Thursday, July 27, 2017

A Layman’ Guide to Helping Your Pastor Succeed - July 27, 2017

There seems to be a perception in church life that basically a pastor will succeed or fail independent of what a congregation does or does not do.  It is almost as though he swoons into a church at the call of the people and either works wonders or he does not and is considered to be a failure.  First of all, the ways we usually measure success and failure in a ministry are totally bogus and are rooted in the business model which has totally captured our understanding of what is, and what is not deemed “success.”  The business model looks for full buildings, full treasuries, and satisfied customers.  This perception is only bolstered by the advent of the mega-church.  It is perceived that every church in America is either (a) a mega-church or (b) a mega-church want-a-be.  I hardly believe that is actually the case.

          Let me let you in on a little secret.  A pastor’s level of external success at a church is directly related to the degree by which he can motivate the congregation to do the work of ministry.  There is a sense in which if he cannot get people to attend, give, serve, disciple, worship, etc. then he has failed; providing that he makes the case that doing these things are of necessity.  There is also a sense that, as far as how God measures success, if he tells his people the truth and does so in a loving and caring manner then he is a success.  I heard once of a track coach who had highly successful track teams, going to state and competing on a very high level.  Interestingly enough the coach of this team was confined to a wheelchair.  His success came not in his ability to run himself, or participate in the field events, but in his ability to motivate and teach the fundamentals of track and field.  A pastor is in a somewhat similar position.  The pastor is handicapped in that he cannot go into your office and invite people to church, but you are in the position to do so.  He cannot go into the classrooms at your school, but you can.  He can hardly go up and down the streets of your neighborhood, but you can cultivate those relationships with your neighbors.  He can hardly go to your family reunion and share Christ, but you can.  He can hardly bear witness among the parents of your son’s baseball team but you can. 

          When you fail to bear witness for Christ and invite people to church, the pastor’s perceived success at a church is hindered.  When you never quite get around to sharing or ministering the whole body suffers and is less that it has the potential to be.  When you fail to give of your financial means, the whole body suffers and it is often the pastor who gets the blame for the tight budget.

          The pastor has to wear a great many hats as he leads your church, some of which are night and day different than the other ones.  Think about it – a pastor is expected to be the most kind, helpful, and sympathetic individual in the church when there is a need, yet turn around and be like Jesus cleansing the temple the next minute when that sort of response is called for.  He is expected to explain the plan of salvation and baptism to a 6 year old with clarity then turn around and explain it to the self-proclaimed atheist with a PhD from U. Cal. Berkley!  He is expected to delivery the fruits of a week of in-depth study from the pulpit on Sunday morning, yet have ministered faithfully all week, done counseling, visit the hospitals, talk with those who dropped by, and drop everything and talk on the phone when someone calls.  He is expected to have wonderful daily quiet times, spend hours each week in prayer, read the latest books, be on top of current events, be a model husband and father, attend community events, take calls anytime day or night, and be available for lunch or coffee at a moment’s notice. In order to help your pastor succeed you must be able to understand his world a little bit better.

          You need to ask and answer the question – “What can I do to help?”  Over 22 years of pastoral ministry, spanning 6 churches, I have done all of the following, many of these multiple times.  See if you can pick out anything on the list you could do to give the pastor more time to do other things he desperately needs to do: prepared sermons, prepared lessons, wrote a weblog,  wrote and compiled the church newsletter, prepared PowerPoint presentations, done marital counseling, led persons to Christ, engaged in discipleship, wrote letters and postcards, visited the hospital, prayed with someone, met with salespersons, ran errands, picked up office supplies, taken out the trash, wiped off tables, done the dishes, vacuumed the carpet, interior and exterior painting, mowed the lawn, watered flowers, swept tile floors, cleaned out closets, patched a leaky room, trimmed trees, planted flowers and shrubbery, watered flowers and shrubbery, laid tile, sharpened lawnmower blades, changed the oil in the lawnmower, hung drywall, fixed running toilets, cleaned out the refrigerator, repaired guttering, spot treated carpet stains, hung doors, led the singing, taken and accompanied youth on outings, taken youth to camp, prepared meals for those in need, given money, changed light bulbs, gone on mission trips, helped persons move, invited people to church, cleaned out the oven, stained and varnished woodwork, built shelves, replaced wall switches and outlets, replaced faucets, spread gravel, removed fence posts, built retaining walls with railroad ties, helped with benevolence needs, washed windows, cleaned up water damage with a shop vac, laundered towels used in baptisms, filled baptistery, unloaded dumpsters to lighten the weight, unlocked the doors for repairmen, cleaned toilets, mopped floors, watched children, installed playground equipment, cleaned out fence rows, picked up trash in the yard and in the building, set toilets, removed stumps, changed the church sign, took van in for repairs, stacked chairs and tables, moved furniture, made copies, recruited volunteers, poured cement, stuffed envelopes, addressed envelopes, did strategic planning for the church, performed funerals, ministered to the bereaved, answered the phone, etc., etc., etc.  Do you get the picture?  The vast majority of the things that any pastor often finds himself having to do, could be done by others as the shared responsibility of the church body.  Is there anything on the above list that you might be able to do?

