Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Re-Issue of ‘What Pastors Wish Church Members Knew’ May 31, 2017

Almost every church is struggling today.  No one feels the weight of the struggle more than pastors.  Most pastors have truly given their lives to service in the Lord’s work and to see minimal amounts of fruit produced often brings deep sorrow.  Further, to see the petty things many church members worry about and how childish adults can act at times only contributes to frustration.  The research done by Denise George into these matters is insightful, but it is of little value if only pastors know about it.  Five years ago, after reading her book, I realized laymen needed to become aware of the facts George presents in her book What Pastors Wish Church Members Knew.


Allen Raynor Weblog: “What Pastors Wish Church Members Knew”

(Aug. 9, 2012)


            The view from the other side of the pulpit is sometimes misunderstood.  Pastors have had the privilege of seeing things from the vantage point of both laymen, and as pastors.  Unfortunately the way things look from the congregation side is quite different than from the pastor side.  Pastors face challenges that can hardly be imagined by most church members.  The deeper a person gets into leadership positions in the church, the more they are able to see what the pastor faces; however, even then it is but a glimpse.

            Both internal and external pressures are affecting pastors today like never before.  In her 2009 book What Pastors Wish Church Members Knew: Helping People Understand and Appreciate Their Leaders, author Denise George writes from the unique position of being a pastor’s wife, a pastor’s mother, a pastor’s daughter, and a pastor’s granddaughter.  Seeing and processing pastoral ministry from a variety of perspectives has equipped her to write concerning issues that pastors face.  However, rather than merely writing about her own observations and experiences she has, through extensive research, let the pastors tell in their own words what they face.  The book is a collection of responses to survey questions gauging the gamut of life and work as a pastor.  This book needs to be read by every church-member in America for the purpose of gaining a better understanding of the reality their pastors face each day.  In so doing congregations can better pray for, encourage, and understand their leaders.

            In this current cultural climate pastors feel enormous pressure.  George quotes Kevin McGhee who wrote in the December 21, 2007 issue of The Examiner, “Dwindling church attendance is affecting many churches today, and the situation often causes today’s church pastors great spiritual angst.  A recent study of 350,000 evangelical churches in America showed that four out of five have either plateaued or are declining and no county in America has a larger church population than it did ten years ago.  The study also showed that a ‘significant percentage of those who have attended church in recent years are either ‘stalled’ in their spiritual growth or ‘dissatisfied’ with their current church.’”

            Pastors, all around the nation, respond to question after question posed by George.  The list covers family life, marriage, parenting, hurt, pain, victory, defeat, success, calling, hopes, dreams, finances, disappointments, etc.  Many pastors share the ways they have been hurt by members of the same congregations they love so dearly.  They recall blatant lies being spread about them, their motives being questioned, their call being questioned, even their commitments to Christ.  They recall times of being attacked for perceived shortcomings only minutes or seconds from stepping into the pulpit to preach.  They recall times of being challenged and/or demeaned as they greet people upon exiting the sanctuary after the Sunday sermon.  Many pastors fear going on vacation believing they could be fired while away, knowing of other pastors to whom it has actually happened.  Many recall feeling pressure knowing that someone is seemingly always trying to get them to bend rules and policies in their favor all the while expecting strict enforcement of the same rules and policies for others.  Many pastors shared the hurt their family had experienced because of the way their families were treated.  Pastor’s kids, many shared, were assessed differently than the other kids of the church.  Many pastors shared how that while most of their congregations lived comfortably they were expected to live on a shoestring and apparently be happy and content doing so along with their wife and kids.  Many shared the hurt they had repeatedly experienced as person after person came to them with problems and issues seeking forgiveness and understanding from the pastor and even the church, but when the pastor had any type of perceived failing there was strong reluctance to forgive him or a member of his family.  Pastor after pastor lamented the fact they seemed to have so little time for prayer, reading, study, and sermon preparation as other demands of a pastor seemed to always pull them in different directions, yet they are expected to have a fresh Word from God each time they step into the pulpit.  Many pastors shared the hurt from feeling they had poured their life into a church only to be thrown under the bus.

