Thursday, December 1, 2011

Glad To See It

In a recent Baptist Press article, it was reported that NAMB is working with a bivocational pastor advocate group to encourage more bivocational pastors to plant churches. NAMB's VP of mobilization, Aaron Coe, was quoted in the article as saying "we must leverage the laity to plant churches,and we need to do it through a bivocational church movement."

I couldn't agree more. As my post on planting a church with little or no funding proposed this exact scenario, I am happy to see that NAMB's leadership is beginning to embrace this approach. Bivocational church planters is nothing new. That is how the SBC used to plant churches in our greatest period of growth in the 1940's and 1950's. Sometimes the old ways are best.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Small Church Is Not Broken

This is a video of my talk on day 1 of the 2009 Small Church Leadership Conference in Oregon. My prayer is that you will be encouraged.

Friday, October 14, 2011

What It Means to be a "Southern Baptist."

The name "Southern Baptist" has meaning beyond regional identity or denominational branding. To be a Southern Baptist is to build on the foundation of God chosen men such as Richard Furman, William Johnson, John A. Broadus, George Truett, R. G. Lee, J. M. Frost, and many others who gave themselves for God through our beloved convention.

As Southern Baptists, our main priority is, first and foremost, to reach sinners for Christ. Our overarching goal is to rescue the perishing, throw out the lifeline, go into the highways and byways and bring the lost to Jesus. We are heralds of eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord. Our deepest desire is to sound the clarion call of forgiveness of sin through the cross of Christ. Our greatest delight is the glory of God on display when a lost soul turns away from sin and turns to Jesus. Our most joyful celebration is when a new believer enters the baptismal waters in obedience to the command of Christ as a public testimony of becoming a new creation. We live and breath evangelism and missions. That is who we are. That is what it means to be Southern Baptist.

Monday, August 15, 2011

For Those Who Ignore God's Word

Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!  Isa. 5:20

"But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea."  Mark 9:42

Be very careful how you try to sweep away what God plainly says. You will be held accountable. Be very careful how you handle God's word. You will be held accountable.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Cafeteria Christianity

There is a movement in the SBC these days that seeks to divide the Bible into categories of belief. They say that we should agree on a few basic beliefs such as Jesus is the Son of God, the cross, the resurrection, the only way to be saved, but everything else in the Bible is tertiary (third in place, order, degree, or rank), subject to triage (sorting according to quality), or unnecessary. Brothers and sisters, this should not be so.

The Bible is very clear that everything God says is important. James 2:10 says, "For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all." John 14:15 reads, "If you love Me, keep My commandments." The Bible never says one command is more important than another. Jesus said, "Keep My commandments (plural). He did not say "Believe in Me and everything else is up for grabs."

It's ironic that we spent 20 years battle for biblical integrity and now we have Southern Baptists who are attempting to  turn God's Word into a biblical cafeteria in which one must choose a main entree ( believe in Christ) but everything else is optional.

We must unashamedly stand for the truth of God's word. We must preach and teach all of God's Word. We must be faithful to the biblical text. All of God's Word is equally important. Do not be misled by those who would have you prioritize the word of God. They are deceivers who have crept in unnoticed. They must be opposed, exposed, and deposed.

Stand up for the truth of God's Word!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Bottom Line: Obey God's Word

There are a few topics that you can write about that you can be sure will generate a lot of discussion and readership in the blogs: tithing, women pastors, alcohol, and Calvinism. There are those who will try to persuade you that the Bible doesn't require you to tithe, that women pastors are acceptable to God, that it's okay to play with the dynamite of alcohol, and that you have no choice about your salvation. Don't believe them.

Anyone, and I mean anyone, who tells you that the Bible does not say what it plainly says, is a false prophet and is not to be believed. Do not be misled by those who teach you to disobey God's word. They are teachers who teach to itching ears, who will turn you away from the truth.

Here's the bottom line: obey God's Word.

"Evil men and imposters will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus." 2 Timothy 3:13-15

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Eliminating the Tithe: Jumping Through Hermeneutical Hoops to Dismiss Biblical Teaching

I received an email today from a member of my former church about tithing. My friend was surprised to learn of the debate about tithing and mentioned that he was studying the scriptures about it. I felt the need to explain my position on the matter so I wrote a response. The following is a copy of my response to my friend's question about tithing.

I appreciate your struggle with this issue of tithing. I have also spent some time working through this issue as well and have come to the conclusion that tithing is biblical and is still required by God.

I won't quote all of the scriptures in the Old Testament about tithing. There are many there to support tithing. The issue comes when look at in the New Testament. Some people seem to want to say that anything that is not commanded in the New Testament is no longer valid for the Christian. I don't think that is true. Jesus said, "If you love me, obey My commands" (John 14:15). Was He speaking only of the commands He gave while in the flesh or was He referring to the commands of God, of which He is God?

I do not agree that we should ignore the Old Testament and obey only New Testament commands. If so, then we would be throwing out more than half of the Bible! We would also be ignoring 2 Tim. 3:16-17 and Psalm 119:105 for the scriptures to which they attest are the Old Testament scriptures. The scriptures of which our Lord Jesus refers to in Matt. 5:18 are the Old Testament scriptures.

You said that John MacArthur says the New Testament never teaches tithing. That is not true. Jesus said, in Matt. 23:23, " Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters
of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone." Jesus did not tell them not to tithe. He said they should have done that (tithe), but not leave the others undone (justice, mercy, faith).

MacArthur and others, have taken out of context 2 Cor. 9:7. Paul was not speaking of the normal giving of a tithe each week. He was taking up a collection to help the church in Jerusalem, thus the context of verse 7 is in regard to a special offering, similar to our Lottie Moon or Annie Armstrong offering.

This idea of only adhering to the New Testament and ignoring the Old Testament is dangerous in my view. I believe, as do many others, that unless Old Testament commands were expressly addressed in the New Testament as no longer required, then they are still binding. Here are a few examples:

1. The dietary laws of the Old Testament are no longer valid. This issue
is pointedly addressed in a vision by Peter in Acts 10.
2. The ceremonial law was replaced by Jesus in John 4:23-24.
3. The sacrifical system was replaced by the sacrifice of Christ on the cross as explained in Hebrews 5-10.

The Old Testament commands of the moral law (10 commandments, commands dealing with sexual immorality, etc.) are still in effect as they are not expressly addressed in the New Testament. This also includes tithing. The only place that tithing is mentioned in the New Testament is in Matt. 23:23 and Jesus says "these you ought to have done." Why should the New Testament have to revisit and affirm every Old Testament command that was given? It would be unnescessary. The commands are still valid unless specifically replaced in the New Testament.

Those who say that unless the New Testament addresses a command, then it is no longer valid, are teaching dangerous practices. If that holds true, then we open ourselves up to all sorts of evil. Here are some examples.

