Why I Love The Church

Why I Love The Church

Thursday’s Column: Carlnormous Comments

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Carl Pollard

I love the Church because…
  1. God loved me enough to establish it.
  2. Jesus loves the Church.
  3. The Church loves Jesus.
  4. The Church is a family.
  5. The Church is filled with true friendships.
  6. The Church is a source of encouragement.
  7. I’ve seen firsthand the comfort that the Church provides.
  8. The Church is considerate of others.
  9. The Church is a place for the broken.
  10. The Church is a place for the weak.
  11. In the Church I belong to God.
  12. The Church has perfected potlucks.
  13. Jesus is the Head of the Church.
  14. The Church is the unified body of Christ.
  15. The Church helps me to be a better Christian.
  16. The Church helps to show me my purpose in life.
  17. I’ve met people that have changed my life.
  18. The Church helps me love God more.
  19. The Church is motivated.
  20. The Church reminds me that this world is not my home.
  21. The Church shows me the power of song.
  22. The Church shows me the power of the Gospel.
  23. The Church creates a bond that is impossible to find anywhere else.
  24. The Church shows me how amazing grace really is.
  25. The Church is a place of spiritual support.
  26. The Church is a place of physical comfort.
  27. The Church is a place of emotional healing.
  28. I leave every service feeling renewed.
  29. The Church helps me interact better with people.
  30. The Church at times helps me practice patience.
  31. The Church is a reminder that we are equal in Christ.
  32. The Church is a place filled with servants.
  33. The Church helps bring out the best in me.
  34. I want to go to Heaven.
  35. The Church helps me glorify God.
  36. The Church is the family I worship God with.
  37. The Church is exciting!
  38. The Church is where I belong.
  39. I can’t imagine a life without the Church.
  40. The Church puts my focus where it belongs; on God, and other people.
  41. The Church is selfless.
  42. The Church is life changing.
  43. God wants me to love the Church.
  44. The Church makes you feel needed.
  45. The Church makes me more considerate of others.
  46. I want to be a part of God’s plan.
  47. The Church helps me be closer to my physical family.
  48. The Church gives me memories that will last a lifetime.
  49. The Church is filled with people that I will never have to say goodbye to.
  50. The Church of Christ helps me keep heaven in view.
1 Corinthians 12:12-13
 
 
Photo credit: Grant Wilson
Patriotism

Patriotism

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary III

Gary Pollard

I’m a red-blooded American. I love my rights, I love my guns, I love my country, I love my freedoms. I am filled with patriotic pride whenever these things come into play and whenever this great country succeeds. I love the United States of America. 

It hit me whilst mowing at my parents’ property that I do not usually feel the same sense of “patriotism” when it comes to the church. There is absolutely nothing wrong at all with being patriotic, but most of my fervor, emotional energy, love, and grace is awakened by love for a country that won’t last forever. 

We’re all — to some extent — in this boat. We live on this earth, in this time, with these problems. It’s hard to draw focus away from what’s going on here and balance that with undying love for the church. 

Our nation has made some big mistakes in the past (and present), but because it is — overall — a great nation, we don’t pack our bags and move to a different country. Yet, many allow hurt feelings, imperfections, miscommunications, differing opinions, and even stuff like dress codes and translation preference dampen their love for the church. 

If we show (and we means me, too) the same level of love, concern, and emotion for the body of Christ that we do for our country, there isn’t anything that can slow us down. If we extend the same level of grace for the imperfections of others in the church as we do for the imperfections of our nation, there’s no stopping us. Our allegiance is to our country, but even more to our King. If we can live that out, we will grow the church immeasurably. 

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What Is The Church To Be?

What Is The Church To Be?

