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Sunday, June 26, 2016


What Is a Para-Church Ministry?

Many pastors of the past have worked wonderfully well with ministries that were not started by a local church. Men like Dr. Lee Roberson, Dr. Jack Hyles, Dr. Tom Malone, Dr. G. B. Vick, Dr. John Rawlings, Dr. Dallas Billington, and others worked with The Sword of the Lord, Bill Rice Ranch, Bob Jones University, BIMI, Youth for Christ, Word of Life, Gideons, Salvation Army, Pacific Garden Rescue Mission, Christian Law Association, Revival Fires, International Board of Jewish Missions, Gospel Tract Society, etc. All of these were para-church ministries. John 10:16, "And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold..."
“Oh,” you say, “But look at the direction many of the ministries have gone." Yes, and we could easily look at the direction many of those churches have gone.
Dr. Hyles often taught that we all use para-church ministries in one way or another. He loved the idea that the local church could do it better, but he never black balled those who provided helps to the local churches whether in or out of the local church. One time he told us that all of us drew the line of using para-church ministries at different levels, but at the end of the day we all use para-church ministries.
If we are not careful, we hypocritically oppose men of God led of God who start ministries. These are men of God in their own right and are just as led of God. There may be a disagreement of the thought of should they be started by the local church or a man of God. Good men may disagree, but that does not seem to stop God from leading men to start such ministries.

Logic with me. If they were started by the local church obviously they would budget that ministry in their church budget. Many local churches have ministries brought to them with the membership transfer of a man of God. These men of God who join never ask to be put into the church’s budget, for that ministry lives by the faith of that man of God. These men of God choose independent Baptist churches because that is who they are in the faith.
Yet, to be consistent, no pastor should accept any ministry not started by that local church if they are going to be consistently opposed to para-church ministries. The pastor who takes this stand should start and finance every ministry. He should refuse to take a man of God into the church membership who has a ministry from God if the pastor cannot control and run it.
Throughout the years men with ministries would join churches I pastored, and I never stuck my nose into their ministry. They stayed out of my ministry I stayed out of their ministry. When they asked my opinion or counsel, I gave them my opinion and counsel.
The truth is, never in my thirty-three years of pastoring have I had a problem with a man who brought in or started a ministry as a member of my church. I was not opposed to them because I was not the final authority on what God was doing in another man of God's ministry. I simply made myself available to them.
I, like Dr. Hyles, preferred the local church start these ministries, but I quickly learned from Brother Hyles, and these other great men, that God moved on other men of God to start ministries to aid the cause of Christ. Also, I quickly learned that I could not finance everything I wanted to do.
I desired to have a camp, but the finances never materialized. However, we still went to summer camps whose ministries actually started the camp first, and the church second. It was not the way I would have done it, but I still used them. The wonderful thing is they have enough sense to be associated with an independent fundamental Baptist church of like faith and order.
The para-church ministries I’m talking about are not at all like years past , those whom I call “Protestant Baptist”, who had NO association with local churches. They were truly defined as “para-church” because they had no association with any local church. They fed off the church without being a part of a local church. That is just not the case today in independent Baptist circles. This is not your father's para-church.
I worry that we are not looking at the bigger picture and have become so small minded that we believe without us nothing can be accomplished for Christ. Again, I prefer the local church start everything, but if they cannot finance it they should not start it.
So, here comes a man of God who is doctrinally sound and is led of God to start a ministry to help win the world to Christ. He does not ask to be put into the church budget. He believes like the pastor doctrinally. He tithes and give offerings, he is a personal soul winner. He and his family live consecrated lives. He defends fundamentalism. He is King James only for the English speaking peoples. He is rarely there for he is traveling with his ministry. Should he not have the right to be a member and lead a ministry as God tells him?
The para-church ministries produced by the “Protestant Baptists” of yesteryear are different from the ones started inside of local churches of our day. Many today who are independent Baptist Evangelists, Periodicals, camps, etc., started their ministries while they were members of a local independent Baptist church. They would never have started their ministry outside of their membership in a local independent Baptist church.
These men were men of God in their own right and totally agreed with the independent Baptist church polity. To ostracize these men’s ministries and define them in the same definition as those of yesteryear is duplicity of definition.
These ministries are not at all like the ones of years gone by started outside of ANY local church; simply because those of old believed in the universal church. To compare those to these of today in independent Baptist circles is ridiculous.
There was respect in days gone for such because they understood the callings of God in various ministries. Our mentors never mistreated the men or the ministries of such who were members of their local churches or chose not to ask to be put into the church budget.
Dr. Hyles used to teach that if the church can do it, that is better, but if the church cannot do it, then we need these ministries to accomplish what the church cannot do. One of the reasons Dr. Hyles wanted to build a great church was to be able to provide as many ministries through the church as possible, but he never completely abandoned his association with para-church ministries.