1. Nowhere in the New Testament are we told not to make carved images. Does that mean it is now okay with God that we make images in opposition to the second of the Ten Commandments? (Exodus 20:4-6)

2. Nowhere in the New Testament are told not to take the Lord's name in vain. Does that mean it is now okay with God that we can take the Lord's name in vain in opposition to the third of the Ten Commandments? (Exodus 20:7)

3. Nowhere in the New Testament are we told that life is precious and should not be taken away through abortion or murder. Does that mean that abortion is okay with God? (Gen. 9:5-6; Psalm 139)

I pray that you can see the absurdity of ignoring the teachings of the Old Testament. A good interpretive principle is that we interpret the Old Testament through the light of the New Testament. That does not mean that unless the biblical principles of the Old Testament are repeated in the New Testament then they are no longer valid for the Christian.

As far as tithing is concerned, I believe that 10% is the minimum that one should give. Surely, we should give everything we have because it belongs to the Lord, but a minimum is a tithe (10%).

Have a great day!

Les Puryear
Pastor, Cornerstone Community Church

Monday, August 8, 2011

Friday, August 5, 2011

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

What Do You Love?

What do you love? I love Jesus, Debbie Lewter Puryear, my children, grandchildren, daughters-in-law, mother, the Beatles, yellow mangos, string cheese, my friends in Ecuador, Philippines, thinking about the old days in Bishopville, Burgaw & Wilmington, preaching, bluegrass music, rock music prior to 1980, driving around, baptizing new believers, Hank Williams Sr, The Carter Family, reading biographies, golf, NFL, Fantasy Football, my first cup of coffee in the morning, white sugar-coated doughnuts, Cornerstone Community Church in Clemmons, NC, Wednesday night small group, North Myrtle Beach, traveling overseas, playing guitar, writing, wrestling with my grandchildren, seafood, eBay, humble people, pre-1960 Elvis Presley, going to Israel, plums, God's Word, Henry Blackaby, my Facebook friends, stories about how God is working, not being around "suck-the-life-out-of-you" people, singing "Long Gone Lonesome Blues" in the shower, HDTV, Blue-Ray DVD, Golf Channel, The Godfather Part I and II, Inception, watching movies with my wife, Southern Baptist small churches, Twilight Zone, making a difference, teaching, being by myself sometimes, the quiet of a TV turned off.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Community Baptism: Part 1

On Sunday, July 17 at 10:00 am, the church where I pastor, Cornerstone Community Church, will be doing a community baptism. What is a community baptism? In our concept, it is a time when we open up Christian baptism to anyone in our community who believes in Christ and wants to be baptized.

We will be advertising our community baptism on Time Warner Cable channels which will reach about 200,000 people. Our TV commercial is scheduled to begin running for two weeks on the Saturday after July 4th until the Saturday prior to the day of our event on July 17. Please pray that many new converts will be baptized on July 17. Here's the 30 second TV spot that will run.

In my next installment, I will explain why we have decided to hold this event and why we believe it is completely biblical.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Calvinist No More: Part 2

A few weeks ago, I penned a blog post entitled, "Calvinist No More." In this post, I provided an overview of my journey into Calvinism and back to non-Calvinism. My post seems to have generated quite a bit of interest in both Calvinist and non-Calvinist circles. This post has become my number one all-time read post since I began blogging in 2006.

I thought I had said everything I wanted to say about this topic until some people whom I greatly respect, asked me if I would write regarding what it was about my Southern Baptist roots that drew me away from Calvinism. Their question was in reference to the last two sentences in my previous post, in which I stated,

God has led me safely through my journey in Calvinism back to my Southern Baptist roots with a greater appreciation for His sovereignty and glory. It's good to be home.
So what is it that drew me back to Southern Baptist roots and away from Calvinism? Evangelism and missions.

Please understand what I am not saying. I am not saying that Calvinists are not interested in evangelism and missions. The Calvinist baptists that I know are dedicated to reaching the lost for Christ. They are missions-minded and missions-active. But somehow, it is different from my Southern Baptist roots.

Others may place more emphasis on ecclesiology, worship, social ministry, etc., but nobody does evangelism and missions better than Southern Baptists. I missed being around Southern Baptists who were passionate to reach the lost. I missed being around Southern Baptists who were constantly seeking ways to tell someone else about Jesus. I missed being around Southern Baptists whose main goal is evangelism and missions above everything else.

The priority of Southern Baptists is, first and foremost, to reach sinners for Christ. Our overarching goal is to go into the highways and byways, rescue the perishing, and throw out the lifeline of Jesus Christ to the spiritually dead and dying. Southern Baptists are heralds of eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord. Our deepest desire is to sound the clarion call of forgiveness of sin through the cross of Christ. Our fondest fervor is to tell the old, old, story of the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus. Our greatest delight is the glory of God on display when a lost soul turns away from sin and turns to Jesus.  Our most joyful celebration is when the new believer enters the baptismal waters in obedience to the command of Christ, as a public testimony of becoming a new creation through Christ and walking in newness of life.

This is what I have missed. This is the home to which I have returned.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Amazing Missionary Life

This is a video we played last Sunday for our "Missions Moment." It is very inspirational, especially if the work in your ministry seems to be slow.

Monday, May 30, 2011

I Fought For You

Unashamedly, we played this video at our church yesterday. We glorify God for what He has done and is doing through the men and women who have served and are serving our country.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Do Multi-Point Pastorates Still Exist in the SBC?

What is a "multi-point" pastorate? Simply, it is a pastor who serves multiple churches. This was a common occurence in the 1940's until the 1960's. I remember Pastor Clyde Sullivan who was the pastor of my grandparents church in Person County. Not only did he serve my grandparents church, but he also served three others as well. He would preach in two churches each Sunday, so each church had Sunday services only twice a month. Mr. Sullivan made very little money from these pastorates. A couple of the churches paid him in fruits, vegetables, and meat.

The same can be said for Pastor Clarence Bishop. He pastored in Person and Granville counties for years. I remember him in the early 1960's. Pastor Bishop also served multi-point pastorates. I don;t believe Pastor Bishop was the fulltime pastor of one church until the late 1960s. By that time, he was nearly 60 years old and had been pastoring for 40 years.

I wonder if multi-point pastorates still exist in the SBC. I know they do in United Methodist Churches. In our community, a UMC pastor serves two churches. He preaches at one church at 9:30 am and 11:00 am at the other. Do you know of any multi-point pastorates in the SBC?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Calvinist No More

In 2004, a pastor friend of mine introduced me to a Minnesota preacher named John Piper. He gave me a book entitled, "Brothers, We Are Not Professionals." As I read that book I was blown away with his candor and a perspective which I had never been exposed. I soon bought other Piper books and devoured them. The message I was hearing from Piper was that glorifying God was our main purpose in life. As a Christian for over 40 years, an ordained deacon for over 20 years, and a pastor more 6 years at the time, I had never noticed this teaching. That is not to say that the churches in which I grew up and the seminary in which I attended did not teach to glorify God above all things; it's just that if they did teach it, I had never noticed it before. Piper also had a way of describing the beauty of God in a way that touched my heart as it had never been touched before. To me, this was new, exciting stuff. My pastor friend invited me to go with him to hear John Piper speak at The Cove in Asheville, NC. For three days I watched and listened to Piper as he described the glory of God with passion, sincerity, and vigor. I was captivated by such preaching. During the three days, Piper also spoke of his beliefs in Calvinism. I was taken aback by some of his Calvinist teaching, but I ended the conference with the attitude that I would investigate Calvinism and see for myself.