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

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Neal Pollard

Conceived of in God’s mind in the eternity before time (Eph. 3:9-11), purchased by Jesus’ blood (Acts 20:28), spoken of as the body (Eph. 1:22-23) and bride (Rev. 19:7) of Christ, and described as the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 3:16), the church is valued and treasured by Him. As members of that church, we might develop a distorted picture of what the church should look, feel, think, and act like in our ever-changing world. What is the church to be?
A Museum? Is the church meant to be a relic of the past, a historical marker where the past is revisited, revered, and enshrined? No doubt, we stand on the shoulder of great workers and warriors of the past, but we are not meant to devote our focus to days gone by. It is but a slight renovation to go from museum to mausoleum.  Our best days should be ahead!

A Marketplace? Some see the church as a direct reflection of the culture. Stands on moral, social, and doctrinal issues are dictated by the views of the moment. “Change” is the key word, and selling the gospel becomes the preeminent goal (John 2:16; 2 Pet. 2:3). A church built foremost on society rests upon sand (Mat. 7:26-27). 

A Monastery? The church–though a haven from the craziness of the world–can become insulated and isolated. It is great to let our closest friendships and relationships to be fellow Christians, but we can become so secluded and shut off that we become a cloister that ceases to be soul-winners. Our worship services and Bible classes can be so full of insider language that the unchurched have no idea what we say much less what we mean. 

A Movement? Sometimes, we speak of the Restoration Movement whose leaders were trying to get people back to the Bible for “rule” and “practice.” But the New Testament church did not begin on the American Frontier during the Great Awakening or even shortly before it. It is not to be a political, national, or even social movement. To think of it on those terms is to degrade and devalue it. 

It is to be a model, safe to follow and imitate by others because she follows Christ (Mat. 5:13-16; 1 Cor. 11:1). It is to be a militant group, whose weapons build and save and defeat the devil (2 Cor. 10:3-5; Eph. 6:10-17). It is to be a mission, on a mission for the Master (Mat. 28:18-20; Eph. 4:11-16). It is to be a medicine dispensary, offering salve and healing from the Great Physician (Luke 5:31-32). It should reflect the Master in thought, in tone, in teaching, and target! May we all think more critically about what we think about the church!

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“THE CHURCH”

“THE CHURCH”

Neal Pollard

Did you know that Paul uses the phrase, “the church” nine times in the relatively brief letter to the church at Ephesus? This is a church Paul worked with for three years (Acts 20:18,31). He taught them in person and then he sends this epistle full of teaching (Eph. 1-3) and application (Eph. 4-6). In both parts of the letter, he makes important statements about “the church.”

• “(God) gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body…” (1:22-23a; see 4:4).

• The manifold wisdom of God is meant to be made known by the church (3:10).

• God’s glory is meant to be shined through the church (3:21).

• Christ is the head and savior of the church (5:23).

• The church is subject to Christ (5:24).

• Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her (5:25).

• Christ seeks to present to Himself the church in all her glory (5:27).

• Christ nourishes and cherishes the church (5:29).

• The husband/wife illustration is about Christ and the church (5:32).

When you add in the times Paul discusses “the body” (1:23; 2:16; 3:8; 4:4; 4:12; 4:16; 5:23; 5:30), it is easy to see why Ephesians has often been labeled the book which exalts the church of the Christ (in contrast with Colossians, touted as the book which exalts the Christ of the church).

Ephesians destroys the concept of the religious division also known as denominationalism. Where Christ has spoken on how to be saved, how to worship, how the church is to be organized and led, and religious bodies teach as divine doctrine the precepts of men (Mat. 15:9), they become plants which the heavenly Father has not planted (Mat. 15:13). If that is true of what the Pharisees did with God’s law concerning honoring father and mother (Mat. 15:3ff), doesn’t it follow that it would include all of Christ’s doctrine?