          Perhaps your greatest contribution is in helping with the little things that will help allow the pastor to devote more time to study and prayer.  The very reason deacons were chosen in the early church was so that the leaders of the church could devote more time to prayer and the ministry of the Word.  The church of Jesus Christ is best served when the body functions as our Lord intended and we all do our part.  There is not only a job, but a true ministry for every person in the local church.  Some do much while some do little.  Whatever we do, let us do it mightily as unto the Lord!


In Christ


Dr. Allen Raynor, Pastor

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Re-Issue of “The Urgency of Christian Warfare”-July 20, 2017

     I began reading a book a couple of days ago by Ray Stedman titled Spiritual Warfare: How to Stand Strong in the Faith.  Stedman emphasizes the fact that the enemy never wants us to see things the way they really are.  In other words, he wants to hide the truth or reality.  All around us a war is raging and we are not acting like soldiers or as even though there was a war in progress!  That needs to change and change fast.  We need to be intentional, determined, and ready to stand up for God’s truth in these last days as a faithful soldier of Christ our King.  Three years ago this summer I wrote the following weblog about the need for this urgency.


Allen Raynor Weblog: The Urgency of Christian Warfare

(June 5, 2014)


          Throughout the passing decades of the last half-century the church has, quite ironically, battled itself as much or more than it has battled the world.  Frequently, rather than engaging the world and confronting the world, the church has instead often taken up arms against itself!   Strong opinions about a variety of issues have led to deep divisions, animosity, and even church splits.  This effectual “turning against one another” has been cause for Satan to break out the celebratory champagne.

          Paul wrote to the Ephesian church in 6:12 “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Petty battles albeit defending deeply held convictions may have felt like spiritual warfare to those involved, but frequently these engagements have served to drain the church of its spiritual, emotional, and physical energy and sometimes it’s monetary resources.  Not to mention, caused many pastors sleepless nights.  And it has certainly been cause for delight to the enemy of our souls.  Quite simply, believers in recent decades in particular, have struggled to identify the real enemy and the real battlefield worthy of their attention.

          Much of the language found in the New Testament is of a militant nature.  Believers are often referenced as soldiers.  Warfare is a common overarching theme and words like battle, fight, and defeat are regularly used.  The real enemy is Satan and this worldly, fleshly system he superintends. 

          Believers are called to be warriors in this conflict– not spectators.  Further they are expected to properly identify the true enemy and his tactics.  A warrior is “A brave or experienced soldier or fighter.”  It takes skill, resolve, and determination to defeat any enemy.  Our opponent is formidable and should never be taken lightly by the church of the Lord Jesus.

Sabine Baring-Gould wrote the great hymn “Onward Christian Soldiers” in 1865.  (Follow this link to listen to hymn:  )  The hymn has served as something of a “call to arms” for Christians engaged in the battle for Christ in this world.  Debates raged in the 1980s among some denominations as to whether to even include this hymn in new editions of hymnals citing the violent language and militaristic tone. 

          When Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt met in August 1941 on the battleship HMS Prince of Wales to agree on the Atlantic Charter, a church service was held for which Churchill chose the hymns. He chose "Onward, Christian Soldiers" and afterwards made a radio broadcast explaining this choice.  He said “We sang ‘Onward, Christian Soldiers’ indeed, and I felt that this was no vain presumption, but that we had the right to feel that we were serving a cause for the sake of which a trumpet has sounded from on high. When I looked upon that densely packed congregation of fighting men of the same language, of the same faith, of the same fundamental laws, of the same ideals . . . it swept across me that here was the only hope, but also the sure hope, of saving the world from measureless degradation.”  (,_Christian_Soldiers)  While this may have been highly appropriate for this occasion, the ultimate cause of freedom and of nations is not as great as the cause of Christ.  Churchill and Roosevelt were primarily concerned with earthly battles and earthly victories, but Christians have a much greater cause for which to fight.