I proceeded to read every book on Calvinism that I could find. I read contemporary Calvinist authors such as Michael Horton, R. C. Sproul, Tim Keller, C. J. Mahaney, Mark Dever, Mark Driscoll, as well as the old guard such as John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, Charles Spurgeon, A. W. Pink, J. I. Packer, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, and others. I learned that TULIP was the acronym used to describe Calvinist soteriological beliefs as follows:

T - total depravity
U - unconditional election
L - limited atonement
I - irresistible grace
P - perseverance of the saints

I found the Bible to be very clear on total depravity, unconditional election, and perseverance of the saints. To me, the Bible was less clear about limited atonement and irresistible grace, but I accepted the explanations of the Calvinist authors about these doctrines. And so, in 2006, I began to self-identify as a Calvinist. I read nothing but Calvinist books by Calvinist authors. I used the Calvinist devotional, "Tabletalk," as part of my quiet time routine each day. I met with Calvinist pastors each month for Calvinist fellowship. I attended Calvinist conferences and wrote about and defended Calvinism on my blog. I was totally convinced that Calvinism was the correct view of soteriology.

But about one and half years ago, I began to have some doubts about Calvinism. My monthly meeting with Calvinist pastors began to evolve into a monthly meeting with Reformed pastors. I discovered that my Calvinist pastor friends were not just Calvinists but they were also Reformed Pastors. As I listened to them talk about being Reformed and what that meant in all areas of church life, my heart sank. What I was hearing was basically baptist presbyterianism. These conversations caused me to reexamine everything I had been learning about Calvinism. As I re-read my Calvinist books from Calvinist authors, I began to see that behind the Calvinism was more than just soteriological belief. There was a whole system of belief that affected ecclesiology, preaching, teaching, and daily living. In a word, it was Reformed. I had even self-identified as Reformed because I thought that was a less controversial word than Calvinist. But as I learned what Reformed truly meant, I knew that I was not Reformed. I blogged about this discovery in July, 2010 and met much resistance from Reformed commenters. But that was okay because I knew that I was righting a faith that had been shipwrecked on the rocky shore of Calvinism/Reformed belief.

I changed my reading habits. No longer was I reading Calvinist/Reformed authors and material, but I turned back to non-Calvinist Southern Baptist authors such as Henry Blackaby, L. R. Scarborough, W. A. Criswell, George Truett, John Broadus, Timothy George, David Jeremiah, Charles Stanley, Jerry Vines, Herschel Hobbs, Tom Elliff, and others. I replaced my Reformed devotional reading with the Southern Baptist devotional "Open Windows." It was like opening the window to pure, sweet, fresh air.

Rather than be persuaded by the philosophical arguments of men on limited atonement and irresistible grace, I will stand on what I believe the Bible to teach about those beliefs. I do appreciate the things I have learned during my Calvinist journey. I am more aware of the total depravity of man. I believe completely in unconditional election and the perseverance of the saints. My point of view is, hopefully, more God-centered than man-centered. I seek to glorify God in everything I do. I am grateful to my Calvinist brothers and sisters for helping me understand these things better. It is my hope that we can all work together for the glory of God.

Thus, I am a Calvinist no more. God has led me safely through my journey in Calvinism back to my  Southern Baptist roots with a greater appreciation for His sovereignty and glory. It's good to be home.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Friday, May 13, 2011

In Reverse Video

Another great video we have shown in our church.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Thanks, FBC Jax Watchdog!

A "Tip of the Hat" to Tom Rich at the FBC Jax Watchdog blog site. He wrote a piece about my views on how to plant a church with little or no funding and included a link to my site. Apparently a lot of people read Mr. Rich's blog because my pageviews grew immensely from his blog. It's really irrelevant that he completely misread and misunderstood my post about being bivocational. I'm just so glad that many more people read about a biblical way of how to plant a church. Thanks again, Tom.

Why We Celebrate Easter Video

This is a video we showed in our church on Easter Sunday. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Use of Video in Our Worship Service

Our new church plant uses a lot of video during our Sunday morning worship worship service. When I say a lot, I'm talking about a minimum of six videos per Sunday. Since we have no musicians, we use four worship videos each Sunday for congregation to sing with. In addition, we show a missions video for a "missions moment" and we usually play an inspirational video during the offering. We find that our people really enjoy the videos and their hearts are touched each week.

"Where do I get my videos?" you ask. I search and for videos each week. When I find videos I want to use, I use to download the videos to my computer. I store all of my videos on a 87Gb external hard drive which attaches to my computer via a USB port. I'm going to upgrade to a 2Tb external hard drive in the near future. Best Buy has them for $100.00. In addition, I create worship videos via Pinnacle Studio. My son, Rob, also creates videos using Adobe Premiere.

In the coming days, I will be posting some of the videos we have used in our worship services. If you have videos to share, please let me know. We're always on the lookout for new videos.

Are you using video in your worship service? If so, how?

Monday, May 2, 2011

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

How To Plant a Church With Little or No Outside Funding

With all the discussion over the funding of church planting, I thought I would share how we are planting a new Southern Baptist church with no outside funding. Yes, that's right; no outside funding. It can be done. Here's how we're doing it.

1. Get a secular job.
Don't take any salary from the new church until the church can meet its financial needs for startup costs and weekly expenses. Also, when you are in a secular job, you are actually around lost people. These are the people you are trying to reach with your new church plant.

2. Put your children in public school and have your wife get a secular job.
There's nothing worng with having your children in public school. They will get out of it what they put into it. Also, your children need to learn how to be around lost people. Being around lost people provides opportunities for witnessing for Christ. Your wife needs to be around lost people too.
3. Start a weekly bible study in your home.
Let the people know that the plan is for the bible study to ultimately become a church.

4. Once the bible study outgrows your home, find space to rent.
We outgrew our home bible study in two months. Thankfully, the Lord provided a local YMCA for our meetings. Your local YMCA is a great place for a new church plant.

5. Join your local Southern Baptist association, state convention, and the SBC. Cooperation is key for any SBC church. Join the SBC. As a member of the SBC, your church will automatically have tax exempt status. This will save you $850 in legal fees to become a 501c3 entity.

6. Pray, pray, pray. 
Nothing will happen without prayer. You can never pray too much.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Are We Overemphasizing Church Planting?

You may want to read my post on this topic at my other blog. Here's an excerpt.

Dr. Ezell is upfront about his intention to use more NAMB dollars for church planting. What this means is that 32% of the funds we give to NAMB will be wasted on new church plants that will not be in existence four years after their planting. 

You can read the entire post here

Monday, April 11, 2011

David Livingstone

He left his heart in Africa, but his body is buried in Westminster Abbey in London. At his death, natives gently removed his heart and buried it in the Africa he so dearly loved.
Then his body was carried to the coast, where it was shipped back to England for burial. His name was David Livingstone. And he was one of the first missionaries to go to Africa.

What sustains men and women who leave behind family and comfort to go to another country for the gospel's sake? What kept David Livingstone in Africa, when, as a medical doctor, he could have lived a very comfortable life in his native Scotland?