            Interestingly enough, despite all the hurt and negative aspects to this book, there are many positives as well.  Even though many have felt the sharp sting of ministry many times, the vast majority of pastors still felt a great deal of satisfaction in their labor and were quick to appeal to a calling God had placed upon their lives.  Near the end of the book, George quotes one pastor who sums up the hopes and dreams of every pastor: “I dream of leading and pastoring a group of people who embrace spiritual gifts, their own calls to ministry, and start taking kingdom-living more seriously than they take their own comforts, likes, and preferences.  I also dream of doing team ministry with loyal, loving friends who also love Jesus and his ways more than anything else – people I can really do life with, even when things are hard.” (165)

            Truly, pastors would not do what they do for long if they did not sense a much higher calling, but the people of God can come alongside their leaders and make the labor of ministry much more enjoyable and less stressful for the pastor and his family.  This book gives tremendous insight to the struggles faced by pastors.  It is a much needed read for all Christian laymen.


In Christ,


Dr. Allen Raynor, Pastor

Thursday, May 25, 2017

“Light, Darkness, and Terror in Manchester”, May 25, 2017

          Our hearts go out to those killed in Monday’s terror attack at a concert in Manchester, England.  It is very difficult for the average person to understand why people would do things like this to other people.  Those coming from a Judeo-Christian worldview are not going to really grasp it at all apart from understanding evil and the place from which evil originates.

         Terrorism seems to violate everything Christians have been taught both explicitly and implicitly from childhood.  Believers in Christ are completely aware that actions of this sort violate all Christian teaching and practice.  Jesus taught to treat others in the manner you yourself wish to be treated.  Also, that love is the fulfillment of the law and that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves.  Believers in Christ often fall short of Gods glory, but there are clearly those in this world, operating and laboring on behalf of another god.

          The politically correct response to this latest barbarity is to say that most Muslims are peaceful, and do not condone such behavior.  That may or may not be true; however ex-Muslims, authors, and other experts on Islam have consistently maintained that today’s radical expressions of Islamic terrorism (I.S.I.S) are much more consistent with the actual words/teachings of the Koran and the life and beliefs of Islam’s founder Muhammad.   Are there really peaceful Muslims?  Yes, but we must conclude it is in spite of the teachings of the Koran rather than because of them.

          Christians are taught, and should believe, that Jesus is the Prince of Peace and that no true peace can be found anywhere but in Him.  Further, there will be no lasting peace among mankind until the millennial reign of Christ where all nations will be in submission to Him.  No treaty or accord will ever achieve lasting peace in the Middle East.

          Some Christians tend not to want to take the good news of Jesus to people who are seemingly convinced, confirmed, and at peace in another religion/faith.  But, Muslims have been deceived by the evil one – Satan.  Unless their eyes are opened to the truth of Scripture and they confess Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior they will face eternity in Hell.  Jesus could not have been more explicit when he said “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life; No man comes to the Father except through Me.”  (John 14:6)

           Islam is the epitome of works-based salvation and man trying to achieve it by his efforts.  There is no appeal to God’s grace in their religion, but instead attempts to try and impress their god.  The most ultimate expression comes in making an offering of themselves in the battle against the West.  They have it all backwards.  Satan has completely scrambled the truth and got them to believe lies.  It is Jesus Christ Who died for us so that we do not have to pay the penalty for our own sin, and furthermore we do not have to offer our life for Him in order to attain salvation.  Instead we are to present our bodies as a “living” sacrifice holy and acceptable unto Him (Rom. 12:1).  This is said to be the “reasonable” standard of service for us to give.

          Muslim men are promised 70 virgins when they die in jihad as, for instance, a suicide bomber.  Where do they get the guts to do such a thing even with a false hope imprinted on their minds?  When pieced together terrorism investigators have discovered, as it turns out, that many of these suicide bombers have visited strip clubs only hours before carrying out their gruesome acts.  They apparently had to get themselves hyped up and aroused sexually in order to find the pseudo-courage to give their life for the cause of jihad and Allah.  Interestingly the sacrifice is supposed to be for Allah, but evidence shows the “70 virgins” were more likely captivating their thoughts.  Contrast all of this with Scripture’s admonishment to flee youthful (immature) lusts.  Christians desire Heaven because Christ our Savior is there and the rewards we will receive are secondary to simply seeing our Savior’s face and bowing down before Him, the One Who has saved us by His amazing grace.  No such belief exists in Islam.  The desire/lust the concert terrorist bombers had on Monday will exist for all of eternity and will never be quenched.

