Thursday, October 17, 2013

An email from Tom Elliff (Lottie Moon Offering)

Dear Pastor Madaris,
Thanks in advance for reading through this email about an issue that is heavy on my heart.  For several years now, our Lottie Moon offering goal for international missions has been $175 million dollars. With the world now at its greatest hour of lostness, and with unreached people groups never more accessible, that goal seems small when compared to the $12 billion dollars placed in Southern Baptist offering plates last year. Yet for several years now, giving to the Lottie Moon offering has been static, hovering near the $150 million dollar mark.

I believe this year the Lord is giving us a crucial opportunity to prove that we are churches truly committed to fulfilling the Great Commission. This was the heartbeat of our founders, and the driving force behind both the Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon offering. The Lord is asking if it is still our heartbeat today. My prayer is that we will marshal forces across the SBC to answer with a resounding "Yes!"

This is the hour of the world's greatest need for the Gospel. We currently have over 4,800 personnel who, along with their 4,000 children, are living out the Gospel on the field – most of them in some very dark places. Approximately 1,400 individuals are currently in our active application file. Right now, if we hit our goal we will be able to deploy only 576 of those new applicants in 2014 to join forces with existing personnel sharing the Good News to the very ends of the earth. That is why I am ardently praying we will far exceed our $175 million goal, which would enable us to send even more. My prayer is that we will be able to fund needed strategies to engage the very limits of lostness and thrust into the harvest field all who are being called out of churches like yours.

In my recent report to our trustees I shared with them the urgency of the need. We captured a portion of that message in a 3-minute video clip. I would ask that you take just a few moments to view it at After viewing it, I urge you to share it with your church.
I pray that together we will rise to this hour, seizing the opportunities that are before us, and giving our all – TOTALLY HIS for the sake of the Gospel!

For the vision!

Tom Elliff

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Just a little something I read

What Happens When the Church Copies the World

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds” 
(Romans 12:2).

In the recording room of a large radio station in Charlotte, N.C., I was cutting 30 second spots our church had purchased. A committee of our sharpest young adults had put together a package of radio ads on several stations, hoping to get our message out and make the community aware of First Baptist Church. After our first cut, the young lady producing the spots said, “Uh, pastor. I need you to hear something.” She fiddled with a few dials and turned up the volume on the car commercial running on the air at that moment. “That’s what the ads on this station sound like.” The commercial was fast-paced and loud, with a drum hammering a heavy staccato beat in the background. I said, “I’m well aware of what your station sounds like.” She said, “Well, you will want your ad to fit in with that.” I said, “No ma’am. That is precisely what I do not want.” “I would like to stand out from all that.” She agreed to do it my way—just my voice talking quietly, nothing in the background—for the first round of ads. A month later, at the next recording session, she said, “You’re right. I was wrong. What you are doing is working very well.” Judging by the response we were receiving from the community, she was right.

Sometimes, when I see churches falling all over themselves to look like the world and sound like the world in order to speak to the world, I shake my head.

What are they thinking?
What makes us think that the world will give the church its attention and listen to our message if we look just like it and sound like what it’s doing?
The world is lost, friend.

Let me say that again:
The. World. Is. Lost.
The world is clueless about the important stuff.

You and I are supposed to know where the line between fantasy and reality is drawn, the difference between trendy and permanent, between ephemeral and eternal.
The pagan world around us can make its own music and hyped-up talk and trendy fashions so much better than the church can. When God’s people attempt to copy the world in order to be heard by the world, we concede that what the world has is superior to what we have in Christ.
We lose the first point before the conversation has even begun.

OK. At this point, readers are asking, “What are you referring to, Joe? Jeans and sneakers in the pulpit? Choruses and drums in the service? A pastor’s slang in sermons? Spikey hair? The absence of neckties and three-piece suits? The retiring of the old hymnals to the basement of the church, brought out once a month for the senior adult retrospective? The cobwebs on the pipe organ? Garish decorations in the youth department?"
Yes. All of that, none of that and a thousand other things.

This week, I asked a friend from a large Southern city where her family goes to church. They are professional composers whose musical works are used in churches everywhere. 
She named the church, one I’d never heard of, then said, ”We were going to the Church-on-the-Make”—OK, not its real name; I just made that up!—”but got so tired of all the trendy stuff, the pastor’s attempts to out-slang the kids, the spikey hair and sneakers, and decided we were ready for something more solid. The church we have joined, Reality-on-the-Rock”—ditto, made that one up, too”—teaches the Word and feeds God’s people.”

Readers will think of a hundred objections to what we’ve written here. And much of it will be true and right. And some readers will be defensive, find what we’ve said offensive, and become more entrenched in sneakerdom and spikiness.

My concern is not with the shoes or jeans, the drums or the choruses, but with the entire concept of patterning ourselves after the world.

Everything about that feels scary, as though God’s people do not know what’s important and have to ask the people who spend their days writing copy for youth-oriented magazines and their nights at the jazz clubs.

It’s not a new phenomenon. I can recall a generation ago when pastors began picking up the lingo of the drug culture. Everything was groovy, far out, crazy and blew our minds.
It went downhill from there.

At this point, someone will announce for all us Luddites that Isaac Watts used tunes from the barroom for some of his great hymns. Which only proves that the taverns of his day must have turned out some pretty good stuff.

A friend in religious sales called on a large church in Shreveport and later reported that that particular institution had doubtless been the last on the planet to install a piano in the sanctuary. “To them, only the pipe organ was good enough for worship of the Almighty,” he smiled.