Livingstone, himself, answered that question. After 16 years of service in Africa, he returned to Scotland and
was asked to speak at the University of Glasgow. One of his arms had been rendered useless, the result of a lion's attack. His body bore physical evidence of the suffering he had endured with 27 bouts of jungle fever.
His face was a leathery brown from exposure to the elements. And it was creased from the cares of a hard life battling the Turks and the slave traders, both of whom had little use for Livingstone.

A hush swept over the students at the University of Glasgow as they prepared to listen to this man, realizing this was no ordinary person. "Shall I tell you what sustained me amidst the trials and hardship and loneliness of my exiled life?" he asked. And then he gave them the answer. "It was a promise, the promise of a gentleman of the most sacred honor; it was this promise, 'Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.'" (Matt. 28:20)

When Livingstone died, they found his body bent in prayer as he had knelt by his bed. Beside him was a well-worn New Testament opened up to Matthew 28. In the margin beside verse 20 was this notation:
"The Word of a Gentleman."

As the body of Livingstone was carried through the streets of London on its way to its final resting place in
Westminster Abbey, one man wept openly. A friend gently consoled him, asking if he had known
Livingstone personally. "I weep not for Livingstone but for myself," the first man said, and he added, "he lived and died for something, but I have lived for nothing."

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

A Palace, Not a Cottage.

"When I invited Jesus into my life, I thought He was going to put up some wallpaper and hang a few pictures. But He started knocking out walls and adding on rooms. I said, 'I was expecting a nice cottage.' But He said, 'I'm making a palace in which to live.'" C. S. Lewis

Monday, April 4, 2011

Oswald Chamber's Wife

There's an old saying that is very true. The saying is, "Behind every successful man is a good woman." That saying was never any more true than it was of Oswald Chambers. If you walk into just about any Christian bookstore in the world, you will find something that has Oswald Chambers as its author. His book, "My Utmost for His Highest," has become the best-selling devotional book in the world. And yet, if it had not been for his wife, Gertrude Chambers, very few people would even recognize the name of Oswald Chambers. Her name never appeared on any of the 50 books that bear the name of Oswald Chambers. But she is responsible for compiling all of them. In the foreword to "My Utmost for His Highest," she wrote about how the selections had come from various speaking engagements, yet she only signed with initials "B.C." Who was this remarkable woman who insisted on remaining entirely hidden behind the work of her husband?

Her maiden name was Gertrude Hobbs. But when she became Mrs. Oswald Chambers, for some reason, her husband began calling her "Biddy." Before the death of Oswald Chambers in 1917, a few of his sermons had been published. Some had been printed in booklets, but not a single book had gone to press.

Oswald died as the result of complications following an appendectomy in Egypt, where he had been ministering to British troops through the YMCA. His untimely death at the age of 43 was mourned by thousands of people. He was so well loved by the men he ministered to, that in spite of the fact that he wasn't part of the military, he was given a full military burial in the old British cemetery in Cairo. A cable was dispatched from Cairo to family and friends at home, bearing the simple message, "OSWALD IN HIS PRESENCE." Oswald and Biddy had been married for just 7 years. At the age of 34, she had become a widow and the single mother of a little girl. The real story behind the man's fame began at his death.

Before she met Oswald, Biddy had become a stenographer. She could take shorthand faster than most people could talk. And from the time she first began listening to her husband's messages, Biddy took shorthand notes. It never occurred to her that one day they would be transcribed to become the texts of his books and that she would become the editor as well as publisher of many of them.

If you have been blessed by the writings of Oswald Chambers as I have over the years, you would agree that the Christian world owes a tremendous debt of gratitude to a humble, gracious, and generally unknown woman whose efforts have blessed so many.

Today, we think it strange that a woman would devote herself so unselfishly to editing and publishing her husband's work. But that's the way that Biddy wanted it. She believed that people would see Jesus in Oswald's writings. It's amazing what can be accomplished when we're willing to let God have the credit and are not concerned about our getting the glory.

Friday, April 1, 2011

The Doug Nichols Story

In 1967, Doug Nichols was serving as a missionary in India. When he contracted tubercolosis, he was sent to a sanitarium to recuperate. Though he was not living on much more money than the people from India in the sanitarium, they thought that because he was an American, he had to be rich. Doug said, "They didn't know that I was just as broke as they were."

When he was hospitalized, Doug unsuccessfully tried to reach some of the patients for Christ. When he offered them tracts or Gospels of John, they politely refused. It was obvious that the patients wanted nothing to do with him or his God. Doug grew discouraged and wondered why God had allowed him to be there.

Doug was often be awakened in the night by the sound of coughing from him as well as other patients. But then, what would you expect in the TB ward of a sanitarium? Unable to sleep because of his coughing, early one morning Doug noticed an old man trying to sit on the edge of the bed. But because of his weakness, he would fall back. Exhausted, the old man finally lay still and cried. Early the next morning the same scene repeated itself. Then later in the morning, the smell that began to permeate the room revealed the obvious. The old man had been trying to get up and go to a rest room.

Doug said, "The nurses were very agitated and angry because they had to clean up the mess. One of the nurses even slapped him in anger. The man was completely embarrassed and curled up into a ball and wept." The next morning, Doug noticed the old man was again trying to generate enough strength to get himself out of bed. This time, Doug got out of bed, went over to where the old man was, put one arm under his head and neck, the other under his legs, and gently carried him to the rest room. When he had finished, Doug carried him back to his bed. The old man, speaking in a language that Doug did not understand, thanked him profusely, and then kissed him on the cheek. But the story doesn't end there.

Eventually Doug went back to sleep. In the morning, he awakened to a hot cup of tea served to him by another patient who spoke no English. After the patient served the tea, he made motions indicating that he wanted one of Doug's tracts. Doug said, "All throughout the day, people came to me asking for Gospel tracts." "This included the nurses, hospital interns, the doctors, until everyone in the hospital had a tract, booklet, or Gospel of John." "Over the next few days," he adds, "several told me they trusted Christ as Savior as a result of reading the Good News!"

One final thought: The world doesn't care how much you have or what you know. They want to know how much you care." Doug Nichols said, "I simply took an old man to the bathroom. Anyone could have done that."

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Joy in Service

"She has done what she could." Mark 14:8

If there is a museum in heaven, we shall probably be surprised at the dull objects displayed prominently on sparkling cloth of gold: two mites, a boy's lunch, a cup of cold water, and a broken vase. We may puzzle a moment, but after a little thought, we shall realize these were the most lavish gifts their donors could give to the Master. Jesus' words about Mary's extravagant and apparently useless gift to Him were not faint praise; they were the highest commendation.

Most of us concentrate on wishing we had more to give to the Master, rather than planning how to give what we do have. We lament we cannot sing a glorious solo. We long to have thousands to give. Then we haggle inwardly over whether our tithe is to be computed before or after income tax deductions. We wish we were winsome leaders, while we fail to call the absentees in our Sunday School classes.

Joy will be ours when we lavish on Jesus and on the least of His brethren the full measure of talent and resource that has been entrusted to us.

Father, show me the greatest thing I can do for You and help me do it. Amen.

Open Windows, June 10, 1958.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Problem With "Gift-based" Ministry

This post is a repeat from a couple of years ago. This is in response to those who think they don't have to do missions because they don't the right "giftedness."  

