Indoctrination: Just so we’re clear: the unity of the church is never in the “vision” of the pastor; it is the unity of faith spoken of in Ephesians 4:10-16, namely unity built on the teaching of and commitment to the Word of God.

    Any substitute unity built on the vision of a man is temporary at best, often discretionary, and extremely dangerous at best.

    Here’s hoping Elevation clarifies soon.

    HT: Kent Schaaf via Terry Gant.

    *Update 4* The nuttiness keeps on rolling in.  Check out this other graphic from Elevation Church (Source).  Note especially numbers 1 (really, this is number 1 for them; the more I read it the crazier it looks), 3, 7, and 16.  And why does it take until 24 to mention the gospel?  For real – Elevation Church is looking like 1 short step away from a cult.

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    *Update 3* Looks like Elevation Church has realized what a thoroughly bad idea this was. Kudos to them.


     
    *Update 2*: Chris Rosebrough of Pirate Christian Radio has spoken with Elevation Church and confirmed this is legit.
     

     

    You can see the rest of the artwork from the coloring book here:


    *Update 1* Usually I think Matthew Paul Turner should be avoided but we agree on this point.  You can see his post (which preceded mine) for more details on this lunacy.

    Since we’re on the subject of Elevation Church at this moment you need to look at even worse lunacy leaking out of their church on how Elevation manipulate people into being “spontaneously” baptized.


  6. Covert Works Righteousness

    February 13, 2014 by Jeff Wright

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    Works righteousness is the default setting of the human heart when it comes to religion.  Considering what Paul says in Galatians 2:16 we must beware of the danger of falling into the false religion pursuing our hearts and which, if we embrace it, will leave us condemned.

    One particularly dangerous form of works righteousness (otherwise known as legalism, self-justification, and works of the law) is the version that has attached itself to the familiar terms of Christianity.  This version camouflages itself within the vocabulary of the church, gaining entrance through subtlety rather than the rejection it would meet if it presented itself clearly.

    To help us identify these hidden pits of works righteousness I’ve collected some phrases that are presented as expressions of Christian truth but which are in fact the old, cold, condemning non-gospel of works righteousness: 1

    • Faithfulness finds favor.” (Contrast that with 2 Timothy 2:11-13)
    • Don’t expect a full-time God when you are a part time Christian.” (Contrast that with Romans 7:14-25)
    •  “Your humility determines God’s ability.” (Contrast that with Exodus 33:19 / Romans 9:15, Acts 17:24-25, and Psalm 115:3)
    •  “The faithfulness of God’s Word depends on our faithfulness to God’s Word.” (Contrast this with Isaiah 46:8–11 and 55:10-11)

     

    Remember friend, we do not live in a day when we can simply expect every building with the name church on it or every person holding a Bible while they talk to hold and proclaim the gospel.  We have to be constantly aware of those non-gospels that cloak themselves and lay in wait hoping for an opportunity to lead us away from the saving message of the finished work of Christ applied to us by grace through faith.

    Notes:

    1. Know others?  Let me know in the comments!

  7. O Little Town of Bethlehem + How Deep the Father’s Love (Randy Wilder Mashup)

    December 23, 2013 by Jeff Wright

    Leading up to Christmas last year Bro. Randy had wanted to lead our church in singing a combination of the songs O Little Town of Bethlehem and How Deep the Father’s Love.  To our great sorrow he was never able to lead Midway in singing this piece.  Randy was a friend and fellow servant of the gospel.  I and our church miss him terribly.

    This year our worship team led our congregation in singing the arrangement that Randy had envisioned.  I’m posting it here in the spirit of hope this Christmas – hope that because of what God did in Christ’s righteous life, death on the cross, and victorious resurrection the pain of death and loss won’t be the final chapter to the story of our lives.

    If you are interested you can find a longer version of this video (in HD) where the song is introduced by Randy’s friend and co-laborer Daniel Lowhorn HERE.


  8. Learning How to Endure and Serve After the Loss of a Loved One

    December 17, 2013 by Jeff Wright

    It’s been a year since the church I serve lost a dear, dear brother in Christ. We’ve carried on but we’ve certainly not moved on. His oldest daughter has written down her reflections on the past year and what she’s learned. I commend it to your reading – first as an example of enduring faith in trial, second as counsel on how to serve those for whom the Lord has chosen a bitter providence. You can find it here.

    MissYou


  9. Asking the Right Questions

    November 15, 2013 by Jeff Wright

    This is from the introduction to my sermon on 1 Timothy 1:8-11.  I hope it encourages you in your study of the Word.

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    How many of you have heard that the Bible is a book of answers?

    That’s a pretty common idea among Christians, right?

    Did you realize that the Bible is also a book of questions?

    What I mean is that the Bible is a book of answers… for the right questions.

    The Bible assumes that its readers will be asking certain questions.  We take it that these questions which the Bible assumes are the questions that we should be asking – even if we aren’t.

    Let me explain:

    1. There are some questions the Bible indicates aren’t legitimate.

    For example “Is there a God?”

    -       The Bible clearly assumes there is a God – it opens with “In the beginning, God…

    -       Romans 1:18-21 tells us that all men know there is a God.

    -       Therefore we conclude that the Bible says we shouldn’t be asking “Is there a God” but rather something akin to “What is God like?”

    2. There are some questions that the Bible indicates aren’t asked properly.

    For example: “Should I marry my girlfriend.”

    -       On the one hand, the Bible doesn’t say “Thou shalt marry thy girlfriend!”  On the other, it does have much to say about marriage.

