Monthly Archives: October 2010

If you are a *social drinker*…

 “Social” is an interesting word. It can be a noun, as in “church social,” referring to a gathering of people to socialize. Usually, it is an adjective–“social studies, ” “social club,” “social butterfly,” and “social grace.” “Social” modifies another word to form a phrase ordinarily found only in the constraints of religious discussion. The phrase is “social drinking.”

Social drinking implies situations such as guests in the home, friends at a meal or bar, or business dinner or pary where a typically smaller amount of alcohol is consumed. Certainly, this is an issue that often gets swept under the church-house rug, where silent pulpits, bulletins, and Bible classes turn the collective head on the subject. Well, fools go where angels fear to tread. Therefore, allow me to ask a few questions about “social drinking.” What constitutes the limit on social drinking? In other words, when does one cross the social line in social drinking? If one of the drinkers has two rather than one, is it still social drinking? Three rather than two? Four rather than three? When is it excessive? Who, of the other drinkers, is to be the judge of that (Christians are encouraged to use “righteous judgment,” John 7:24)?

Often, there are those in the “social drinking” crowd who try not to miss a shot, hit, refill, or round. For all the sippers, there are guzzlers, too. Yet, what makes four wrong and one right? What positive social messages does it send? Sophistication? Success? With social drinking, what is the Christian hoping to achieve? A soul-winning opportunity? A Christ-like influence? A demonstration of the transformed life (cf. Romans 12:1-2)? Or, is it simply anohter way of conforming, bowing to the social pressures of a worldly-minded society? It does not edify the body of Christ (Romans 14:19. Could it rather often simply be a way to seek the acceptance and approval of secular friends, co-workers, and employers (cf. James 4:4)? Are there negative social implications? YES! It can send a conflicting message to non-Christian or new-Christian fellow-drinkers, to whom we express disdain and condemnation for drunkenness (Galatians 5:21; Ephesians 5:18; 1 Thessalonians 5:7-8). Also, the social landscape is changing. Social drinking, to high school and college party-goers, stretches all the way to bald-faced drunkenness.

It is not uncommon to hear stories of “social drinkers” passed out or worse from drinking or even alcohol poisoning. Can we envision a soul-winner sitting down to a Bible study with a lost person with a mixed drink in hand? Or a preacher gesturing carefully during his sermon as he holds his glass of wine? Or an elder pleading with a wayward Christian to come home, laying his shot of whiskey down long enough to pray with them? Or a church fellowship, complete with the deacon of bartending on hand? Far greater social destruction has come from alcohol than social salvation (i.e., medical benefits, etc.).

The Bible does preach moderation and self-control in all things (Galatians 5:23). But, are we sure that this is tacit endorsement of something so filled with potentially negative side-effects, socially as well as physically? Certainly, you will ultimately decide on which side of the ledger social drinking falls. But consider this a loving plea. Be careful with the precious commodities you possess as God’s child–your inlfuence, example, holiness, and righteousness. “Respect what is right in the sigh of all men” (Romans 12:17b).

–Neal Pollard

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Have you overlooked these people?

 There are some people hard to overlook.  There’s the lady wearing the big hat with a potted plant on it.  There’s the older man with the bushy white hair and plaid sports coat.  There’s the six year old that stands six-foot-three.  There are also those people that it may be easy to overlook.  We don’t mean to or want to, but seem to.  Sometimes, we overlook them because they keep to themselves and don’t really want to be seen.  Others, however, are so unassuming that they are easy to miss.  There are instances, unfortunately, where we are too caught up in ourselves or our circle of friends so that we fail for lack of trying.

Consider the following “types” or categories of people that we cannot afford to overlook:

