Wednesday, October 25, 2017

: Re-Issue of “Some Bad Tendencies Common to Churches”-Oct. 25, 2017


          A year and a half ago I wrote concerning some very bad trends or tendencies that are common in churches.  I am even more convinced today than I was then that churches are spiritually handicapping themselves because they have taken their eyes off of Christ, Who is head of His church.  The items I wrote about are not insignificant because they hinder, to one degree or another, the church from doing its work and reflecting the glory of Christ in this dark world.  If the true identity of the church is clouded or hidden altogether, then the church can easily morph into something other than the true church of the Lord Jesus Christ.  In many, many places that is exactly what has happened.  Many churches are majoring on minors and making minors into majors.


Allen Raynor Weblog: “Some Bad Tendencies Common to Churches”

(June 30, 2016)

          The church, in its purest sense, is the most wonderful entity or institution to ever exist.  The desire of the Lord Jesus is “That He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.” (Eph. 5:27) The ideally functioning body of Christ, spoken of in Acts 2:41-47, is something everyone should long to be a part of.  But we know there is no such thing as the ideal church in the “here and now” because of us weak and frail, sinful, selfish and self-absorbed human beings that compose the local church.

          There seems to be a handful of tendencies or traps into which churches are prone to fall.  Each of these hurt the purpose and witness of the body of Christ in the world.  They may seem minor, but they are far more major than we realize.  The church is to reflect the light and glory of it’s Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, but if it is not very careful, it takes on many unfortunate characteristics of the dark world in which it exists.

          Churches have the tendency to become a “museum of saints.”  The “saved” may be seen as, not unlike, a collection of “trophies” celebrating past programs, initiatives, or the tenure/ministry of a former pastor.  The past may be elevated and glorified and there is little talk about the future.  Past pastors, past staff members, past programs, past Sunday School attendance, past church attendance, past youth groups, past music programs, past building programs, past church planting efforts, etc.  I once had a key leader, in the church in which I was serving at the time, brag to me about how active the church had been in church planting.  He said it had started several mission churches.  But, the most recent one had been more than 75 years earlier!  Churches with longer histories have greater tendencies to become museums for saints where “the past” rules.

          Churches have the tendency to become a “business.”  There are easy-to-see reasons for why this often happens.  Without becoming “incorporated” churches have been advised they are putting themselves at risk and most churches have done so.  However, the downside of this is that it causes churches to claim a status that is actually “inconsistent” with its purpose for existence.  Compliance with certain laws tend to contribute to a looming/hovering threat that the church might lose it’s “tax exempt” status.  It is often portrayed, and even feared as being a worst-case-scenario perhaps even worse than disobedience to God!  The body of Christ (the church) above all else, is to be separate from the world.  It will never attract the world by being like the world.  It will only attract it by being different.  In a multitude of ways, the typical 21st -century church sadly functions far-too-much like a business.  Issues related to insurance, payroll, copy machine contracts, utilities, office supplies, policies and procedures, profits and losses, contract negotiations, compliance issues, and much more are consistent with the business world.  But, as much as possible those things have got to be seen as veritable tools to help with the real purpose of the church and not ever become a “driving” or “controlling” force.  In this area, it is very easy to get the “horse” and “cart” reversed and indeed many churches have done so.

          Churches have the tendency to become “banks.”  When people give their tithes and offerings they are giving it out of obedience to God for the work of ministry.  Some are doing so quite sacrificially.  Some churches accumulate tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands of dollars, without using it for the work of ministry.  The idea of “hoarding” is far from the minds of most churches, but it still happens.  One church business meeting I was a part of several years ago had a lengthy discussion of banks and institutions and how the church could make the most interest off “their” money.  It does not seem this is what God intended to be done with tithes and offerings, but it sounds a lot like the poor steward in Jesus’ parable of the talents (Mat. 25:14-30).  There are two types of investment – one is in the world and the other is in kingdom work.  The point Jesus stressed was the importance of investing “talents” in kingdom work, not burying it in the ground or in a bank account.  What often happens is that churches see assets like property, buildings, bonds, CD’s, savings, large checking accounts, designated funds, etc. as “security.”  But it gives a “false” sense of security at best.  At worst it facilitates disobedience.  Churches are to be “channels” whereby all money given is used for the work of ministry.