    -       Therefore we conclude that the information desired isn’t a problem, rather the way the question is shaped presents the problem.

    -       The question that the Bible answers in this regard is “What kind of person should I marry?”  You are then free to evaluate your current relationship in light of those standards and make the decision.

    3. There are some questions the Bible says we should be asking (even if we aren’t).

    -       Scripture says of itself that it is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness… (2 Timothy 3:16).

    -       Thus we conclude that what Scripture reveals is actually what we need; as a result we say that the questions it answers are the ones we should be asking.

    Our text today is an example of this last kind of question – the questions that we should be asking.  It likely that very few of us came into the sanctuary today with a burning desire to know the answer to the question our text today assumes.

    That is alright.  Part of growing in grace, in being sanctified, in maturing as a believer is learning to ask the right questions.  It is a discipline to be cultivated and today we will strive toward that end.


  10. Thinking Through Gender Roles

    October 2, 2013 by Jeff Wright

    A while back a young man at my church responded to a point in my sermon about gender roles with a question about how we can tell what are authentic Biblical expressions of gender and what is merely cultural.  Here is my response.

    Your questions about cultural expressions of masculinity and femininity are spot on I think. Those lowest level forms of gender expression are really, in my opinion, a caricature of what appropriate gender modeling looks like.  The sad reality is that the Christian community has, at least in large segments, adopted that perspective wholesale.  Some of it is less boorish (say John Eldridge’s Wild at Heart) and some is more (the average evangelical men’s conference that is largely a swords-and-sandals epic which had been baptized).  Circling back, I think it is right to ask how we honor gender in a way that isn’t entirely dictated by a fallen culture.

     I don’t know how much Tim Keller you have read and listened to but his sermon (seminar?) on gender roles is one of the most thought provoking treatments of this issue I’d heard (I can send you a download link to the MP3 if you’d be interested).  There is a ton that I’m going to gloss over but the kernel of what he’s says that is most relevant to our discussion here is that he takes a clue from the creation of men and women as his starting point.  He’s super nuanced but I think he’s right.  The first leg in his argument is that men and women were created holistically – the spiritual and the physical are intertwined.  Thus, the way Adam was made physically speaks to his role in God’s plan and the same for Eve.  Since there are obvious differences between male and female in composition Keller (rightly in my opinion) that there are differences in purposes for the two genders.  Of course, there is a great deal of overlap (both have two legs, heads on top of their necks, etc) so there will be overlap in role but also distinction – the latter being uncomfortable for our culture to talk about.  From there Keller makes the point that it seems reasonable that the physical differences should speak to how the differences in role play out.  To use Keller’s language, he says that in the way a woman was designed to receive her husband (obvious anatomical language there) it seems reasonable to assume that she will be a receiver in her role in the world.  In the same way that a man moves out to join his wife it also seems reasonable that he would move out in some way in his role in the world.

     If he’s right legitimate femininity would be oriented toward receiving, toward interdependence and legitimate masculinity would be oriented outward, toward independence.  Again, there is going to be overlap and the two genders are going to become one flesh so there are other issues to discuss but this part puts us on the road to appropriate roles.  From the model Kellers gives, interdependence (and the nurturing it entails) would make sense of some of the traditional roles of women – receiving children into her care in her home, showing hospitality, etc and all of the roles the Bible legitimately assigns to women (such as being a helper).  In the same way, that model makes sense of some of the traditional roles for men – moving out in pursuit of commerce/provision as an example – and the legitimate roles assigned in Scripture (such as being the loving head of woman as a model of Christ for the church).

     Your question about either gender representing Christ in the same way or not gets to this as well.  There is lots of overlap in both genders so, for instance, both my wife and I are going to want to protect and nurture our children.  However, the receiving/moving out paradigm makes sense of the ways we differ in how we go about nurturing and protecting.  To be incredibly simplistic in illustration, protection for my wife might look like throwing her body in between an intruder and our kids; mine might look like trying to tackle the guy.  Or, when my daughter is melting down because she’s been disciplined my wife may initially move – even if it is just internally – toward comforting while my internal reaction may be toward allowing her to come to grips with the significance of her wrong through the pain of correction.  Again, really really simplistic but may help me communicate the germ of what I’m trying to say.

     So the question that comes to my mind at that point is what do we do with traditional gender roles?  You and I both know they are a mixed bag – fallen culture deifies bad thinking all the time – so tradition can’t be embraced just for tradition’s sake.  On the other hand, the fallen cultures of men also have the glory of God within them so sometimes tradition capture something strong enough to stand the test of time.  Further muddying the waters is the reality that sinful people reject authority, existing structures, and everything that doesn’t look cool to current youth culture through rejecting tradition.  We don’t want to authorize that kind of thinking.  I suppose the route would look like keeping the receiving/moving out paradigm in mind, seeing where scripture assigns roles consistent with that to either gender, then ask what that role would look like in this culture.  Would that look like women staying at home to raise children?  I think that’s okay but I wouldn’t see it as required or even normative.  Proverbs 31 speaks of the honorable woman participating in commerce in the market.  It’s probably legitimate, at least to my mind, for a woman to work outside the home in this culture.  On the other hand, is it right for a man to order for a woman at a restaurant?  Maybe – it sort of models his moving out to engage the world (on an admittedly trivial level).  Do men have to work at meat-packing plants for 9 hours a day then come home and watch sports?  That sort of brute force labor job is acceptable but I would say no more so than the artist who creates beauty as a way to engage with the world around him.