Follow by Email

Wednesday, June 29, 2016


The Fallacy of Fellowship

I preached with Dr. Hyles for many years. I never met a man who loved people more than Jack Hyles. I never met a man who enjoyed spending time with people more than Jack Hyles. He was fun to be around. He enjoyed being with others. Yet, in all the years I was with him I never once heard him placing an emphasis on fellowship for fellowship's sake. In fact he in many ways feared fellowship. He felt it was highly overrated, overused, and misunderstood.

I spent much time in the company of Dr. Hyles, but very little of that time would be considered as fellowship by most people. He often talked about the importance of walking and working together in agreement. He found his fellowship in serving with others not sitting around gabbing with others. 

Do not misunderstand me. There were times that he went out to eat with me and others. However, even at those times he was careful that we did not over fellowship. The purpose of those times was not fellowship, but refueling for the work. Fellowship was not an end, nor was it even a means to an end. It was a byproduct of working together.

Any commander of an army will tell you that the most dangerous time for a soldier is when they are off duty and out with their fellow soldiers. They do not get in trouble when their marching together. They get in trouble when they going to town together. They don't get into trouble when they are in the foxhole together. They get into trouble when they're out on the town together.

Any coach will tell you that the most dangerous time for his players is when they are not playing or practicing. Many a player has been disqualified from playing in a big game because during his free time he got into trouble with his fellow players. You don't get into trouble on the field. You get in trouble when you are fellowshipping off the field.

Most trouble is caused by fellowship away from the battle. I am not saying there should not be times we spent together, but those times should be planned and purposed. Dr. Hyles said that gossip was usually the byproduct of people hanging out without a purpose. In fact, most church problems are caused by people fellowshipping without a purpose.

A pastor once questioned about the apparent lack of fellowship in Dr. Hyles church. He said, “Dr. Hyles, it seems that you do not encourage fellowship among your people. Don't you think your people need to get to know each other better?”

Dr. Hyles replied, “I have a closer relationship with those with whom I work than I do with those with whom I play. I would rather get to know a man better by serving with them than going to a ballgame with them. I am not against going to a ballgame. I am against careless and meaningless fellowship.”

The pastor said, “But how can people get in trouble by merely fellowshipping with other church members?”

Brother Hyles replied, “Sir, there are several ways to get in trouble. The first way is they get to know each other too well. The mystique between each other is torn down and lost. That is always dangerous. The things that we do wrong are usually done when we let our guard down. Leaders who fellowship too much away from service lose the respect of their people quicker than those who fellowship in service. That is why commanders in the military do not go out with their troops. Too many pastors want to be their people’s buddies rather than their leader. When you lose the mystique and mystery you lose the power of the purpose.”

“The second danger is that they become more enamored with fellowship than they do service. The way to get to know each other is to serve together. People who work together create a purer bond than those who merely play together. We emphasize fellowship as a way of developing friendship, but the strongest friendships are developed by those who fought side-by-side in a battle. The purest fellowship one can have with Jesus is to suffer with and for him”

“The third danger is that it distracts people from the purpose. My goal is for people to know each other in service not away from service. Jesus walked with his disciples for three years serving. Their fellowship was purposed. They ate and rested together as they worked not to distract them from the work. Often fellowship takes the eyes off of the main purpose which is ministry. My desire is to have a church that fellowships in service not to get away from service. Too many preachers think that their people will be closer if they have more fellowship together. I have learned that people are closer when they work together. Show me a church that is serving and I will show you a church that has unity. Show me a church that is playing and I will show you a church that has problems.”

Over the years I have learned that these are truths that many pastors do not understand. Our job is not to create fellowship. The truth is fellowship is neither a means nor an end. Fellowship is a byproduct. The end is to serve our Lord. The means is the work we do to accomplish that end. The byproduct is fellowship and closeness. 

A soldier does not join an army to fellowship. A soldier joins an army to fight for a cause. A football player does not join a team for fellowship. He joins to win games. In fighting for a cause relationships are built as a byproduct not as a means nor as an end. May God help us to understand the true purpose and reason for fellowship. May we understand that it is not play or idle time that creates closeness. It is when we walk together in agreement of purpose that our relationships are built to be the strongest.

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.