Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Pray For Them; Don’t Prey On Them

I was pre-Christian for the first twenty years of my life. I was around a lot of Christians. I had Christian friends and Christian members of my extended family. I was even in and out of a lot of churches (sometimes I even got paid to be in church, playing in various orchestras and such). Among my relationships with Christians, there were those in which I felt like I was prey.

We should definitely pray for our pre-Christian friends… but we should not prey on them.

Kevin was a coworker and friend of mind for a few years, a few years before I came to faith. He was a student at a local Baptist Bible College. I think in those days they had around 1,000 students at an unaccredited ministry-training school associated with First Baptist in Hammond, led by Pastor Jack Hyles.

They took very seriously the command to “Come out from them and be separate” (1 Corinthians 6:17). Actually, since to this day their doctrinal statements proclaim their exclusive allegiance to the King James Version, it should be: “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing.” They were separate in the way they dressed and talked and associated with people. It was a big church (several thousand) before mega churches were common. They pretty much kept to themselves, unless they were soul winning. They invented the “bus ministry”… at one point they were sending buses into four states to pick up kids and bring them to Sunday school; they were serious… and in some ways it was really impressive.

But here is the thing… I got the feeling from anyone I would come into contact with from that school or church that I was a target. From the most incidental contact with someone from First Baptist, to the close working relationship and friendship I had with Kevin… I felt like prey… a target… a name that might be turned in to fulfill some quota if I would just get saved. I had the feeling that any act of friendship or kindness, any helpful favor or word, was all targeted at getting me saved. I felt like prey.

I don’t think Kevin and his coreligionists did any harm to me… but neither did they do any good.

On the other hand, there were those who cared for me, were genuine friends to me, and prayed for me. There is no doubt in my mind that the way they demonstrated the Gospel made the difference in my life.

Here’s what I am saying… we simply must have pre-Christian friends if we are going to be fulfilling God’s work, if we’re going to be involved in His mission. We ought to be purposeful about building friendships with those who do not yet believe. And they can’t be merely friends for the purpose of getting them saved, merely friends for our purpose. Especially in our day (time and culture) we need to allow people into our hearts and homes so that they can truly see the Gospel in action. We need to be friends and have friends… pre-Christian friends who we pray for, not prey on.

I spoke along these lines last Sunday. To hear more, you can listen online at  

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Listen to Yourself

I review by listening to my sermons from time to time. We make it pretty easy to review sermons at Pleasant Bay; you can find them at

There are two really good reasons for me to go back and listen:
  1. The Good Ones, and 
  2. The Bad Ones
When I go back and listen, I usually find that my own assessment of how things went on Sunday isn’t precisely accurate. This week, for example, I didn’t feel like I made my points very well… but after listening to it today, I found that it was way better than I remembered. There are other weeks when I feel like I really delivered the goods, only to find that I wasted some opportunities when I listen critically later in the week.

I don’t go back and listen to every sermon I preach or presentation I make… but I try to listen to the ones that I feel are a bit better than usual and the ones that I feel are a bit worse than usual. When I listen to the bad ones, I almost always find that it was better than I remembered, and that builds my confidence for next time. When I listen critically to the good ones, I almost always identify something that I can do better, usually both in the content and the delivery.

I encourage you to listen to yourself from time to time. Maybe you are a preacher like me and listening to a recording is fairly simple. But maybe you’ll need to be a bit more creative about how you go back and review your work. Maybe a lot of your work is written (such as emails)… take a look in your sent-items folder and pull a few old emails to review (pick some good ones and some bad ones). Maybe you make presentations or run meetings and they are not usually recorded… make an effort to make a recording (use an app on your phone; it doesn’t need to be studio-quality). I think if you’ll make an effort to review your work, especially focusing on the good ones and the bad ones, you’ll learn important lessons.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Why Don't Christians Want to Die?

I have friends who are soul sleepers; they come from theological traditions that hold the view that death brings a period of nothingness until the resurrection. I believe they are wrong, and they believe that I’m wrong; we both know that these sorts of things should not divide us as Christians. 

While we do not argue much about such things, we do talk from time to time, and I appreciate the conversation. I actually think that the soul sleepers have a better perspective on death than most Christians.  

Pop Christianity seems to hold a view that death immediately transports us to a heavenly paradise. The images include everything from white-robed, cloud-sitting harp players to mansions on golden hilltops.  

If that is the case, then why don’t Christians want to die? With a belief that there is something spectacular just on the other side of the door, why shouldn’t we bust through that door as soon as possible?  

Here’s where the soul sleepers have it right. Death should not be welcomed.  

Pop Christianity undervalues the resurrection, and thus overvalues what death holds for Christians pre-resurrection (before the Second Coming of Jesus).

I spoke from the beginning of 2 Corinthians 5 last Sunday. This passage of Scripture clarifies: 

  1. The ultimate hope, prize, and goal of Christians is eternity in resurrected bodies suited for the work of serving and worshipping God forever. 
  2. Our present lives matter, and, for believers, the productivity of these lives will be judged (for commendation not condemnation). 
  3. If we die before Jesus returns, while we will be with the Lord, we will not yet be clothed with resurrected bodies (naked as Paul says). 

We long for #1… but that is out of our hands. #3 is a wonderful promise for believers. But #2 is the life of purpose that outranks #3.

I suppose we might think that the pop Christianity view of life after death is harmless… but I’m not so sure. For believers such a view may undervalue the importance of this life; it really is no good to be so heavenly minded that we are of no earthly good. And for pre-believers… such a flimsy view of eternity and undervalued view of this life could be hurdles keeping people from the Gospel. I think our view of eternity matters… a lot.

To hear more of what I had to say about this, in the talk titled In Between, checkout the podcast at