I’ve just finished reading a voluminous document our association has prepared on church planting. I’m on the “Church Start Committee” thus I get to read the document prior to committee approval. The document is very well written and very detailed.One section of the document is entitled, “Church Growth Consultations Process.” This process identifies eight characteristics of growing churches. One characteristic that caught my eye was “Gift-oriented Ministry.” As most of you are undoubtedly aware, there is a certain segment of people who say that we need to discover our spiritual gifts so we can serve God in the ways He has gifted us.This “gift-based ministry” approach is troubling to me. Why? The main reason is that once I discover my spiritual “gifts,” I will have a built-in Christian excuse not to participate in ministries that do not match my “giftedness.” A few examples might be as follows:

Not gifted in evangelism? Then you don’t have to do evangelism.

Not gifted in mercy? Then you don’t have to be merciful.

Not gifted in faith? Then you don’t have to be faithful.

Not gifted in compassion? Then you don’t have to be compassionate.

Not gifted in administration? Then you don’t have to do administration.

The list could go on and on.

If “gift-based ministry” is not right, then what would be a better approach? I highly recommend Henry Blackaby’s little 92 page book entitled, What’s So Spiritual About Your Gifts? Here’s an excerpt from a chapter entitled “Gifting Follows Assignment”:

“As the Spirit reveals the will of the Father, we can then allow Him to accomplish it through our lives by the Spirit’s enabling. Equipping always follows the assignment. The enabling power of the Holy Spirit follows the assignment, never precedes it. For if we aren’t willing to obey the Lord and do His will, there’s no need for Him to give us gifts. Spiritual gifts don’t belong to the believer; they’re an expression of the Holy Spirit doing the Father’s will.”

Did you catch the emphasis of Dr. Blackaby? The emphasis is on God, not man. God empowers, equips, and enables as He calls His people to serve. We don’t deteremine when we will obey God according to our alleged gifting. We obey God and He equips us for the task, whatever it may be.

I know this flies in the face of the thinking of many SBC pastors and churches, but, to me, this is just another example of the difference of being God-centered as opposed to being man-centered. “Gift-based Ministry” is man-centered in that it is based on my gifts and how I will serve. The God-centered approach is following Christ anywhere He leads and relying on Him to equip us for the task. For those who disagree, I would recommend you take the time to read Dr. Blackaby’s book.

If “gift-based” ministry is not the answer then what is the answer for assembling ministry teams? I believe “burden-based” ministry is more biblical. What do I mean by a “burden”? I define a God-given burden in this context as “a sense of personal disquiet, urgency, and obligation, given by God and only by God, to act on behalf of and for the benefit of others to resolve a problem, meet a need, or seize an opportunity.”

I believe that the Bible is correct when it says that Lord adds to the body. If the Lord adds people to our local body of Christ, then we need to pay attention to who He is adding and what their “burdens” are, not so much their spiritual “gifts.”

As far as I can tell, God never called anyone to serve Him based on their “spiritual gifts.” God didn’t go to Moses and say, “Moses, you have the gift of courage and public speaking, therefore, I am calling you to deliver Israel from Egypt.” God didn’t go to Abraham and say, “Abe, since you have the spiritual gift of administration I’m going to call you to be the father of a great people.” God didn’t go to Gideon and say “Gideon, because you have the gift of wisdom, I’m going to call you to overthrow the Amalekites.”

No, God didn’t do that. What God did was choose to call someone, place a great desire in their heart to serve Him in a certain way, and then He equipped them for the task at hand. The equipping was always after the call.

“Burden-based ministry” is how I assemble ministry teams in our church. You see, I assume that if someone has a desire to serve God in a specific area, that is God placing that desire in their heart (“Experiencing God,” by Henry Blackaby).

I ask folks this question: If you could only do ONE thing for Christ and nothing else, what would be your heart’s greatest desire? You would be amazed at the answers. Some will have a desire to minister to elderly people. They become our nursing home ministry. Some will have a desire to reach children for Christ. They become our Children’s ministry. Some will have a desire to feed the homeless, visit the sick, work with youth, etc., etc.

This is “burden-based ministry.” You assemble ministry teams based upon their heart’s desire (burden). Then you have teams of people who actually WANT to do what they are being asked to do. For those who may not feel they are “gifted” for the ministry they feel the most burden for, tell them to ask God to equip them. When you do that, pray for them as well and watch them grow in the Lord! It is an exciting thing to watch.

For those ministries that no one seems to have a burden for, you pray that God will bring people to your church in whom He has placed a desire for those ministries. When you pray like that, you see God working all around you.

I would heartily recommend you try this “burden-based” ministry approach instead of “gift-based.” Once you see God work through the burdens of people’s hearts, you will never go back to “gift-based” ministry.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

We Taught Them Too Well

Alan Cross has a thought-provoking post entitled, "Are Southern Baptists Capable of Being Missional?". He asks a good question because going on missions personally is not what we have been taught.

IMHO, for years and years, we taught the church they could participate in missions by giving to Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong so that missionaries could do the work of missions for us. This was the mantra until recently (within last 15-20 years) when we began to encourage our people not only to give but to go. In my previous church, a lot of the pushback I received was exactly that: we give and they go; we're doing our part.

We taught the churches for 100 years to give and the missionaries would go. We created that mindset and it's going to take a while to change it, if we ever can. 

Monday, March 21, 2011

Prayer For Japan

This is a video I created for our church. The song is "If We've Ever Needed You," by Casting Crowns. I hope you enjoy it.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

How To Plug a Huge Hole in Your Pastor's Pay Package

When I left my last pastor position, I inquired about receiving unemployment with our state's Employment Security Commission. I was told that unemployment tax is optional for churches. If churches choose not to pay it, then unemployment benefits are not available for church personnel. I checked with my church's treasurer and he confirmed that they did not pay the unemployment tax. What this means is that if any church personnel are laid off, fired, or forced to resign, there are no government benefits available to them for unemployment.

I looked into the North Carolina Unemployment Insurance information section and found that for employers in North Carolina, the unemployment tax is 1.2% of the total payroll. If my church had provided unemployment insurance for me as their pastor, it would have cost the church $480 annually, based on my salary of $40,000. This tax rate may vary according to your state.

As someone who has learned the hard way, I highly recommend to all pastors and church staff personnel to negotiate unemployment insurance as a part of your package for your own protection. I know it will be a part of my package from now on.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Traditional Small Church Marginalization

There has been some discussion recently about the marginalization of the traditional small church. Read the blogs of Ed Stetzer, Bart Barber, Peter Lumpkin, and Nathan Finn for their take on this topic. Here's my take.

What is a traditional small church? In my definition, a traditional small church is a church which has less than 200 in Sunday morning worship attendance according to the ACP report and practices traditional ways of doing church: hymns, choir, piano, organ, suit and tie or at least business casual for men, dresses for women, "Sunday best" for children, preacher preaching at a pulpit, Sunday School, and traditional programs such as RA's, GA's, Baptist Men, and WMU.

