Category Archives: Ministry

‘My church practices the “Sinner’s Prayer”‘

According to Amy Spreeman of Berean Research “Telling someone that he or she is saved by reciting a prayer is a lie from the pit of Hell.” Amy backs up this claim with Scripture. She writes:

Several readers have asked us, “What should I do if I am attending a church that practices the Sinner’s Prayer?”

If you’ve ever been to an evangelical church service or ministry outreach, you know the drill: Head down, no looking around, just you and God, sappy background music, and just slip your hand up if you want to invite Jesus into your heart. I see that hand in the second row. Thank you. Anyone else?

I can certainly understand why many people feel uncomfortable. There are some elements of it that are good, like confessing our belief in Jesus, admitting we are sinners and saying “I’m sorry,” but the most dangerous part of the practice comes at the end, when the minister declares, “If you prayed that prayer with me, congratulations and welcome into the kingdom of God!”  Telling someone that he or she is saved by reciting a prayer is a lie from the pit of Hell.

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Source: ‘My church practices the “Sinner’s Prayer”‘

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The Cessationist vs Charismatic Debate Video Released

The debate with JD Hall (a Reformed Baptist pastor) and Ante Pavkovik (an Assembly of God pastor) has now been released via video. The event took place at the 2017 Judge Not Conference, and was full of fireworks and should be as entertaining as it was edifying.

You can watch the video below.

Source: The Cessationist vs Charismatic Debate Video Released

Is Discernment Ministry Biblical? Video Released

This is a sermon from the Judge Not Conference, on the topic of “judging” as taken from Matthew 7 and a systematic theology of discernment. Is discernment ministry Biblical? Is it a sin to judge? Should discernment stay within the local church?

Watch and share.
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You can also watch and share these teaser clips.

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Source: Is Discernment Ministry Biblical? Video Released

A Plea to Preachers

There is a center to the Bible and its message of grace. It is found in Jesus Christ crucified and resurrected. Grace, therefore, must be preached in a way that is centered and focused on Jesus Christ Himself. We must never offer the benefits of the gospel without the Benefactor Himself. For many preachers, however, it is much easier to deal with the pragmatic things, to answer “how to” questions, and even to expose and denounce sin than it is to give an adequate explanation of the source of the forgiveness, acceptance, and power we need.

It is a disheartening fact that evangelical Christians, who write vast numbers of Christian books, preach abundant sermons, sponsor numerous conferences and seminars, and broadcast myriad TV and radio programs actually write few books, preach few sermons, sponsor few conferences or seminars, and devote few programs to the theme of Jesus Christ and Him crucified. We give our best and most creative energies to teaching God’s people almost everything except the person and work of our Lord and Savior. This should cause us considerable alarm, for there is reason to fear that our failure here has reached epidemic proportions. We need to return to a true preaching to the heart, rooted in the principle of grace and focused on the person of the Lord Jesus Christ.

This excerpt is taken from Sinclair Ferguson’s contribution in Feed My Sheep: A Passionate Plea for Preaching.

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These are 8 of the Most Controversial Topics in the Church Today

Christians take very different opinions on these issues and both sides refer to Scripture to support their views. Discernment is certainly necessary, even among a group of believers in today’s culture. Whatever your views on each of these topics, hopefully reading this list of the areas where the church often experiences division will encourage us as Christ-followers to strive for unity within our own churches and even across denominations, because although there is much division and controversy among the broader church, there are also core doctrines that unite us.

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Purpose Driven Division – Part 2 – Eric Barger

Eric interviews Pastor Brandon Holthaus on how and why he fled the Church Growth Movement and the Purpose Driven Life model. Eric also adds commentary about Rick Warren’s philosophy. (Livestreamed on Take A Stand! TV, July 10, 2017)

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Seven Personality Types of Sick Churches

Sick churches become dying churches.

Dying churches become closed churches.

Those statements are factual unless some type of change or intervention takes place. But intervention or change is unlikely unless the church recognizes that it is sick.

In simple terms, we must first be aware that many of our churches are sick.

In order to help create greater awareness, I have described illustratively seven personality types of sick churches. For certain, no one church is a perfect illustration of any one type. But I am confident you will recognize churches that have taken on one of these seven as a dominant personality type.