          Hell in the Scripture is described as a place of unquenchable flames, unbridled desire, deep regret, all perpetually unfulfilled.  For all of eternity those in Hell will lust and desire for things to bring them comfort, but will never see it be fulfilled.  Suicide bombers are giving up their earthly lives in pursuit of a lie of Satan. 

          Scripture emphasizes greatly the importance of children and the special place they hold.  Jesus even said “of such (referring to children) is the kingdom of Heaven.”  Why would bombers target children at a concert as opposed to others, such as full-grown adults?  Ultimately, we can only speculate; however it would seem that each terrorist act has an aspect to it where the latest terrorist is trying to strike just a little more fear than the one before him.  They do not want people to feel safe at home, in public, or anywhere else.  Just like Satan himself, the terrorist seek to take away the peace that Jesus offers as a free gift; the peace that passes all understanding.

          The hope for all mankind is in the person and work of Jesus Christ.  No matter whether children or adults, Westerners or Easterners, male or female, the only hope of anyone is repentance from sin and receiving of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.


In Christ,


Dr. Allen Raynor

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Re-Issue of “The Heart of Worship"-May 10, 2017

          The following is a weblog I wrote and sent out 4 years ago this month in response to a phenomenon I had observed countless times.  People gather for a “worship” service to give praise to God, but there are any number of things that end up taking priority over their stated goal/task.  Many people really struggle to keep it from becoming all about them when it should be all about God and His glory!  The problem is likely not going away any time soon.


Allen Raynor Weblog: “The Heart of Worship”

(May 24, 2013)


          When you go to church do you worship?  Many, all-too-often, do not.  We know that merely setting in a pew, standing, singing, bowing, the closing of eyes during prayer, and listening to a sermon does not necessarily constitute worship.  These are merely tools to aid a process.  True worship can only take place in the heart and mind of the individual. 

          In worship we seek the presence of God.  We do not merely pay lip service to God or go through familiar motions and achieve genuine worship.  While many so-called “elements” associated with worship may be present, worship is not limited to use of these elements.  It transcends them all.  A.W. Tozer states, with characteristic bluntness, in his excellent book, Whatever Happened to Worship?  “The presence of God in our midst – bringing a sense of Godly fear and reverence – this is largely missing today.  You cannot induce it by soft organ music and light streaming through beautifully designed windows. You cannot induce it by any kind or any amount of mumbo-jumbo.”

          In Genesis 4 we read of Cain and Abel each bringing an offering before the Lord.  God accepted Abel’s offering, brought with a humble spirit, but rejected Cain’s offering brought with a haughty, presumptuous spirit.  Cain was angered because his offering was not acceptable to the Lord.  His anger betrayed the true condition of his heart.  Every week church-goers gather – some in the spirit of Abel, yet others unknowingly in the spirit of Cain.

          People who genuinely worship on Monday - Saturday have little trouble worshiping God at church on Sunday. Those who fail to worship God on those other six days of the week struggle to do so on Sunday.

          In order to achieve God’s acceptance in worship a person must really learn to be dependent on God day by day and live in the spirit of trust, thankfulness, and humility.  Tozer links together a failure at worship to overall failure of the work of the church.  He writes “It is a serious and tragic matter that a church can actually fail . . . The believers who remain will know that the glory has departed.  In Israel’s days of journeying, God gave the visible cloud by day and the fire by night as a witness and an evidence of His glory and constant protection.  If God was still giving the same signals of His abiding presence, I wonder how many churches would have the approving cloud by day and fire by night . . . The witness of God and of salvation and of eternal life is now just an uncertain sound.  The monument is there, but the church has failed.” (98- 99) It is difficult to imagine a church that is truly, genuinely, and unmistakably worshiping together, yet failing as a church.  Successful worship is the exercise of Godly obedience.  This is the expectation of a normal, New Testament believer.  Tozer asks the question “What kind of Christian should be considered a normal Christian? . . . Some people claim to be normal Christians when actually they mean they are nominal Christians.  My old dictionary gives this definition as one of the meanings of the word nominal:  ‘Existing in name only; not real or actual; hence so small, slight, or the like, as to be hardly worth the name.’  With that definition, those who know they are Christians in name only should never make the pretention of being ‘normal’ Christians.” (105)

          Many pastors are afraid to even preach on the subject of worship because many these days equate the whole concept of “worship” with music styles and they fear that feathers might get ruffled.  Further,  many pastors are perhaps unaware of how little actual worship is taking place when the church gathers for the event called, ironically, “worship!”  Tozer went on to say “Much of our thinking about worship reflects a willingness to exchange a high view of God’s eternity for a short-term concept called here-and-now.” We must always remember it is never to be about us, although to do so is an ever-present temptation.