Traditional small churches comprise the vast majority of the SBC (83% per latest ACP). However, these small churches, which are the majority of the churches in the SBC, are represented on SBC boards as a clear minority. The average SBC board representation of traditional small churches is 22%. The average SBC board representation of churches with over 1,000 Sunday morning worship attendance averages 30%. However, these larger churches only comprise 1.4% of all SBC churches.

Have traditional small churches been marginalized in SBC life? The facts clearly say "Yes." The majority of the SBC churches have the minority voice in every governing agency of the SBC. If this isn't marginalization of traditional small churches, then I don't know what is.

I have asked each of the past four SBC presidents to take steps to alleviate the inequitable representation of the majority of SBC churches and each president has declined to take any definitive action. Last year, I proposed a motion to the Executive Board to resolve this inequity, but they have refused to address it.

To me, for anyone to even hint that traditional small churches are not being marginalized in SBC life is the sign of someone who is not paying attention or who is not aware of the realities of SBC life.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

What Do You Get Out of Conferences?

I went to a state conference last week. It was like hundreds of other conferences I've been to over the years. Speakers, breakouts sessions, vendor booths, etc. At this particular conference, there were only about 150-200 people, most of them over 65 years old. Nothing wrong with older folks because I'm one of them, but it seems that the majority of people who attend these things are retirees who have plenty of time to attend.

There seems to be a conference or two every week of the year. Apparently they make money or there wouldn't be so many of them. Besides the major league conferences, i.e., Desiring God, FBC Jacksonville, Together for the Gospel, etc., what is the value of these conferences to you? Are state conferences whuch are put on by our state conventions of any value? Just asking.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

A Single Mom Comes to Christ

One of our members invited a young woman to come with her to church. Ann* and her precious little boy began attending church regularly. It was clear from talking to her that she knew very little about Jesus or the church, but she was eager to learn.

One night I received a call from Ann's friend. She told me that Ann's husband was kicking her and her boy out of their house and they desperately needed somewhere to live. The next day we put out the word to everyone in the church. Soon we located a nice garage apartment for her near the church. We gathered up some volunteers and helped Ann and her son move out the next weekend.

Ann continued attending the church and I had the privilege of baptizing her. She grew as a Christian. She tried to reconcile with her husband but he refused. I left the church to pastor another church and lost touch with Ann.

A few years later, Ann called me at home. She said that she was engaged to a godly young man and asked if I would conduct their marriage ceremony. Of course, I was delighted to do so. We had the marriage ceremony in the back yard of the house which her fiance owned in Asheboro. Ann and her son were moving in with her new husband the next day. She told me about the church they had been attending and how happy she was there.

I am still able to keep up with Ann and her new family through Facebook. She has grown into a godly woman who is now discipling others in Christ.

*not her real name

Monday, February 28, 2011

Christ Rescues an Abortion-Minded Woman

The following story is from my lovely wife of 40 years, Debbie. She volunteers as a counselor each week at Salem Pregnancy Center in Winston Salem, NC. Through her, the Lord Jesus has led countless abortion-minded women to have their baby and turn to Christ. This is the story of one of those women.

Several times a month I volunteer at a local pregnancy care center. Here we offer pregnancy counseling, abstinence education, post-abortion counseling and adoption counseling. We also offer comfort and hope. Most importantly, we offer the greatest gift of all and that’s Jesus. Sharing Jesus and watching someone come to know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior is why I do this. I also have the opportunity to stay in touch with the young ladies and see and hear about their progress with their baby and their walk with the Lord. I remember one such young lady.

She had been living with her boyfriend and she became pregnant. She wanted to keep her baby but her boyfriend was pressuring her to have an abortion. When she came to the pregnancy center she was till undecided. I shared the gospel of Jesus Christ with her and she received Christ as Savior and Lord. Together we rejoiced in her new life in Christ and she decided that the right thing to do was to have her baby. Praise God!

As I normally do, I tried to contact her a couple of weeks after this appointment, but could not reach her. Her phone had been disconnected. A couple of months passed and the pregnancy center received a call that one of our clients was looking for a place to get away from her abusive boyfriend. The information was given and, from what I understand, the police became involved. I found out later this was my client. My heart broke for her, but no one was allowed to know where she was or contact her. I took comfort in knowing that she was safe.

Several years later, one of our women was at a training session on domestic violence when a young lady approached her. It was my client. She said she had her baby and was doing well. She was so thankful for the ministry of the pregnancy center that she expressed a desire to help. She has volunteered to be a counselor and she is currently going through training. I have the wonderful privilege of training a former client to help other young ladies who are going through what she went through. What an awesome God we serve!

Jeremiah 29:11-13 comes to mind.
“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.”

This story is being repeated in pregnancy centers all over our nation. If your church is not actively supporting your local pregnancy center, I would humbly advise that you consider supporting them.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Rules of Engagement

Our new church is busy trying to get the word out about our church. We've divided our area of local ministry into six zones and assigned teams to distribute the brochures to each home in their assigned zone. Our method of distribution has been to staple a rubber band on each brochure and hang the brochure on each home's mailbox. In apartment complexes, we're hanging the brochures on the front door of each apartment.

For the most part, we've not received many complaints. One person even emailed us to thank us for distributing the brochures to communicate the Lord Jesus. However, two apartment complexes have called and complained about "solicitation" and asked us to come back and retrieve the brochures. Since we view the distribution of the brochures as "sowing seeds," we declined to retrieve the brochures we have already distributed.

I had a talk with our local postmaster and he said that we cannot put brochures in a mailbox or on a mailbox. Violation is a federal offense. With that tidbit of information, we're no longer putting brochures on mailboxes.

So what are we to do? Well, we're going to continue distributing our brochures by placing them on the doorknobs of each homes' front door. If a sign is displayed that says "no trespassing" or "no soliciting," then we're going to skip that house. The only other alternative I' aware of is to do direct mail from someone like

Anyone have any other ideas?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Released From the Bondage of Drugs

We were conducting our annual VBS when I first met Rene*. I noticed her in the foyer of our education building. She was waiting there while her children attended VBS in our church. Rene was in her late 30's and one could see that she had lived a rough life. Her hygiene could be improved, her dress was too small for her, and all of her top teeth were missing. However, she smiled brightly when I spoke with her. She sat in the foyer paitently waiting while VBS went on for the first couple of nights. The third night, one of our volunteers for crafts didn't show up so Rene was asked to helped. She was delighted to be useful in some way. She worked in crafts the rest of the week.

At the end of the week, her two children made professions of faith in Christ and Rene was overjoyed. When I spoke to Rene about her life, she was very shy and did not open up. I encouraged her to bring her children to church after VBS ended. She did not have any transportation so we arranged for one of our members who lived close to her to bring their family on Sunday mornings.

Rene and her two children were faithful to come to church every Sunday morning. On the day that I had the awesome privilege of baptizing her two children, her husband, Bobby*, attended church as well. After the service, I spoke briefly with him and he made it clear to me that he wanted nothing to do with me or the church. He said that he only came to support his children but he had no intention of coming back.