  1. The Denier. Several years ago I did a consultation at a church in the Midwest. The church’s worship attendance had declined by over 60 percent the past ten years, but most of the members I interviewed told me the church was fine. That church will be “fine” all the way to its closing.
  2. The Deflector. In these churches you hear constant complaints about what others outside the church are doing wrong. It’s the denomination’s fault. It’s the culture’s fault. It’s the young people’s fault. And, too many times, it’s always the pastor’s fault. Thus the church’s pattern is a series of short-term pastorates.
  3. The Cool Kid. These churches are rarely viewed as sick. They are typically growing numerically, and often are seen as the cool church in town. But their growth is largely tied to a single ministry, like bus ministries of the past, or to a charismatic leader. When the charismatic leader or the hot ministry goes away, the church declines dramatically. This illness is particularly dangerous because of its superficial appearance of robust health.
  4. The Nostalgic. The nostalgic church lives in the past. It longs for “Brother Bill,” the pastor of thirty years ago. The members are convinced if they would just return to music styles and programs of the past, everything would be fine. These churches grow increasingly unhealthy because they exert so much effort to resist change.
  5. The Street Fighter. These churches are downright mean. Their business meetings are more like a street fight. Bullies and critics often control the church, while the majority of the members remain silent in cowardly fear. The healthier members exit quickly, exacerbating the sickness of the mean church.
  6. The Autopilot. These churches do things they way they’ve always done them because they know of no other way. They don’t necessarily resist change, because they don’t even see the need for change. As long as we do the church the way we did it in 1974, we will be fine.
  7. The Living Dead. There are few active members left in these churches. Most of the members recognize the church is sick, because the worship center is 83 percent vacant. Often the remaining members become desperate and somewhat open to change. Unfortunately, it is usually too late to do anything. The church is on the precipice of death.

I share these less-than-pleasant realities with the prayerful hope they could be used by God as a wake-up call to leaders and members of sick churches. And in my next post, I will share the dismal topic of the six stages of church death with that same hope and prayer.

Source: Seven Personality Types of Sick Churches

How to Combat Biblical Illiteracy in the Church

“Two-thirds of young people are leaving the church largely because of unanswered questions about the Christian faith.” says Avery Foley of Answers In Genesis.  Foley has some good suggestions as to what we can do about this crisis in the visible Church. He writes:

Biblical illiteracy has become an epidemic across America. People, sadly including many professing Christians, simply don’t know what the Bible teaches and often hold to unbiblical or even heretical beliefs. For example, a recent study found that a mere 10% of Americans have a biblical worldview (despite 70% of Americans claiming the label of Christian). And the biblical teachings that the study considered part of a “biblical worldview” were the most basic of biblical beliefs, such as the personhood of the Holy Spirit or the existence of Satan. This study is a sad testament to the state of the American church.

What Can We Do?

What can parents, pastors, and Sunday school teachers do to combat biblical illiteracy? Here are a few ideas for how to instill a biblical worldview in the young people under your influence.

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Source: How to Combat Biblical Illiteracy in the Church

Pastors, don’t be a jerk. Be a shepherd.

Boyce College professor Denny Burk has a word of advice for pastors: A wise and courageous pastor will always remember the wisdom of Solomon when exhorting his people: “There is one who speaks rashly like the thrusts of a sword, But the tongue of the wise brings healing” (Prov.12:18). A good pastor is not going to use his words like a sword but like a scalpel. A sword and a scalpel are both made for cutting. But a sword is for killing. A scalpel is for healing. Even in confrontation, a pastor’s aim is not to deliver the coup de grâce but to heal.

Listen as Denny Burk offers appropriate ways for a pastor to treat family members. He writes:

The venting of the proverbial spleen seems to be the order of the day from cable news to social media and sometimes even in interpersonal interactions. We like to hear someone who agrees with our views “tell it like it is,” especially if the telling involves a few zingers against people whose views offend us. We thrive on this kind of outrage because it appeals to our sense of self-righteous indignation. It feels oh so good to be oh so right. And there’s nothing quite as satisfying as dressing down “those people” who don’t agree with us.

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Source: Pastors, don’t be a jerk. Be a shepherd.

Albert Mohler Blog: “‘As It Had Been the Face of an Angel’ — A Commission for God’s Messengers

This is the text of the commencement address preached by President R. Albert Mohler, Jr. at the May 19, 2017 commencement ceremony at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.

“These graduates go out to build upon what others have already built. We will all build on the foundation someone else has laid. Even as the Lord grants opportunity to sow seed, we will spend much of our lives and ministries watering. The Christian ministry is not a career. It is a calling that originates in the sovereign majesty of God and is concluded only by the coming of the kingdom of the Lord, and of his Christ.”

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An Open Door Closes – Jan Markell

An Open Door Closes - Jan Markell

“We expect the postmoderns and the religious Left to distort truth, but in the last 20 years, evangelicals have been in the forefront of discouraging believers on these topics. I will now name some names that will cause many to unsubscribe from these emails. I am not attacking these individuals. I am just reporting on what they say.”

When I began Olive Tree Ministries years ago, I ministered in hundreds of churches, home fellowships, women’s groups, and even some men’s groups. Every week I would pile my small vehicle with a 12-string guitar, sound and audio-visual equipment, books, and a map, and head toward destinations large and small. My audiences were enthusiastic as I shared messages focusing on Bible prophecy, Israel, Israel in prophecy, Christ in the Passover, Jewish evangelism, and current events.
 