Here are a few observations regarding these “para-church’ ministries

1. They come alongside the church to assist. Many of these ministries provide a service that helps many churches. Every church, without exception, uses ministries outside their church! To say ALL belong and are run by the local church is just NOT true.
2. They do not take the place of the church. This is important. As long as a ministry does not attempt to replace the church, I am for it.
3. They are not a substitute for the church. Nothing can substitute for the church, yet some ministries attempt to do so. The ministry I can support is one that understands that the local church is most important in the lives of the people.
4. They are not necessarily a ministry of the church and that is not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes the church can actually limit the work of one of these ministries.
5. They are not to make the church subordinate to them. The church should never be second to a non-church ministry.
6. They are para not anti-church. This is important. If they do not see the value of the church, they will be in conflict.
7. They have been a part of the work of God since the New Testament. Christian publishers have traditionally been para-church as have many other ministries.
8. If a ministry is strictly under one church then all churches who submit to or use that ministry are submitting to that church.
9. Any ministry that provides a service to a local church is a para-church ministry, even if it is under the authority of one local church.
10. Para-church ministries should never solicit the tithes of a local church, but they should be allowed to generate funds from the services they provide. (If I bring my people to your conference and you ask for money you are soliciting money from my people.)
11. Every Christian college is a para-church ministry to you even if it is under another church. You are putting your faith in that church the minute you support that college.
12. Effective and Biblical para-church ministries strive to serve the church.
13. The danger for a para-church ministry is placing the welfare of the ministry above that of the local church.
14. Many para-church ministries began to fill a void the church was not filling. Most homeschooling is para-church and if not then the materials we use often come from para-church groups. Local churches who start Christian Schools use para-church educational material in their Christian Schools.
15. Having to pretend a ministry is of a local church just to appease other pastors is foolish and needless.
16. God started the home, yet we have many para-home institutions. If we strictly applied our para-church rules we would find we are a bit inconsistent in our position.
17. If a ministry is truly a ministry of the local church, then why do we support it when it picks up and moves to another local church? MANY of the ministries named above have relocated "under" a different local church. If they were truly under the church, they would not have the freedom to do so.
18. The leaders of a para-church ministry should all be active members of a local church and personally accountable to their pastor, without giving up accountability of their ministry.
19. It is not best when a church is under a ministry, such as a campus church or a church that is started by a Christian camp. However, even though it is not best, it is not necessarily wicked.

May I conclude by reminding us all that in all things we should maintain a balance. That is what made Dr. Hyles so unique. He believed in the local New Testament church as much as any man I knew, however, he never discounted the work of ministries which were started by a man of God rather than a local church. Ministries that are brought to a local church by a man of God are no less of a ministry than those birthed by a local church. Brother Hyles applauded the work of God even if it was not always done in the exact way he would have done it. May we too understand the importance of not excluding these good works merely because we do not directly control them. Independence is lost with dictatorial rule of ministries not started by the local church.

Sunday, June 12, 2016


What To Do When You Feel You Have Been Hurt By Your Church

It happens. Sometimes a church can seriously hurt one of its members. Many of us have felt the sting of a church that, in its own best interest, brought harm to us personally. I often hear stories from people who have felt the pain of a church that mistreated them in some way. So what should you do when you feel your church has hurt you? Allow me to share some suggestions.