Rene and the children expanded their attendance to include Sunday School as well as worship. The children were being discipled and growing in Christ. The Lord was touching Rene's heart as well. Finally, one day she asked me to come to her house and speak with her. She told me the sad tale of her life and how she had been involved with drugs since she was 13 years old. She said she was ready to change her life and she wanted to start fresh by giving her life to Christ. She received Jesus as her Lord and Savior that day. A couple of Sundays later, I had the honor of baptizing Rene. Bobby was there as well, scowling the whole time. A few days later, we took Rene to Durham to enter a drug rehab facility. After six weeks, Rene emerged clean and drug-free for the first time in many years.

A few months later, I received a call from Rene. She said that Bobby had been arrested for possession and they had no money for bail. I went to the jail and bailed Bobby out. He was embarrassed yet thankful that I had helped him. The next Sunday morning, Bobby was sitting with Rene and the children in church. He continued to come Sunday after Sunday. I was with him when his case went to trial. He received probation instead of jail time and we were all rejoicing in the Lord. After the trial, I went back with Bobby and Rene to their house. Bobby wanted to talk with me privately. That same day, in his bedroom, Bobby gave His life to Christ.

Bobby and Rene were faithful members of our church. It's amazing how different people look when Christ cleans them up. No longer were they unkempt, lacking personal hygiene, or appearing like they had not slept in days. Now they were clean and refreshed. It was a joy to see the change Christ made in their lives.

A couple of years later I left to go to another church. I did not hear from Bobby and Rene until a couple of years ago. Bobby called me at home one evening and told me that Rene had died suddenly. He asked if I would come back and conduct her funeral. I was very pleased to do so.

What a wonderful time of celebration we had together of the life that Jesus had given to Rene. We rejoiced in her transformation that only can come in Christ. We were all comforted with the knowledge that Rene was with Jesus. Jesus had released her from her bondage to drugs and set her free. Her family is forever grateful to Christ for all He has done.

*name changed.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Tom Elliff, IMB President: A Very Good Choice

I am very pleased with the announcement of Tom Elliff as the IMB's choice for President. Tom is a wonderful man of God and I believe will serve well. Not only does he have IMB experience, he also has experience as a local pastor. In addition, Tom Elliff has demonstrated his love for small church pastors. He was the IMB speaker at the 2008 Small Church Leadership Conference which I hosted in Lewisville, NC. The following is a video of his talk to small church pastors. I think it conveys some of the great qualities that Tom has and will be on display as he serves as the new IMB President.

Tom Elliff - 2008 Small Church Leadership Conference from Les Puryear on Vimeo.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Have You Been Found Worthy to Suffer For the Name of Christ?

One of my heroes of the faith is missionary Guy Muse. He inspires me in so many ways it is hard to begin to explain it. Recently, one of his blog posts really struck my heart. The post is entitled "What Curious Alchemy is This?". A curious title to be sure, but a wonderful article and I believe it would be well worth your time to read it.

In his post, Guy muses (sorry, I couldn't resist) on the passage in 2 Cor. 11:23-28 in which the apostle Paul recounts a partial list of his trials and sufferings. Similar to Paul, Guy writes his list of trials and sufferings for Christ in the 20+ years of being a missionary in Ecuador. Guy admits that his list does not come close to being comparable to Paul's list, but I think Guy's list is pretty impressive.

Every person who is trying to reach lost people for Christ can recount times of perceived persecution. Although my list is pitiful in comparison to Guy's list and Paul's list, here's my meager attempt at a 2 Corinthians 11 list of mine and Debbie's sufferings for the name of Christ:

Are they servants of Christ? (We are out of our mind to talk like this.) We are more. We have been called liars, untrustworthy, false prophets. We have submitted ourselves to unrelenting accusations, threats, false witness, and character assassination. Opponents have spat on us, cursed us, threatened us with bodily harm, and tried to restrict our place of ministry. We have been labeled as unloving, unkind, deceitful, dictatorial, dogmatic, too biblical, unbiblical, lacking common sense, lacking biblical wisdom, preaching too calmly, and preaching too loudly. We have been chewed out for soliciting (passing out gospel tracts or church brochures), berated for bothering people at home, and criticized for not visiting in homes enough. We have been depicted as antinomian, legalist, Calvinist, Arminian, not baptist enough, and being too baptist. We have been mocked, laughed at, and been the object of derision and malicious gossip.
Some people might read this and wonder why am I being so negative. This post is not intended to be negative. It is intended to awaken your notion of what it really means to be a Christian. Jesus told us that if we followed Him, we would be persecuted. Jesus told us that because the world hates Him, it will hate His followers also. In Acts 5:41, the apostles rejoiced "that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name." Persecution, trials, and suffering are normal for followers of Christ. Why are we surprised when they come?

Are you rejoicing that you have been found worthy to suffer for the name of Christ? What would your 2 Cor. 11 list of sufferings look like? Please share with us and let us all rejoice in your sufferings for His name. 

Monday, February 14, 2011

Friday, February 11, 2011

Will They Let Me Come to Church?

Like most churches, we have visitor's cards available for our visitors to provide us with their information and any requests they may have for us. Dan* had visited our church a few times and finally he filled out a visitor's card. I noticed on the card he indicated he would like a pastor visit so I made an appointment with him to visit in his home.

He welcomed me into his modest home and we exchanged pleasantries before talking a bit about the church. Dan said that he really enjoyed coming to our church and he was thinking about joining. But he wanted to tell me about himself and he said that if I didn't want him to come to our church anymore, he would understand.

Dan told me about a life spent in alcohol and drugs. He was a big guy and he loved to fight. Every Saturday night he would get liquored up and pick a fight with somebody. He spent more time in jail than out of jail. Then one day, he was accused of murder. Dan was arrested, charged with murder, and was in jail waiting on his trial. He began attending chapel services and gave his life to Christ during one service. After 18 months in jail, Dan was released when another person confessed to the crime.

He had a fresh start and was trying to live right. He told me that he stopped drinking, drugging, and fighting. He was ashamed that he was living with a woman with whom he was not married. He said he knew that wasn't right and he wanted to make it right. After he finished his story, he again said that if I didn't want him to come to church anymore, then he wouldn't come. I explained to him that no one was worthy of salvation or worthy to come and worship Christ, that it was all based on grace. I told him that he was welcome to come to our church and I would be proud to have him there. Dan asked, "What about your people? Will they let me come to church?" I assured him that the people of our church would welcome him with open arms. Dan broke down crying.

Dan and his girlfriend  became regular attendees of our church. Soon they joined the church and I baptized both Dan and his girlfriend. I also had the privilege of conducting their wedding ceremony. Later, Dan went with us on our mission trips for prison ministry and was able to witness to some of the men with whom he had been in jail. Even though I have been away from that church for several years, I know that Dan continues to be a faithful member there.

If you have a testimony about how God is working in the life of real people, write it up and send it to me at I'll be glad to publish it on this blog.

*not his real name.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Ben Barfield (NAMB)

For some reason, testimony videos are hard to find. Here's one of the better ones I have used in worship. Maybe you can use it too.

Monday, February 7, 2011

What is Hope?

Here's a video I played in a recent worship service. I hope you find it encouraging.