I could not keep up with the demand. I could have ministered 5-6 times a week. This was more than a decade after Hal Lindsey’s Late Great Planet Earth.  That book opened the eyes of a lot of people and caused them to want more insight. Many thought end-time issues were irrelevant until John Darby in the 1800s. The one-third of the Bible that referenced prophecy was for real and could no longer be ignored. It was for today.
 
If church pulpits didn’t want me to talk about it, then I was invited to classes and retreats sponsored by churches from every denomination.
How Times Have Changed
Today about 90% of these doors have slammed shut. It is not just indifference, it is outright hostility towards topics that a few years ago generated great enthusiasm. Yes, there are small pockets of interest that remain but opportunities continue to shrink.

We are now in the days of 2 Peter 3:3: The mocking and scoffing generation as to end-time events. We are in a time when Israel has been so maligned that even within evangelicalism, she is seen as an “apartheid occupier” more than God’s Chosen People. Anti-Israel sentiment is global. Anti-Semitism is raging. Entire denominations are engaging in the Boycott, Divest, Sanction Movement that harms Israel economically.

If I were to still make my living by visiting churches across America tapping into these very same topics, I would be out of business.
 
How Did This Happen?
I’ve reported on Pastor Tom Hughes’ excellent article before about church indifference to eschatology. He pastors the Calvary Chapel 412 Church in San Jacinto, CA.  Tom writes that many pastors refuse to touch the topics of Bible prophecy and Israel because (1) They don’t understand it; (2) They fear offending members; (3) They are concerned about scaring people; (4) They fear losing the tithes if they talk about end-time events; (5) They are afraid of being identified with the “loony fringe” such as Harold Camping.

Consequently, 90% of our church pulpits today are totally silent on the good news that the King is coming. 

 
The Cry of the Young: Social Justice!!
 
As a young person, I loved these topics. Bible prophecy ignited my spiritual life which was slipping into complacency. My trip to Israel at age 30, plus my Jewish heritage, allowed me to have an all-new worldview that was actually Israel-centric because the Bible is Israel-centric!
The Pre-Trib Research Center has an excellent article written by Dr. James Showers on the eroding evangelical support for Israel.  He addresses one major area that is problematic: Young people are more troubled by injustice than they are inspired by Bible prophecy. They perceive some injustice and consider the “occupation” of the Palestinian territories. They have bought into the propaganda that Israel is an abuser of the Palestinians. I will list the Pied Pipers who have taught them this in a moment.
He suggests that the old adage that we support Israel “because the Bible tells me so” is over.  As a result, there is a trend among younger people to leave the evangelical nest previous young adults occupied to fit into their new postmodern worldview. Postmodern/Emergent leaders only reinforce this as across-the-board they are anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian, pro-Islam.
 
He accurately states that young adult evangelical events such as the Justice Conference, Empowered 21 and Catalyst have become pulpits for pro-Palestinian groups to come in the name of peace and blame the lack of peace on Israel. The Justice Conference emphasizes Leftist politics and features the likes of Marxist Cornell West. The annual Catalyst event will not have one Israel-friendly or prophecy-oriented representative.
 
Evangelicals Who Influence
We expect the postmoderns and the religious Left to distort truth, but in the last 20 years, evangelicals have been in the forefront of discouraging believers on these topics. I will now name some names that will cause many to unsubscribe from these emails. I am not attacking these individuals. I am just reporting on what they say.
Popular blogger Tim Challies wrote back on January 31 that there are seven “false teachers” in the church today. One category of false teacher he labels as “the Speculator.” He says that, “Today, as in every age, the ‘Speculator’ obsesses about end-times and somehow his failed predictions dissuade neither himself nor his followers.”
 