          We are told unequivocally that we are to worship God in spirit and in truth.  We must want to worship the one true and living God from our depths.  Tozer writes, “The stark, tragic fact is that the efforts of many people to worship are unacceptable to God.  Without an infusion of the Holy Spirit there can be no true worship.  This is serious.  It is hard for me to rest peacefully at night knowing that millions of cultured, religious people are merely carrying on church traditions and religious customs and they are not actually reaching God at all.” (46)

          Worship should not just be “a” way of life for a believer but should be “the” way of life.  There simply is no other way.  God alone must be the object of our worship and praise and it should be a natural, daily outflow of our hearts which are saturated with an unquenchable affection for him.


In Christ,


Dr. Allen Raynor, Pastor


Thursday, May 4, 2017

Allen Raynor Weblog: “God’s Ideal For Marriage”-May 4, 2017


          My parents celebrate this week 50 years of marriage.  The reaching of this milestone has got me thinking more about marriage itself and what it means to have a long and fruitful commitment to one another.  Marriage has always meant life-long commitment from my vantage point.  I recognize I am in a very rare category in that my parents and both sets of my grandparents celebrated 50 years of marriage.  What seems normal to me and to my experience is sadly not very common today.

          I have heard more than one person say jokingly, ‘you would have to add up all my marriages to get to 50 years.’  It is true that unforeseen circumstances prevent some people from reaching this milestone; but it is also true that some of the circumstances preventing long marriages are avoidable.

          The secular world tends to see marriage in overly simplistic terms; therefore it is viewed as “easy come, easy go.”  The pain of a splitting up has been the subject of many country songs and has kept many counselors employed.  In a throw away culture, nothing tends to be valued as it should be and human relationships of every kind are no exception.  After being a pastor for 22 years and counseling with a lot of people struggling in their marriages and with many whose marriages have ended, I can unequivocally say the number one factor in marital struggles and marital endings is linked back to selfishness; selfishness, on the part of one partner or both.  Selfishness takes many different forms, but at its root it is putting the wants and desires of oneself first, at the expense of the other partner in the marriage.  This is why people have affairs, why they spend money they do not have, this is why they indulge in the appetites of the flesh such as excesses of alcohol, drugs, even food.  Pride tells people they can get away with what they are doing and that they even “deserve” the thing they desire, even if it looks or seems wrong.  The world’s way is Satan’s way.  Satan’s pride led to his fall long ago and he gets others to fall because of that same problem of giving place to pride.

          A good marriage has God at its centerpiece.  Why would anyone not want it to be so?  God invented marriage and God knows the best formula for a long and healthy marriage.  When Jesus is Lord of a home and Lord over the lives of the individuals living in that home then a healthy marriage is the outgrowth.  But if pride, self-indulgent behavior, narcissism, arrogance, etc. enter in, the marriage becomes more and more jeopardized.  Satan has many sneaky ways to enter in, and often by the time a couple figures out what is going on, it is too late. 

          Satan loves to mock God at every turn and when he can harm mankind, God’s prize creation, he does so with glee.  Destroying marriages are one of his specialties therefore he goes after them with gusto.  He salivates when he sees an opportunity to drive a wedge between couples and turn their relationship into a tug-o-war.  In so doing he makes a laughing stock of people made in the image of God, individuals for which Christ died and shed His blood, and the institution of marriage itself which pictures Christ’s relationship with His church.

          It is easy to fall for Satan’s lies and people fall for them each and every day.  A good marriage is not easy, but takes work.  Satan wants you to be lazy when it comes to marriage and when the marriage fails to blame your partner or perhaps even God.  Marriages most commonly fail because the person in the mirror does not look to the author of the Bible. When marriage is done God’s way, there is nothing better.  When a couple can celebrate one another, their children, and most of all, the God they serve then all is well! 


In Christ,


Dr. Allen Raynor, Pastor