1. Remember that churches are made up of people and people are sinners. Don't expect too much from people in churches. You will be devastated if you set your expectations too high or place your confidence in man. People will fail you. A church is made up of saved sinners. Yes, they are God’s children, but they are still children. Dogs bark, cats meow, and sinners sin. The reason the churches mentioned in the Bible do not exist today and the gates of Hell did prevail against them is because a local church is made up of saved sinners.  When sin rules death occurs. Never be surprised at what people do.
2. Remember that sometimes people do what is in their best interest not in the best interest of others. Don't look so pious. We have all been guilty of making decisions which were not in the best interest of others, but were in our own best interest. Many people are hurt because churches make a decision based upon what is best for the church not what is best for the individuals in the church. The whole purpose of church is to work with the fallen. When we become more concerned about what is best for the whole and not the individual, we forgo the very definition of being a Christian.
3. Accept the fact that pastors make mistakes. I understand that pastors are held to very high expectations. Regardless of that fact, pastors are merely human, and they do make mistakes. Give them some room for mistakes. That does not mean that the hurt is not real, nor does it mean that you should not feel some pain when a pastor has hurt you. However, accept the fact that he is going to make mistakes and some will be hurt by his mistakes. This time it just so happened to be you.
4. Do your best to deal with the mistake in a Scriptural manner. Sadly, churches are often given a free pass when they mistreat members. However, all you can do is try to hold to a scriptural position and ask the church to do the same. If Matthew 18 was practiced more diligently, there would be fewer problems in our churches. Unfortunately, churches sometimes hold themselves above Scripture when it comes to dealing with people. It can become a public lynching without the accused being able to answer his accuser. Even a murderer gets his day in court. Just because it is a church does not make her immune to Biblical steps required by God Himself.
5. Do not get bitter. I understand that there will be emotions in play when the church has hurt you. Your feelings will be hurt. There will be angry. There will be grief. There will be sadness. Eventually you will go through all of these emotions, but if you do not react improperly, you will be fine. Whatever you do avoid bitterness by learning something from the situation that will make you better instead of bitter.
6. Do not look for others who have also been hurt. This is very dangerous. Birds of a feather flock together. Many times those who have been hurt in their church band together and revenge becomes a cause to them. There are Internet sites dedicated to hurting churches who have hurt members. The cause of Christ is bigger than that. Do not make vengeance and revenge your cause. The best way is to avoid banding together with others seeking comfort from their hurt. Trust me, you won't find comfort. You will find a mob mentality that is seeking revenge.
7. If you cannot find resolution for what has been done, leave quietly. Sometimes that's the hardest thing to do. There's two difficulties in this point. Do not leave without giving the pastor opportunity to make the wrong right. Leaving quietly does not mean leaving the pastor wondering what was wrong. Giving him opportunity to make it right is important.
First, leaving can hurt. You leave behind friends. You leave behind memories. Sometimes you leave behind the place where you were saved or where your children were married. Perhaps you may even leave behind a place where you ministered in a position, even as pastor. Leaving is hard.
The second difficulty is leaving quietly. There are many people who can leave easily. Their problem is they cannot leave quietly. They want everyone to know what was done to them. They want to find someone to blame for leaving. It's not worth it, my friend. Just leave quietly and let it go. That leads me to the next point.
8. Let it go. “How?” you ask. By giving it over to the Lord. That is the only way you can let it go. Take your burden AND your hurt to the Lord and leave it there. Do not carry this burden by yourself because you will drop it. Let God have this burden, so that you can let go of the hurt inside of you. I know people who have carried hurt to their grave because of something a church did that hurt them. That's a sad way to live your life.
9. Be kind to the members on an individual basis. When you see someone from the church, don't hold them responsible for your hurt. They may not even know the entire story. In fact, they probably do not, and they do not need to know. Just be kind to them. If they ask questions, graciously shrug the questions off.
10. Don't let it affect your family. My friends, this is huge. Your children could permanently be damaged by your attitude. Do not let your children lose confidence in the church. Many a child has permanently quit church because they were made aware of the hurt a church inflicted on their parents. I am not saying that you should not talk to them about it. They are not stupid. Children feel things and perceive much more than we sometimes give them credit for. What I am saying is talk to them and help them to get through it without becoming bitter and losing their confidence. Is it really worth it to lose your children and grandchildren because you are angry at being hurt? I don't think it is.
If your family chooses to join with the church against you then accept it to be so. God is the only one you can turn to in a time like this. There is no way to explain your side to the satisfaction of those who choose the other side. Keep giving the Gospel to those who are unsaved. There is no reason for the lost to go to Hell because you feel betrayed. If you are going to Heaven when you die you do not have a real problem. It is the people going to Hell who have the real problem.
11. Find a church and settle in again. Let me share with you a danger. Statistics tell us that in the U.S. 50% percent of first marriages end in divorce. However,  the same study also shows that 67% of second, and 73% of third marriages end in divorce. Why is that? Because they are still carrying the baggage of hurt and anger from the previous marriage.
The same is true about someone who has been hurt by a church. They go from church to church with suspicion and doubt because of the hurt they felt previously. My friend, do not allow that to happen to you. When you find a new church, focus on the new church not on your hurt from the previous church. Forgetting those things which are behind would be applicable in this situation.
12. In some cases it might be wise to explain to your new pastor what happened in your past church. Let me warn you. Do not accuse or blame your former church. It is possible you made mistakes, too. Perhaps you did something wrong that caused the church to mishandle you. They may have reacted wrongly to something you did wrong. Don't focus on their mishandling of your mistakes.
Tell the pastor the story as  dispassionately as possible and then take his advice. Be wise enough to understand that you do not need an ally in a battle against a former church. You need a pastor who will shepherd you in your present life. Don't try to turn him against the former church. That will eventually backfire.
13. By all means stay very close to God during this time. Stay in the Word. Stay on your knees. Stay faithful in all areas of ministry. Do not allow your relationship with God to be hindered because of the hurt brought upon you by a church.