          Churches have the tendency to become social clubs or country clubs.  It is what Thom Rainer terms “churchianity” as opposed to “Christianity” in his book I Will: 9 Traits of the Outwardly Focused Christian.  Practicing “churchianity” is when I make it all about me – my likes and dislikes, my taste in music, my desired temperature for the building, my color for the new carpet, my method for doing youth ministry, my way to do Sunday School or small groups, my way to run the kitchen, my way to do children’s ministry, my style of preaching, my, my, my . . .  Whether knowingly or unknowingly, many simply expect comfort and satisfaction with their church and if they are not receiving it, they will either stop coming or, take their “business” elsewhere to another church until they find what they are looking for and that which brings them the comfort and satisfaction they desire.  This is NOT Christianity, but rather “churchianity.  The church is the place where we, as the body, unite for worship and to sharpen our spiritual axes and then head back out to the work of ministry!  In the early twentieth-century, evangelist Billy Sunday famously said “The church is not a dormitory for sleepers, it is an institution for workers; it is not a rest camp, it is a front line trench.”  Sadly, local bodies have many members practicing “churchianity” and not “Christianity;” therefore, many churches much more closely resemble social clubs or country clubs than New Testament churches.

          There are plenty of other tendencies that harm the church, but these are but a few I have observed in my years of service as a pastor.  The best, and perhaps only way, to put these problems/tendencies to bed is to get back to God’s revealed Word.  The Latin expression “Ad Fontes” which means “Back to the sources” was the battle cry of The Renaissance period where there was a sharply renewed interest in the first principles and sources of truth and knowledge.  There was widespread belief that they had drifted away from their solid, and former, foundation.  What we need in the church of the 21st Century is a “Renaissance” by getting back to the source – the Bible -  and see how we can be a better, more “New Testament” grounded, church.


In Christ,


Dr. Allen Raynor, Pastor

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Re-Issue of “The Question of God’s Justice in the Face of Growing Evil”-Oct. 12, 2017

Two years ago this month I wrote about the age-old struggle believers have to try and understand why God allows evil to seemingly prosper in this world.  Often God seems silent while people struggle, hurt, and search for answers.  This is certainly true when we consider the recent mass-shooting in Law Vegas.  But, even greater than that one single event is the struggle to understand why God allows day to day immorality to be the rule and traditional Christian morality to be increasingly the exception.  The Prophet Habakkuk wrestled with God on these questions as he tried to understand the justice of God.


Allen Raynor Weblog: The Question of God’s Justice

in the Face of Growing Evil

(Oct. 8, 2015)


          These are trying times for Christians.  If you are like me, you have probably seen more ungodly and sinful things happen in just the last 6 months than you perhaps believed you would ever see in your lifetime.  There is no need to rehash all those things here.  Believers know what the Bible teaches and what Christianity has stood for its entire 2000 year existence.  Further, we know what God has said from the very beginning going back to His creation of the world.  So, in light of those things, why do the wicked seem to be winning?  Why is sin celebrated and seemingly every evil cause championed from the President, to some candidates running for President, to many members of Congress, to judges, governors, mayors, the Hollywood community, and other influential leaders?  Is the situation really new or does it only seem new since it is beyond the scope of what we have personally known?  Will we experience any relief from all that is happening?  How best should we process these things?

          The Prophet Habakkuk struggled to understand seeming contradictions within the framework of God’s justice.  He grappled with how the God of love could allow perceived injustice and even go so far as to use unjust people for His purposes.  The theological question of “theodicy” is explored in the 3 short chapters of the Book of Habakkuk.  Theodicy seeks to answer the question “Is God just?”  When things happen that appear to contradict what we know about the justice of God; how then can we continue to believe He is just in all His ways?