Dr. John Piper wrote in 2002 and again in 2014, “Israel has no warrant to a present experience of divine privilege when she is not keeping the covenant with God. Israel has no divine right to be in the land of promise when she is breaking the covenant of promise. For now, the people are at enmity with God in rejecting the gospel of Jesus Christ, their Messiah.”
Lynne Hybels, wife of Willow Creek’s Bill Hybels, has been an outspoken proponent of Palestinian issues and a prominent critic of Israel’s wall of partition. This was built some years ago to stop the slaughter of innocent Israelis by the Palestinians. She states, “I believe that the ongoing military occupation of the West Bank and the continuing blockade of Gaza is a violation of human rights; as such, it deeply harms the security, freedom, and dignity of both peoples.”
First, she states she is both “pro-Israel and pro-Palestine,” but then she suggests there be a one-state solution. She is deceived thinking that the Palestinians want to live in a peaceful co-existence with Israel. Her one-state solution would only be for the Palestinians. Hybels softened her tone after a visit to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial.
Pastor Brian Brodersen, son-in-law of Calvary Chapel’s founder Chuck Smith, recently told Calvary Chapel pastors to avoid the “gloom and doom” of eschatology. Calvary Chapel may be the last denomination in the world that has maintained an eternal perspective with an emphasis on end-time issues. Now they are encouraged to dump the topic and cater to younger people.
Pastor Rick Warren writes in his Purpose Driven Life book, “When the disciples wanted to talk about prophecy, Jesus switched the conversation to evangelism. He wanted them to concentrate on their mission in the world. Jesus said in essence, ‘The details of my return are none of your business. What is your business is the mission I have given you. Focus on that.’ If you want Jesus to come back sooner, focus on fulfilling your mission, not figuring out prophecy.” (See pages 285-286)
Author and columnist Jim Fletcher reached out to Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. He asked him about his views on eschatology and Israel. Moore declined and later blocked Fletcher on Twitter.
I have previously written that the Bible Answer Man, Hank Hanegraaff, states often on his call-in radio program that God’s Chosen People are only Christians. He says God is not a land-broker and suggests Israel does not belong to the Jews. Hank says the Rapture is “nonsense” and is forced into the biblical text. His listeners have had a nearly 30-year diatribe of error in these areas. Many have been turned off on these issues for life.
Space does not permit me to quote many other leading evangelicals and evangelical organizations who take negative positions on these topics. World Vision is just one organization that has been anti-Israel for decades. They were recently caught funneling their humanitarian funds to Hamas though they denied it.
Postmoderns and The Religious Left
 
Jim Fletcher also writes about leftists like Shane Claiborne. Fletcher writes, “Typically pro-Palestinian activists like Shane Claiborne portray Israelis as Nazi-like oppressors of the downtrodden Palestinians. It’s all a toxic stew of political and religious claptrap designed to turn more Millennials against the Jewish state.”
Every other year the patriarchs of the religious Left such as Jim Wallis and Tony Campolo, as well as ardent anti-Israel speakers and writers such as Wheaton’s Gary Burge and the U.K.’s Stephen Sizer, gather at the Christ at the Checkpoint conference for a solemn assembly of Israel-bashing. Lynne Hybels is also a frequent speaker at this pretty shameful event.
Emergent Church leaders are far more interested in yoking with Rome than considering the things to come or looking at Israel-related issues. This is preparing them to receive a counterfeit Christ.
Dispensationalism Declines
 
Eschatology and pro-Israel sentiment have always found a home within Dispensationalism. Twentieth Century teachers John Walvoord, Dwight Pentecost, Tim LaHaye, Hal Lindsey, Chuck Missler, Mark Hitchcock, Ron Rhodes, Dave Reagan, Thomas Ice, Ed Hindson, and many more, have educated millions.
 
The rise of Amillennialism, Preterism, Dominion/Kingdom Now Theologies — and what often comes with them, Replacement Theology — are crowding out Dispensationalism. Dr. Jim Showers says, “Dispensationalism has become a dirty word in many corners of Christian higher education.”
Showers continues, “The next generation of ministry leaders, at best, sees no value in studying future prophecy and, at worst, views it with disfavor or as something to be avoided entirely.” He suggests even those who hold to Dispensationalism and a Christian Zionist view of Israel, born out of a literal interpretation of the Bible, are distancing themselves from these topics.
At a time in history when headlines are at best maddening and bleak, the very theologies that make sense of them are declining in favor of theologies that fill pews and offering plates.
This ministry encourages you to tell the inconvenient truth as it concerns our times no matter how unpopular it makes you. God will honor you some day.
But the conclusion here is that the days are gone when
to be an evangelical Christian was nearly synonymous with being pro-Israel and pro-prophecy. It’s a new day and not a happy one. Yes, the Bible states that Israel will be on her own someday (Zechariah 12:3), but watching the process unfold remains heartbreaking.
In spite of this, the King is still coming, stage-setting signs are escalating, a trumpet is about to sound, the Church will vanish, and the hoofbeats of the Four Horsemen will be heard in the distance.
Let your voice be heard!

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Shepherds’ Conference 2017

“We preach Christ” was the theme of this year’s Shepherds’ Conference.  Over 4500 men from 67 countries gathered for four days of preaching, fellowship, and singing at Grace Community Church in Los Angeles. Speakers included John MacArthur, Albert Mohler, Ligon Duncan, Steve Lawson, Mark Dever, Stephen Nichols, Paul Washer, Tom Pennington, Phil Johnson and many others. The messages they delivered were related to who Christ is and why He must be the focus of pastoral preaching. The podcasts are now available on GTY’s website.   View article →