None of the things that I have shared with you here are easy. We are humans. When we hurt we tend to react rather than act. Responses are principled while reactions are emotional. Guard yourself. Do not make the mistake of destroying the blessings of God in your life because you become vindictive and hateful.
As in everything, remember that God has a purpose for all things even before they ever happen. Maybe God wanted to move you on to a different place. Maybe God has a work for you that you could not have done in your former church, or perhaps God is trying to teach you something to help make you more useful in His service. Trust Him. Do not allow what God meant for good to be destroyed because of what was done to hurt you. May God give us grace in all areas of our lives, especially when we feel that we've been hurt by our church.

Monday, June 6, 2016


The Relationship Between Older and Younger Men

The relationship between young men and older men can be a complicated one at times. It is the nature of young men to want to outdo the men that went before them. They are vibrant and excited about the future. They want to move forward and make progress. It is easy to think that the older men are standing in their way. As a result young men sometimes misunderstand the purpose of their relationship with older men.

One of the things that Dr. Jack Hyles understood as a young man was how to perceive and have the right relationship with the older men. I studied Dr. Hyles in this regard. When I was a young man I sought to do what he did with older men. Unfortunately I saw many young men who did not understand the relationship with the older man and missed something very important as a result. Let me tell you three different perspectives that young men can have with older men.

1. Some young men see the older men from the standpoint of competitiveness. It is easy for a young man to think that he can do it better. I remember thinking that myself as a young man. We are visionaries when were young. We think of how to improve upon things, so sometimes they see an older man as less capable than themselves. The tendency when you treat older men this way is you see them as adversaries. You begin to find their faults. I've seen many young men become critical of old men because all they find are the faults. They want to do it their own way because they think their way is better. Sadly, in wanting to improve they fail to see the wisdom they could gain from the older men.

2. The second group are those who worship an older man. Worship is probably not the right word. But, these are men who want and need the approval of the old man. They tend to miss out on both the faults and the virtues because they're too busy trying to copy them. The purpose of the relationship between younger men and older men is not merely emulation. I did not copy Dr. Hyles so that I could be like him; I studied him so I could learn from him. While the first group doesn't care with the old men think the second group thinks only about what the old men think. Neither gains the benefit from the relationship.

3. The final group is where I tried to fit. These are young men who want to study and gain wisdom from the old men. It is not that they do not see their faults; it's that they don't care to point them out. They are not trying to be like them or not to be like them. They are trying to learn from them. Dr. Hyles saw the faults of the older men before him. He knew they were fallible men. However, he wanted to learn what they knew and what they did in order for God to use him in a greater way. Unlike the first group these young men do not look for faults in the older men. Unlike the second group these men do not look for approval from the older men. This group looks for guidance and wisdom from the older men.