  • THE POOR.  We have them with us always (Mark 14:7).  The Lord wants us to care about them and care for them (1 Jn. 3:14ff).  They likely lack influence or the ability to do anything for you, but they need your attention.
  • THE NEW CHRISTIAN.  They are highly impressionable and vulnerable.  They start their Christian walk standing at the fringe and need us to “pull them in” the fellowship.  Their faith is fledgling.  Their new life may have them feeling lonely and strange.  Let’s not leave these babes at the baptistery steps to fend for themselves.
  • THE ELDERLY.  Their peer group is shrinking.  They often are widowed.  They grew up in a completely different age, but they have those basic human needs–including companionship.  They still possess a great capacity to love, feel, and share.  Don’t pass by the hoary head.
  • SMALL CHILDREN.  You may have to stoop down or slow down to notice them, but they are there.  You may extend your hand to shake theirs and see them disappear into mom’s skirt or run the other way.  No matter.  Your notice of them will not be unnoticed to them.  They will remember you for remembering them.
  • TEENAGERS.  Outwardly, they look aloof, unconcerned, occupied, or, at times, uninterested in your attention.  Yet, many times, they are looking for identity, struggling with self-confidence, and coping with major life changes.  They need notice. 
  • THE NEWCOMER.  They have uprooted and chanced to leave the familiar for the unfamiliar.  Imagine yourself in their shoes, now in a new setting and faced with fitting into a new family.  That’s not easy!  Practice the golden rule.  Let them in.
  • THE STRANGER.  They are the visitor, often straight off the street.  They are processing their first impression.  You may pause and look at them, not know what to do or say, and keep moving.  Please don’t do that!  Greet them.  Welcome them.  Find out about them.  Tell them about yourself.  Make sure they leave you no longer a stranger.  Overlook them and they may not return…ever.  If they are a non-Christian or wayward Christian, they may find in you a lifeline that changes their eternity.
  • THE STEADY.  The quiet worker, the “always there,” and the disciple behind the scenes may enjoy escaping the “lime light,” but they yearn for and desire the human connection, too.  Let us never take them for granted.  Without them, we would greatly suffer.

We all do it, but let’s not take comfort in it.  Notice even those that we may mistake for the “little people.”  Remember, that God sees no “little people.”  He sees souls.  So must we!

–Neal Pollard

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Common errors about deacons

While there is sufficient textual proof that the church was organized with elders as overseers and deacons as special servants (1 Tim. 3:1-12; Ti. 1:5-11; Phil. 1:1; etc.), God never intended one Christian to do the work of another.  Why do we not have a choir to do our singing for us in worship?  In part, it is because one Christian cannot obey what God commands all to do.  Likewise, deacons cannot obey what God intends the whole church to do.  All of us are to minister and serve (Matt. 20:26; Rom. 16:1; Gal. 5:13).  It may be helpful, thinking along these lines, to remember what deacons are not. 

Deacons are not junior elders.  Elders are overseers and shepherds.  Deacons are special servants.  A deacon’s authority is limited to that which elders delegate to him.  We may know that intellectually, but we must remember it practically.

Deacons are not the church’s indentured servants.  Their job is not just physical in nature.  A simple reading of 1 Timothy 3:8-13 shows that they are to be spiritually strong men.  Some tasks in the church are physical, but the men are to be spiritual.  Though servants, they are not the church’s slaves to be considered as pawns or self-serving tools.  They are spiritual warriors tasked by God’s mighty shepherds to strengthen His church.

Deacons are not less important than elders.  This kind of thinking leads to pride, strife and jealousy.  The body of Christ has different members, but all are vital.  1 Corinthians 12:13-14 emphasizes that each member is indispensable.  Service to Christ offsets any need for power struggles.

Deacons are not in elder training.  Men who work as deacons may and should (if possible) develop qualities that will help them later be elders, should desire to serve God as best they can, and should develop real relationships with the people they serve, but serving as a deacon is not some sort of “elder training.”  The work is about working where they are asked to work.

Deacons are not flying solo.  Good deacons themselves will be “great delegators.”  They are great enlisters.  They take responsibility for their area of work, but they involve as many people as possible.  As members, we should be less the critic and more the coworker.  If a deacon asks for your help, give it to them! 

It is exciting to see men take up the cross of service.  Never forget that Satan is always lurking in the shadows.  He wants nothing good and productive done within the congregations of God’s people.  What a blow to him when we become more efficient and aware of how God wants His church to work and operate.  Part of that includes remembering what deacons are not.  — Neal Pollard

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Apology hotline

  JESSE JACOBS HAS created an apology hotline that makes it possible to apologize without actually talking to the person you’ve wronged…People who are unable or unwilling to unburden their conscience in person call the hotline and leave a message on an answering machine. Each week, 30 to 50 calls are logged, as people apologize for things from adultery to embezzlement. “The hotline offers participants a chance to alleviate their guilt and, to some degree, to own up to their misdeeds,” said Jacobs.

 

The apology hotline may seem to offer some relief from guilt, but this is not how Jesus instructed His followers to handle conflict. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told us to deal with conflict by taking the initiative and going to the offended brother to apologize for the offense (see also Matt. 18). In fact, Jesus taught that the problem of human estrangement is so serious that we should even interrupt our worship to go on a personal mission of reconciliation (Matt. 5:24). The Master encouraged His followers to be reconciled with one another eagerly, aggressively, quickly, and personally (v.25). 