          Warfare is never as glamorous as some romanticized depictions present.  Paul wrote to Timothy in 2 Tim. 2:3 “You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.”  A soldier’s life is far from easy.  There are certainly plenty of hardships, but Paul admonished Timothy that he must endure.  Unfortunately, to look at the attitude and approach of many professing believers, one might easily get the impression the war had long since ended.  Charles Thomas “C. T.” Studd (1860-1931) the great British cricketer and missionary who served in the Belgian Congo captured somewhat of the urgency when he famously wrote “Some want to live within the sound of a church or chapel bell; I want to run a rescue shop within a yard of hell.”  Studd also wrote a ditty that gave, rather tongue and cheek, a depiction of how some so casually approached the great daily battles.  With words meant to be sung to the tune of the famous hymn “Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus,” he wrote “Get up, get up for Jesus, ye soldiers of the Cross, a lazy Sunday morning surely means harm and loss; the Church of God is calling; in duty be not slack; you cannot fight the good fight while lying on your back.”

          Many Christians today have lost sight of who the real enemy is and are not keenly aware of what he is actually doing.  The second stanza of “Onward Christian Soldiers” optimistically states “We are not divided; all one body we; one in hope and doctrine, one in charity.”  Sadly, we could only wish those words were true in our times.  We are deeply divided across denominations, within our own denomination, and even many times within our own local churches.  An army battling within its own ranks is music to the ears of the enemy.  While many argue over issues, preferences and other minutia that will not even exist in a few years, the enemy is advancing and the church is often in retreat.  Before we are going to be effective soldiers we must first realize there is a war raging and too many believers are not carrying out their assignments.


In Christ,


Dr. Allen Raynor, Pastor

Thursday, July 6, 2017

“Longing for The Kingdom of Heaven”--July 6, 2017

The Bible ends with Jesus’ promise to return and John, the inspired author of the book of Revelation, saying “Amen” (It is true) “Even so come Lord Jesus!”  The exciting, compelling, overwhelming message that is, in its totality, “The Scripture” ends on the highest of notes. Believers are promised, by the Lord Himself that He will return; not just “sometime” but “quickly.”  His return should always be viewed as imminent.  We have John’s anxious, expectant response as “Yes!”  Indeed Lord “Come back quickly!”  John genuinely longed to see his Lord again.

          Fast-Forward to the year 2017.  The majority of people are busy seeking pleasure and satisfaction in the things of earth.  Their pursuits are, most often, self-honoring and God-denying.  Paul gave a blunt and ominous description of the last days as he wrote to Timothy.  He said “But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come; for men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.” (2 Tim. 3:1-4)

          The pursuit of the things of earth is by no means limited to merely unbelievers.  It is profoundly true of those who claim to be followers of Christ.  Life is more comfortable now than it has ever been.  Subconsciously it almost seems as though many have moved beyond their “felt need” for Heaven.  In his book The Real Heaven, author Chip Ingram illustrates this idea as he poses the question “If you were given the choice of going to Heaven today or waiting ten years, how many of you would choose waiting the ten years?” (Chip Ingram; The Real Heaven; 62)

          The “earthly” mindset, which is so prevalent, takes many different forms.  But, make no mistake, it affects our marriages, how we parent, how we work, how we witness, how we interact with others, and how we worship.  Further, it affects what we do in our free time, how we talk and what we talk about.  Repeatedly we are told in the New Testament this world is not our home.  Paul wrote to the Philippian church that “Our citizenship is in Heaven . . . “ (3:20).  Why then do so many believers live in such a way so as to bear testimony to the on-looking world that even they as Christians do not really believe Heaven is actually better than this broken world?

          Many these days, are so contented with their lives here on earth they only see Heaven as some sort of back-up plan or “Plan B” since they know they cannot do what they really want – live forever here in this world.  This is largely a result and a sign of our wealth and comfort.  In days and centuries past this was not the case.  People lived hard, and often painful, lives.  The comfort and relief they longed for was not realistically attainable in this life and they knew it would only come in the next.  You see this reflected in the writings of saints of the past.  You see it reflected in the hymns once widely sung by the church.  It is particularly clear in some of the old negro spirituals where the oppressed longed for relief from the oppressor only in the coming of their Lord and they longed for His return with great anticipation.

          There are a lot of believers who have grown so contented with this world and their lives on earth that they have only a minor interest in Heaven or the Lord’s return.  One prominent voice of the “Prosperity Gospel” movement said, while seated on a piece of furniture resembling a throne, that “Even if Christianity were not true, it is a very good life.”  What an amazing statement!  What a minimalizing of the life to come! This person’s statement may be true for them, as one who is lavishly wealthy, but I wonder how First-Century Christians being martyred would have felt about this statement.  What about those enslaved in American prior to the Civil War?  What about those living through the Bubonic Plague or “Black Death” of 1340s and 1350s Europe which killed an estimated 25 million people?  Do you think they longed for more of this earth or rather for Heaven?  What about nearly all the generations of Christians in the past prior to the late 20th and early 21st Century where wealth is flowing; how might they have longed for Heaven much more than we do today?  Even the poorest among us have multiple luxuries that kings and queens of the past never knew.  We have trouble longing for Heaven because, to a large extent, we have erected a pseudo-heaven here on this earth, mainly in our minds that keeps us from longing for the real Heaven.