Young men, your relationship with older men is a very important one. If you understand their purpose in your life you will gain far more than if you are merely trying to compete with them or get their approval. The secret is understanding that at their worst and at their best they are but men, but God chose to use them, therefore there is something you can learn from them.

Now that I am old I recognize all three of these groups in my own life. I have young men that see me is a relic and only find fault in me, and I confess there are plenty of those to find. They do not think there's anything they can learn from me because they want to do things different than I did them. Then I see young men who seem to want my approval but don't really listen to what I say. They want to please me but they don't care to learn from me. Then there are young men who allow me to share what I have learned with them. What I'm looking for are young men I can influence. I don't want to control them and I don't want them to be just like me, but I would love to invest some of what I've learned in those young men.

If you are old be aware of these three different kinds of young men so that you do not take it personally. Look for young men who desire to learn from you. If you’re a young man, be smart enough to understand that the older men have things they can teach you and you would be wise if you would listen and learn.

Saturday, June 4, 2016


Replacing A Lost Leader

One day I was talking to a preacher who was bemoaning the fact that when his mentor, Dr. Jack Hyles died, he felt he had lost his leader. He told me that he wished there was someone he could follow like he followed Dr. Hyles. That led me to consider something I learned from Dr. Hyles regarding replacing a leader.

Many times in the rush to replace a position we make the mistake of assigning the wrong power to someone. While Dr. Hyles had many influencers and heroes, he had few leaders. Please do not get me wrong. Many of his heroes were leaders, but not necessarily his leader. He gave many men the power to influence his life, but not to lead it. He made many men heroes without giving them the reins to lead him or his ministry. Let me explain.

A leader is an assigned person in a position of authority over a specified entity. For example, a pastor is the leader of a church. A teacher is the leader of a class. A chairman is the leader of a board. A husband is the leader of his home. A CEO is the leader of a company. To have a leader is to have a specific group.

The Southern Baptist Convention has a president, who is the leader of the group. When you organize you choose a leader. A leader could even be someone other than the person with a position, but it is still someone within a specified group. You may have a leader on the field in sports, but that means you still have a team where he is leading.

Dr. Hyles did not look for men who could lead some group. He looked for men who could influence his life. He was not looking for men to lead his church. He was the leader. He was looking for men who could influence his church, not lead them. Dr. Hyles had more influencers in his life than leaders. He might discover a man who retained a quality that he wanted in his life and he might allow that man to influence him without becoming his leader. He knew that just because he wanted to be like that person in an area of life did not mean he should follow that person wherever he went. He allowed that man to influence and advise him, without making them his leader.

When a pastor chooses a leader rather than an influencer, he is consigning to that leader the authority over him and his ministry, an authority which is not the pastor’s to give nor the leader’s to accept. Dr. Hyles was a great leader to his church, but he was a great influencer of many preachers. Some of those preachers made him more of a leader than an influencer, which means they did not avail themselves of him as they could have. We seek for leaders rather than influencers because we are seeking the wrong thing in the wrong way. In many ways it is those who influence us who have the greatest and longest lasting impact on our lives.

  • A leader tells you what to do, while an influencer teaches you how to do it.
  • A leader tells you what to believe, while an influencer teaches you how to think.
  • A leader tells you what direction to go, while an influencer guides you in choosing your direction.
  • A leader gives orders, while an influencer gives ideas.
  • A leader is assigned to lead us, while an influencer is chosen to influence us.

Dr. Hyles wanted influencers more than leaders. He knew the strengths and also the weaknesses of his influencers. He sought their strengths while avoiding their weaknesses. He wasn't looking for a man more complete than himself, nor was he looking for a man who was a stronger leader than he. He wanted a man who was better in an area which he wanted to improve upon in his own life. Many of the men Dr. Hyles chose as influencers were not as strong in leadership as he was. Their churches and ministries were not as big. Many were not as well known or as powerful in their preaching. However, they had an attribute that he wanted in his life.