Are any of your relationships broken or estranged because of something you said or did? Take the initiative. Go now and do all you can to be reconciled. (Marvin Williams) 

“Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you,  leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are on the way with him, lest your adversary deliver you to the judge, the judge hand you over to the officer, and you be thrown into prison” (Matt. 5:23-25). — Mike Benson

  

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Your face could stop a clock

 Have you ever meant to say something that didn’t come out just the way you wanted it to? Being a preacher it seems that I have a constant problem of “foot in mouth”. I have heard other folks do the same thing, some times a complement that didn’t come off just the way we wanted it to. Sometimes a word of correction that came off much harsher than we had intended.

I received this little story from a friend of mine in Missouri (Raymond), which illustrates the problem. A bashful young man asked a friend for advice on what to talk about on a date. The friend said to flatter the girl, “Tell her when you see her face, time stands still.” What the rattled young man said to his date was; “Your face would stop a clock.”

How do you get into messes like that and more important, how do you get out again? Most of the time it is as simple as saying, I’m sorry, that was not what I meant to say. Notice what Paul writes in Colossians 4:6 “Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.”

“Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt.” I don’t know about you, but I need an almost constant reminding of that principle. Why, because I often don’t do so well at accomplishing it.

May our God guide you in all that you think and say!

Russ Lawson

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Quitting the church

       A man who had not attended one service of the church in four years told me he had never thought of “quitting” the church.  I reminded him that he had:

 1) Withdrawn his presence from the worship services.  He had failed to sing, pray with fellow Christians, to partake of the Lord=s memorial supper and the fellowship of the saints.

2) Refused to give his moral support to the activities of the congregation.

3) Withdrawn his financial support, for he had not given one dime to help carry on the Lord’s work.
Then I asked, “What else would you have to do in order to ‘quit’ the church?  In case you ever decide that you no longer desire to be a member, what other steps will be necessary to ‘quit’ the church?”

     As the true status dawned upon him, his expression reflected his sober thoughts.  He replied, “Why, Brother Nichols, I have quit already, haven’t I?  Well, I surely didn’t mean to!  And I don’t know when I did it…but I’ve quit the Lord and His church!  I’ll tell you right now…I’m coming back.”  He did, too.  At the next service, he was restored and three years later, he was still faithful.

     Dear reader, how about you?  Have you quit the Lord and His church without resolving to do so?  Perhaps no one deliberately decides to quit, but many carelessly drift into backsliding.

     If you quit attending services, quit boosting the program of activities planned by the elders and quit giving as God has prospered you to enable the congregation to meet its budget, you need to be restored.

“not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching”  (Hebrews 10:25)

By Gus Nichols

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Common church problems

“What did he mean by that?”  “Those elders never get it right!”  “You know our preacher.   What else would you expect?”  “That deacon is destined to fail.”  “Those people at church!” “They don’t like me.”

What would it be like to work with a congregation that had people who openly flaunted their sexual immorality, that was divisive, that even was guilty of worshiping pagan idols, that had members who were filled with sinful pride and arrogance, whose wealthy members neglected and mistreated the poor members, and who saw spiritual works and involvement as a competition?  That was not a nightmare for the apostle Paul.  It was a reality.  The church was in Corinth, and he wrote multiple letters to them.  The first one preserved by God in the Bible addressed a variety of problems including the above-mentioned ones.  Then, in the epistle we know as 2 Corinthians, Paul conducts a follow up in which he commends their penitent spirit and encourages them to find comfort in Christ despite trials.  No fewer than four times, Paul speaks of having confidence in them.  As he viewed their reformation of character, he said, “I have confidence in you” (2 Cor. 2:3).  Later, he says, “Great is my confidence in you” (2 Cor. 7:4).  A few verses later, he says, “I rejoice that in everything I have confidence in you” (2 Cor. 7:16).  He even relates Titus’ “great confidence” in Corinth (2 Cor. 8:22). 
Paul is often credited for his master psychology, his knowledge of how to treat the brethren to “get the most” out of them.  Yet, if Paul was this disingenuous manipulator, he would not draw heaven’s praise nor would he have found sustained success.  The right conclusion is that Paul really did have confidence in his brethren.  That does not mean that he thought they would never let him down or that he was gullible and naïve.  It did not mean that he did not reprove and rebuke in appropriate measures.  But, it did mean that Paul had faith in the average Christian’s ability to know and do “the right thing.” 
Every church has its stumbling blocks, but no congregation could survive for any length of time made up entirely of them.  Most congregations have a healthy number of building blocks and we do well to address them as Paul did Corinth.  Do we have faith in each other?  Or do we assume the worst motives and intentions on the part of others?  Not only is that somewhat paranoid and miserable, but it is quite un-Paul-like.  Let us have confidence in the other fellow.  And let us strive to be worthy of others’ confidence in us!
Neal Pollard

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