          He asks God a first question and then a second.  He is reverential in the manner in which he asks, but still feels the compelling need to ask.  His questions and God’s responses leave us with some important implications about God and how He works.  First; personal faith can lead to powerful problems.  Having faith does not answer every question.  In fact, there are times where it creates even more questions.  Faith is trusting when we do not know everything.  Second; the response believers should have in the face of evil is trust.  Trust is not always easy and often seems to be against our natures.  Third; thinking rationally cannot penetrate all the mysteries of evil.  But it is faith that strengthens us in the face of great evil.

          One popular myth says that when you trust Christ as your Savior, all your problems will vanish.  The truth is, your biggest problem has gone away, but many of the smaller problems remain.  However, the way you view those problems and the perceived weight of those problems will, almost certainly, change.  Problems are a part of life.  Even evil itself is a nasty reality.  Sometimes we feel like echoing David’s words in Psalm 22:1 where he cried out “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”  Many apply this to America, believing God has somehow turned His back on us.  But, something we must always keep in mind is that nations, countries, and all geographical territories for that matter, are relatively inconsequential to God.  His eternal plans are about bringing a people unto Himself, saving them from the wrath that will befall this world.  The fate of every nation is exactly the same.  They all will cease to exist sooner or later.  There are no countries, as we understand them, within the Kingdom of God.  So often the big picture is lost because of the glaring light of the little picture.  Our view of the whole forest is obstructed by the thousands of trees all around us.

          Mankind has no shortage of advice as he grapples with the ability to understand the world in which he lives in rational terms.  The folly of man is seen in Job as one by one Job’s friends offer their insights, but in the end these are truths only known to God.  Mankind has always been afraid to utter the words “I don’t know.”  But we ought not be so frightened to defer to our God, Who is omniscient.

          From Habakkuk’s vantage point, God seemed indifferent.  How could God allow the wicked Babylonians to lay a hand on God’s chosen people?  It seemed exploitative and certainly unjust.  But God used the wicked all throughout the course of biblical history to accomplish His ultimate purposes.  This will be true right up until the end.  In the Book of Revelation, evil will do what evil does right up until the point God destroys it once and for all.  We naturally ask why God will allow the things described in Revelation to actually take place.  After all, He could prevent them and all could happen in a different way.  God has voluntarily bound Himself to His Word and He is glorified in the proclamation and execution of all He has declared to be true.  If he altered anything, the most fundamental truth of Christianity, the reliability of His Word, would be destroyed.  Therefore truth is held as a higher priority than satisfying the passing daily desires of mankind.  Besides all of that, mankind only has in view 1 piece of a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle by which to understand God’s ultimate plan.  But, he has described for us what the final picture, when assembled, will look like and he has promised that there will be a day when it will be fully assembled.  That picture is described in Revelation 21 and 22.

          In Hab. 2:4, God tells the prophet, “The just shall live by his faith.”  If we trust God, we must live by faith.  How do you trust anyone or anything?  It is a voluntary commitment, just like making a wedding vow.  It is saying I consciously commit myself to trusting/having faith in you.  It is no different when it comes to God.  We must determine that, even though evil is rampant and the foundations of this world are shaking and will soon crumble, our trust is in the Lord.

          In the end, Habakkuk makes one of the most pointed and beautiful confessions of faith in all the Bible (3:17-19) but it did not come apart from much mental anguish.  Commentator John Currid writes “At the close of the book we see no complaints by the prophet.  He now understands.  So what we see is Habakkuk’s pure, unadulterated joy and triumphal singing to the sovereign God of Israel.” (John Currid; The Expectant Prophet: Habakkuk Simply Explained; 136)  He finally came to understand that no matter what happens on this earth, God will deliver His people, not necessarily from the discomfort of today but for His glory for all eternity.


In Christ,


Dr. Allen Raynor, Pastor

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Murder Begins in the Heart - Oct. 4, 2017

In a world where terrorism, murder, and even mass-murder are common place it takes a lot to shock us anymore.  But the murderous acts of Stephen Paddock (64) on last Sunday evening at a concert in Las Vegas leaves people scratching their heads.  Something like this only makes any sense at all if one can put it into some sort of context.  In recent years, Islamic terrorists have been behind much of the chaos and losses of life in this world.  But, as of yet there is no clear ties to I.S.I.S., Al-Qaida or any such radical group.  There may never be any such links established. Paddock does not, based on what we currently know, fit any sort of standard criminal or terrorist profile. 