Dr. Hyles saw the prayer life of Ford Porter and wanted his influence. He saw the sweet spirit of Charles Wigle and wanted his influence. He saw the great charm and wit of Bill Rice and wanted his influence. He saw the great courage of Lester Roloff and wanted his influence. He saw the great insight and wisdom of John Rice and wanted his influence. He saw the great conviction of Bob Jones Sr. and wanted his influence. He saw the great leadership qualities of Dr. Lee Roberson and wanted his influence. He saw the power of Tom Malone and wanted his influence.

If you want a great leader in your life it should be to influence you to be a better leader yourself, not to lead you. God will send you your leaders, but you should seek your influences. Just because he wanted the quality of a man did not mean he wanted to follow that man where he was going. Had he done that he would have ended up where they were going instead of where he knew he was supposed to be.

It is a danger to turn our ministries or our churches over to our leaders. Our people can begin seeing those leaders as superior to the leader God has given them. Dr. Hyles brought his influencers in as heroes for his people, but he did not give them leadership over his people. His goal was for his people to understand the positive influences of his influencers. He accomplished this by making them heroes to his people. However, as heroes he did not give them control to lead his people. He did not bring his heroes in for a series of meetings. He would invite a man speak once in a service, or he would bring them in to honor them. He wanted to make heroes out of his influencers without making leaders out of them. It was not their job to lead his church, it was his.

Men who are weak in their own leadership often seek others to lead them so that they can lead their people. A strong leader is not someone who does not need the influence of others, but who does not need anyone else to lead them. I never chose Dr. Hyles to be my leader. I chose him to be my influencer and he became my hero. As my influencer, he strengthened me in areas where I needed to grow; however he did not take over my responsibility as leader. Some preachers feel lost when they lose their leader. One of the most liberating days of your life will be the day you realize you do not need someone to lead you, if you are the leader. You need someone to influence you.

Dr. Hyles had many influencers, but few leaders. He did not belong to many groups where a leader was needed. He was not a part of a convention or a fellowship, so he did not require a leader. He did not attach himself to many organizations because he was independent. When he did attach himself to a group, such as the Sword of the Lord, he was careful not to allow Dr. Rice’s leadership to prevent his influence, nor did he allow Dr. Rice’s influence to extend beyond the realm over which Dr. Rice had the responsibility for leadership. He was careful not to overlap the two.

Here is a critical truth and one I am thankful I learned early. Just because we give influence to a man does not mean we should give the same influence to the institution that man leads. For example, Dr. Hyles wanted the influence of Bob Jones, Sr., but he did not give that same influence to Bob Jones University. He did not give the assistant editor of the Sword of the Lord the same influence he gave to Dr. John Rice. He did not allow Tennessee Temple to have as strong an influence over him as Dr. Lee Roberson. In fact, he often gave influence to a man whose institution he could not have followed. Many institutions have hurt a church because the institution was given influence that should have been reserved solely for the man, then when the man was gone the institution changed.

Another important truth is that influence cannot be handed down. When one leader passes off the scene you don't automatically give the successor that influence over your life. When Jack Hyles died I did not give his successor influence in my life. I did not make him the hero in my people's life. His successor had been appointed to a position of leadership in an institution, but he had not earned the right to influence me. A position does not earn influence. Many a successor has not been worthy of influencing my life or of being made a hero to my people.

Never make a hero out of a position. Make a hero out of a man who may or may not have a position. Many people have continued to give influence to successors because, somewhere along the line, they turned their allegiance from the man to the institution. I support the successor’s right to the position of leadership, but I do not transfer the influence I allowed their predecessor.

This lesson is one that we must learn. If God has made you the leader, then lead. You do not need a leader if you are the leader. However, you do need those who can influence you in areas where you need to be strengthened, and who can counsel you in decisions you must make. Be careful in this principle. Many of us mistakenly want a leader when what we really need is an influencer. Do not appoint someone to a position that does not exist.

Dr. Hyles set an example for us by choosing several men who had qualities he needed, and making them his influencers and heroes. We should do the same thing. Rather than seeking a leader, we should carefully seek a number of influencers. Do not turn the leadership over to them. Let them influence you instead.