          The minimalizing of the longing for Heaven has more far-reaching implications than simply how we feel about Heaven.  It also drags down our view of “resurrection.”  Resurrection is really not that precious to one who longs to keep on living in what Paul called “This body of death” (Rom. 7:24).  In writing to the Corinthian church about the promise of resurrection he laments how sickening the notion that our only hope would be in this life.  He says “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.” (1 Cor. 15:19)

          If we fail to long for the Lord’s return there are only a couple of reasons why.  Perhaps we do not really believe He is going to return.  This would certainly characterize unbelievers.  But there is a second reason that I believe is very common among believers; that is many believers have grown content with the luxury of this life.  They leave their comfortable churches in their comfortable cars and travel to comfortable homes and rest in comfortable chairs until time to go to their comfortable beds.  Quite frankly it is not as easy to long for the Lord’s return while lying in your lazy-boy in front of your big-screen television or lying on your 800 dollar mattress as it is out clearing a field with an ax, plowing all day with a mule, experiencing the death of your wife in childbirth, seeing a friend die from a simple infection, or knowing first-hand the horrors of war.

          The second coming of Christ is heavily tied to his first coming.  When a church partakes of the Lord’s Supper, for instance, there are three 3 things that are in view; the past, the present, and the future.  We “remember” the shed blood of Jesus and His atoning sacrifice on the cross.  We consider in the present our lives as believers and “examine ourselves” in light of His work on our behalf.  Finally, we think about His coming again.  In partaking of the Supper, we are said to be “Proclaiming the Lord’s death until He comes.”  Much like baptism, the other ordinance of the church, we are making a statement to the world that we follow Christ and we are anxiously awaiting His return.  One of the strongest statements Christians can make in this highly flawed and decaying world is that this place is not our home.  We anxiously wait to be made perfect in Christ.  There is no salvation in the temporal things of the earth, only in the eternal work of Christ on the cross and through His glorious resurrection. 

          Many believers hinder their true witness when they get hung up on highly temporal and earthly things such as election results, battles with each other over music styles in churches, and trying to right all wrongs by even well-intentioned use of social media.

          Everything in this world will leave a Christian hungry and thirsty and wanting more.  If you find satisfaction in this world to the point you secretly wish the second coming be delayed, you have a very serious problem in your relationship with Christ.  The glories of Heaven are so much better and higher.  No true believer would secretly long to stay in a broken, sin-saturated, Godless world where Satan is running wild.  A true believer longs to escape the presence of sin and the brokenness it leaves in its wake and to be with Christ.  Paul gave the only potential defense one could possibly have for desiring to stay on earth just a little longer when he talked about it being needful for “you.”  In his heart and in his mind he wanted out of here and to be with the Lord, but he also knew that the Lord had more work for him to do for the kingdom.  Kingdom minded individuals long for the kingdom and earthly minded individuals also long for their kingdom on earth.  But that kingdom, whether they know it or not is the one Satan promised Jesus when he tempted Him by offering Him all authority over the kingdoms of this world (Luke 4:5-7).  Satan certainly did not have the kingdoms of this world to give away and he still does not. 

          In the first of the Beatitudes (Mat. 5:3) Jesus proclaimed that the “poor in spirit” were the ones “blessed” to see the kingdom of Heaven.  It is those who would come as a beggar longing for something from Jesus.  Augustus Toplady wrote “In my hand no price I bring; simply to Thy cross I cling.” (second stanza of “Rock of Ages”).  No beggar ever became content in this world or with begging as an enterprise.  A beggar longs for a place of comfort and security, imagined but never realized, in this life.  Just like the beggar Lazarus who died and went to the comfort of “Abraham’s bosom.”  He had begged outside the gate of a certain rich man who “faired sumptuously.”  The rich man died and was tormented in the flames of Hades (Luke 16:19-31).  I ask you, does the average American more resemble the beggar Lazarus or the rich man?  How about the average Christian?  Most Christians, I dare say, “fair sumptuously,” even well beyond anything even remotely conceived of in the wildest imagination of this rich man of which Jesus spoke.

          It may be hard for us to long for Jesus’ return in our cozy, plush, surroundings but eternal consequences are at stake.  If you are not more like the beggar Lazarus and less like the rich man, you desperately need to take a long hard look at your life.  Lazarus would have had no problem whatsoever shouting out “Amen!” when Jesus said “Surely I am coming quickly.”  But the rich man would have said, I want to go to Heaven someday, but I am just not quite ready yet.


In Christ


Dr. Allen Raynor, Pastor