All of which proves, I suppose, that this is all subjective, there are no hard and fast rules delivered on Sinai for the rest of us to obey. Nothing in the Word dictates the length of women’s skirts, the shape of men’s beards or the proper pace or decibel level for what is sung in worship.

I’m urging the people of the Lord, and in particular those entrusted with planning worship services and overseeing the churches, to do this:

1. Be careful and be prayerful.

Do not be too impressed by the hottest trends, either in the youth culture or in those new quirky congregations which were started last year and are now running ten thousand. 
Perhaps they’re doing something right, but the 10,000 people do not guarantee it. We remember how Jesus literally ran off the crowds who were following Him for the wrong reasons (John 6:15, 66, etc.).

2. Know what’s important and essential, and hold to it.

It is not only basic doctrines which are bedrock necessities on which we should not compromise or tamper with.  Other things, such as the fellowship within a congregation—cross-generational and welcoming to newcomers—may not show up on anyone’s list of doctrinal fundamentals, but are as essential to spreading the gospel as John 3:16. Having a public invitation at the end of sermons in which people are urged to “Come to Jesus” may not be one of the essentials, but we must have ways for people to get saved and confess Jesus as Savior and Lord. Nothing in the Word says a pastor cannot preach what a friend of mine calls “life management sermons” once in a while, but to build a ministry on that kind of fluff is to abandon your people to biblical ignorance and betray the uniqueness of the Christian faith.

3. Always be alert to the temptation to cut corners with the Word and shape our doctrine to make it palatable to the world.

It happens so subtly. An outsider comes to your church that is meeting in the cinema, is impressed by your pastor wearing his sneakers and jeans, loves the music which is not unlike what he heard last night at his club, and compliments you on not being a narrow-minded fundamentalist. If you’re not careful, you will be impressed that he was impressed. The next week, that same, cool guy returns to church, seems to appreciate what you are doing, and then introduces you to his (fill in the blank here: gay lover, live-in girlfriend, guru, swami, colleague in his abortion clinic or partner in his porn shop).  And now you are torn.  You want to minister to these people who are being drawn to what you are doing, but want to hold to the revealed truth—make that, The Truth!—which is in Christ. The moment that guy slips you a check for thousands of dollars, you are sunk. The temptation is to ease up on what Scripture says in order to connect with these people. The footing is mighty slippery here, my friend. Be careful.
Mark’s hunger for spiritual things drove him to seek out a church in his Australian town. Ignorant of religious things, he dropped in on a congregation where the pastor read the Bible, made a few general comments then fleshed out his sermon around the latest philosophical findings. After the benediction, the young adults of the church gathered in the basement for sandwiches and discussion, so Mark went along. There he found a few musicians playing the same stuff he had been hearing in the bars, although with religious words. The fellow who spoke came across as a hybrid between a hard-drinking womanizer and John the Baptist. As Mark delved into the church a little more and chatted with the pastor, he learned that churches have a name for this. They call it “making religion a living thing of the people.” As Mark left that church, he found himself wondering if God’s people don’t know what they have to offer, if they do not see that the world can do entertainment so much better than the churches can, and if they do not believe their Gospel of Jesus Christ is enough. “Don’t they see that if they pattern themselves after the world, there’s nothing for them to be lifted to? Outsiders want to be free of their culture, not to see it baptized.”

Mark Saber lived a half-century ago. His story was told by a preacher from Down Under in an old book I read as a beginning preacher. I’ve never forgotten the concerns Mark felt and the questions he raised.

That’s all I’m trying to do here, to raise a few questions.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Monday Mind Dump

I've been thinking about our services this weekend, and I have just one question: Why wouldn't we? If you weren't at church you are playing catch-up. We saw two fantastic pictures Sunday. The first was seen in Communion, people proclaiming the power of the cross to transform, proclaiming the Lord's death until He comes again. Total trust and faith that His finished work on the cross provides complete and ultimate forgiveness for the sin of any person who surrenders to it. Those who participate in this act of worship, celebrating, remembering, and proclamation, commit to go out into the highways and hedges and compel the lost to turn to Jesus Christ. Each person who claims to follow Christ commits to be a "carrier of Christ" to their Neighbors and the Nations. Jesus promises to save. You and I promise to tell others about it. He is keeping His promise, what about you? What about me?

The other picture was seen in a video we watched. The video was one of several produced by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association in preparation for My Hope America with Billy Graham. The challenge and call for Matthew's to step forward was given, and I believe we will see an army of families prepare, invite lost friends to their homes, and see a harvest of souls. I have been praying Luke 10:2 over our church, and I believe God will answer part of this pray during the week of November 3-9, 2013. Highland Baptist Church is preparing to sow the seed of the gospel in Stanly County. I can't wait for the Holy Spirit to bring in the harvest! The picture was one of hospitality, compassion, friendship, love, mercy, grace, gentleness, and faithfulness.

If you are wondering about this "Matthew thing" I encourage you to read Matthew 9:9-13. In this passage you will find the story of the calling of Matthew to be a disciple of Jesus and the response he had as he began to follow Jesus. He opened his home, threw a party, and he introduce his lost Friends, Relatives, Associates, and Neighbors to the Savior of the world.

So, back to the question: Why wouldn't we? Why wouldn't we get involved in something that so easily allows us to bring those we already know to a place and a point where they can be introduced to the Savior of the world? I don't know why we wouldn't, but some will not. Don't be one of those people. Be someone who tells someone else the good news (gospel) of Jesus Christ.