Friday, February 4, 2011

At the Last Minute

God gave me an exciting opportunity to share the gospel with an older gentleman (80) whose wife was a faithful member of my formerchurch. He had been diagnosed with cancer of the spine and the doctors had told him that he had weeks to live. We had been praying that God would save him for several years. When I visited him in the hospital, I asked him if I could come and talk with him when he came home. He said, "Yes, I would like that." A few days later, his wife called me an said that he was having a good day and would I come and talk with him. Upon my arrival, he needed to go to the bathroom and so I lifted him out of his chair and helped him do his business. He seemed grateful that I would help him in such a way. When I returned him to his chair in the den, he asked me what he needed to do to join the church. As lovingly as I knew how, I shared the gospel with him and he was very attentive. However, in the end, he said he wanted to think about it. I told him I would check back with him in a few days, but I warned him not to delay too long due to the advancement of his illness.

On Saturday, a week later, he let me know that he had repented of his sins and received Christ as His Lord and Savior. Our plans were that he was going to join the church on Sunday morning and I would baptize him Sunday evening. His wife said that they might be a little late to the 11:00 service as it takes a lot to get him out of the house. He cannot use his legs and he has little strength in his upper torso. His daughter, who is a nurse, and her husband were coming to help get him to the church. As I stood to preach about 11:25 am on Sunday morning, he still had not arrived. I gave the invitation and watched anxiously, hoping he would arrive at the last minute. He didn't come. I was confused and disappointed. What could have possibly happened? Did he change his mind?

When I arrived home, there was a voice mail from his wife. Apparently, he had some kind of physical episode in the early hours of the morning. Hospice came and he was placed in their facility. They sedated him and there was a sense that his cancer was much more aggressive than anyone thought. It was doubtful that he would ever return home.

Two weeks later, my friend died without regaining consciousness. For several days before he died, I spent time with the family while they kept their vigil at the hospice home. They told me stories of how this man never wanted to talk about God. He was a mean alcoholic. It's amazing how someone can live their entire life in such a state of misery. Even though his wife and all three of his children were devout Christians (one son is a Presbyterian minister), his heart was closed to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

But then two weeks ago something wonderful happened. His heart was regenerated by the power of the Holy Spirit and he received Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. His wife and children are certain that his conversion was authentic. On the Saturday before he was going to come to our church and come forward to publicly proclaim his trust in Christ, he was telling all of his family and friends about his love for Christ. I had promised to baptize him the very next day and he was eagerly anticipating the event. However, when he awoke on Sunday morning, he either had a massive stroke or his cancer entered his brain. At least that is what the doctors surmise. Instead of going to church, he went to the hospice home.

The Sunday before he died, I told our church the story of my friend and how he was planning to come to join our church and be baptized. I told them of the testimonies of his wife (one of our church members) and his children as to his changed heart. Then I did something I have never done before in 14 years of pastoring. I asked our church to vote him in as a member of our church based on his stated intentions before he was gravely stricken ill and the testimony of his family. The vote was unanimous. He was now a member of our church. There wasn't a dry eye in the place.

Following our 11:00 am service, my wife and I went to hospice and told his wife and children of the action of the church. His wife collapsed in my arms crying with deep heaving breaths. Her children expressed their gratitude to the church for their love and compassion for their father. I stood at his bedside humbled by the awe and wonder of our Lord Jesus. This unconscious man had been snatched from the jaws of Hell at the last moment. I trembled as I thought about the gift which God gave him in the last two weeks of his life: the gift of another chance; the gift of forgiveness of sin; the gift of Jesus dying in his place; the gift of regeneration.

On Wednesday after he died, I conducted his funeral in our church. My text was Luke 23:39-43. It's about another man who was saved at the last minute. A thief on a cross.

My prayer is that my friend's story will bring hope to countless others who are praying for their own loved ones to come to Christ. As long as there is breath, there is hope. Do not stop praying for the lost to be saved. Tell them about Jesus at every opportunity. It makes a difference. It really does.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Just in Time

One Sunday morning as I was greeting the people after the morning service, one of our deacons came to me with a serious look on his face. He told me that he was burdened over a friend of his named Dyrk Garrison. He asked if I would go visit Dyrk with him. I said that I would be glad to visit with him.

Two days later, the deacon called me and asked if I had some time to go visit Dyrk that day. I said "Yes," and we arranged a time to go. When the deacon picked me up, I asked him about Dyrk. He said that Dyrk was 79 years old and recently widowed. He lived alone and had been in poor health for a long time. Dyrk's wife was a faithful Christian but she could never get Dyrk to go to church with her. After her death, Dyrk expressed to my deacon his regret that he had never gone to church with his wife. My deacon asked me to share the gospel with Dyrk.

We pulled into the driveway of a small, modest house a few miles from our church. As we approached the door, Dyrk came outside and greeted my deacon friend who promptly introduced him to me. After a brief exchange of pleasantries, Dyrk invited us inside. I asked Dyrk about his family and his employment history. His conversation revealed a man who was no-nonsense and didn't suffer fools gladly. He was very pleasant and respectful to me but he was also made sure that I knew what his opinion was about church. He didn't have a lot of respect for "church folks" because he saw them during the week and they didn't appear to be living any different than anyone else. I said nothing in response to his objections about church but just nodded my understanding of what he was saying.

When I turned the conversation to his deceased wife, his demeanor changed radically. He spoke of her in terms of tenderness which seemed foreign to such a man but he easily expressed his devotion to the love of his life. I asked him where he thought his wife was right now. He fought back the tears as he choked out, "heaven." Then I asked him where he thought he was going when he died and he replied, "I don't know." I asked him if he were standing before God right now why would God let him into heaven. He thought for a moment and said "I can't think of any good reason He would let me in."

I asked him if he would like to know what the Bible says about the way to heaven and he replied in the affirmative. I went through the gospel with him and he prayed to receive Christ that day. My deacon and I rejoiced with Dyrk as his demeanor went from sour to joyful. Although Dyrk had not been interested in church, he was very interested in Jesus. It was a great day in the Lord.

Three weeks later, I received a call that Dyrk was in the hospital with chest pains. I went to see him and he was genuinely glad to see me. He said the catherization had revealed a couple of blockages and they were going to do surgery in the morning. I prayed with him and assured him that I would be there for his surgery.

The next morning, I went by my office before heading out to the hospital. When I got there, a note was taped on the door. The note read, "Dyrk died last night." I stumbled into my office and called Dyrk's grandson. He told me that Dyrk had suffered a massive heart attack an hour after I had left his bedside. His family did not call me because they did not know my home number. I fell down trembling. Although I was surprised and devastated that my new friend had died, I trembled because the thought kept coming to me, "What if I had brushed off my deacon because I was too busy and not have gone to talk to Dyrk?" I sat there trembling for the longest time.

I had the privilege of performing Dyrk's funeral. From a preaching perspective, his funeral was the easiest one I have ever done. The story of his salvation was my sermon. I rejoiced with his family in that as long as a person is alive, it is never too late for Jesus to save him.

Even now, as I sit in my office writing these words, I can glance at the note that was taped to my office door that day: "Dyrk died last night." I have taped that note to the side of a bookcase next to my desk. I glance at it several times a day. It reminds me to be available to talk to anyone at anytime about Christ. The note also reminds me that as long as a person is still breathing, it is never too late for Jesus to save him or her.

Thanks, Dyrk.