          Many want to blame guns, as they commonly do.  According to some the answer is, generally speaking, more laws, more gun control, and more governmental oversight.  But is that the answer?  Problems reveal themselves through signs and symptoms that sometimes are hard to diagnose.  Whether it is your car, a household appliance, or your health, the symptoms tell you there is an underlying cause for the display of the symptoms such as a funny noise, a strange smell, or some type of pain.  Treating symptoms does not correct the root of the problem.

          People have been killing people ever since Cain slew his brother Abel in Genesis 4. Abel was not only the first person ever murdered, but was actually the first person to ever die at all.  It is quite revealing that the first ever human death was by murder.  What a foreshadowing of things to come.  Presumably Cain murdered Abel by hitting him over the head with a rock.  When God confronted him about the act he displayed a serious heart problem. Cain was sullen toward God, and even implicitly blamed Him because He did not accept his heartless offering of grain.  God, however laid the blame for the wicked, selfish, unthinkable, murderous deed at the feet of Cain because of the malice harbored in his heart, for all appearances at Abel, but more accurately at God.

          Down through history the number of actual murders, if known, would be staggering.  The truth we do know is that there are over 25 thousand murders just in the United States each year.  That is an average of almost 70 per day.  Murder is so common place that some murders do not even make the local news.  The only murders that make national news are ones involving someone famous, ones involving large numbers of people, or ones with strange or exotic twists.  Sadly, murder is a part of life and has been since very shortly after sin entered the world.

         The Scriptures are clear that Satan is a liar, a thief, and a murderer and has been so from the beginning.  He mocks God through pitting man (God’s creation made in His own image) against fellow man.  He works through both precise targeting as well as broad.  He seeks to kill an individual, a nation, or even the whole world if possible.

          Mankind has killed one another in a multitude of ways down through history.  In fact, it would be hard to find any type of object that has not been used by someone to kill another person at some point in history.  Today people are poisoned, strangled, smothered, stabbed, shot, ran over, blown up, burned to death, bludgeoned, etc.  While these may appear separate things there is a common thread that runs through them all.  

          In Matthew 5:23-24 Jesus taught that murder begins in the heart.  It begins with hatred.  Hatred of man/men cannot coexist with love for God.  Hatred of man/men is fixation on one’s own evil desires which have already replaced God in a person’s life.  James wrote that “Each one is tempted [to sin] when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.  Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is gull-grown, brings forth death.” (James 1:14-15)  The first thing a murderer hates is God’s Word which teaches Him to love his fellow man.  The Apostle John writes in 1 John 4:7-8 “Beloved let us love one another, for love is of God and he who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”  Murder is the antithesis of love.  Murder is sticking one’s finger in the very eye of God and mocking Him and His creation (mankind made in the image and likeness of God).  To commit murder on a mass-scale such as we see in Las Vegas only shows how deeply embittered Paddock’s heart really was toward His Creator.

          When secular, worldly minded, politically motivated politicians and individuals call for tougher laws, gun control, etc. after a mass-shooting they are merely falling back on what they think they know.  They believe that man’s laws can control human behavior.  Not even God’s laws have controlled human behavior, how much more weak, frail, ineffective, and pathetic are man’s laws.  Criminals have no respect for God’s laws, so it would be ridiculous to think they would somehow respect man’s laws.  Murder has always been against the law, but the numbers of murders are incalculable.  God gave to Moses, carved in stone tablets, the commandment “Thou Shall Not Murder,” at Sinai but it has not stopped millions upon millions of homicides worldwide over the last few millennia.

          Murder is a symptom fueled by hatred and the only cure is a personal relationship with God the Creator.  The wisest man who ever lived, King Solomon, wrote “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all.” (Ecc. 12:13)  This verse applies to Stephen Paddock, Hitler, you, and me all equally.  He goes on to write in the next verse “For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil.” (vs. 14)   No matter who we are and no matter what we have done we will stand before God in judgment and we are told “Every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess, that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.”  Only then will there be no more murder.  “Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev. 22:20)


In Christ,


Dr. Allen Raynor, Pastor