Ephesians is a great letter to discover the truth that Christ desires religious unity among believers, a unity derived from believers submitting to His teaching and will. But to limit our interpretation of this book to just that idea is a tragic shortcoming. The whole letter begins with a powerful, humbling truth: “God chose us” (1:4). We are His treasures, the praise of His glory. We are precious and valuable to Him–He predestined us to adoption as sons (1:5), He redeemed us with His blood (1:7), He lavished us with His grace (1:8), He made known to us the mystery of His will (1:9), He gave us an inheritance (1:11), hope (1:12), and a pledge (1:13-14) that we might be wise, knowledgeable of His will, enlightened, and strengthened (1:15ff). All these spiritual blessings (1:3) are reserved for those who submit to Jesus as the head and strive to follow the pattern of New Testament teaching. When we do, we have access to the greatest possible relationship in the whole universe! “To Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen” (3:21).

New Testament Christianity

New Testament Christianity

Neal Pollard

  • The New Testament claims to be the source of authority for all we do of eternal importance, no matter when or where we live (Col. 3:17; 2 Pet. 1:3,20-21; 2 Tim. 3:16-17).
  • The New Testament will not share authority with any other book or “revelation” (Gal. 1:6-9; Jude 3).
  • The New Testament reveals how a person becomes a Christian (Acts 2:37-47; Eph. 4:4-6).
  • The New Testament teaches us that the Lord adds Christians to His church (Acts 2:47).
  • The New Testament shows us how that church is organized and led (Acts 20:28; 1 Tim. 3:1-12; Phil. 1:1; 1 Pet. 5:1-4).
  • The New Testament gives us the day the Christians met to worship (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:1-2).
  • The New Testament clarifies for us the various roles and responsibilities God has given to each gender of Christians in the work and worship of His church (1 Tim. 2:8-15).
  • The New Testament teaches the Christian how God wants to be worshipped (John 4:24).
  • The New Testament outlines the Christian’s purpose and work (Eph. 4:11-16).
  • The New Testament is dedicated to showing how one, as a faithful Christian, has eternal life and the hope of heaven (Ti. 1:2; Rev. 2:10; ch. 21-22).
  • The New Testament helps one understand how God wants marriage and family to function, to build Christian homes (Mat. 19:1-12; Eph. 5:22-6:4; 1 Pet. 3:1-7).
  • The New Testament urges Christian growth and thoroughly teaches how that is accomplished (2 Pet. 3:18; Ti. 2:11-14; John 15:1ff; etc.).
  • The New Testament constantly speaks of how the Christian needs to and benefits from developing an intimate relationship with the Godhead (1 Th. 5:17; 2 Tim. 2:15; John 15:14; Mat. 22:36-40).
  • The New Testament teaches that Christians prove to others their discipleship to Christ by loving one another (John 13:34-35).
  • The New Testament reveals that Christians are tasked with duplicating themselves by teaching the gospel to those outside of Christ (Mat. 28:18-20; Acts 8:4; Col. 1:23).
  • The New Testament asserts itself as the unfailing, universal guide regarding anything that will ultimately matter (2 Pet. 1:3; John 14:26; 16:13; etc.).

If what we are after is divine guidance for who a Christian is, what he or she does, and how God wants one to live, where else would we turn but to the New Testament? A God who engineered us for eternity and tells us we have but two eternal dwelling places would be cruel and unloving if He did not give us clear, thorough answers to any matter that is important to Him. How loving and faithful for God to give us such an unambiguous guide.

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“It Shall Stand Forever”

“It Shall Stand Forever”

Neal Pollard

Kathy and I visited the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France, in February of 2006. It is an ornate, historic building. It dates to the 1100s, surviving the threats of many wars including World War I and World War II. But, it has been dilapidating for some time. Earlier today, a fire inside the spire caused it and one of its towers to collapse. Now, officials are saying that the whole frame is burning and will not survive. Whether or not they rebuild this Catholic Church building, this 900 year edifice will be gone.

There are buildings that have been around millennia before New Testament Days on most of the continents. If they continue until the Second Coming of Christ, they will cease to exist that day (2 Pet. 3:10). King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream over 500 years before Christ, and God helped Daniel understand its meaning (Dan. 2:28). The colossal figure he saw in that dream was a vision about the coming Kingdom of Christ. Daniel says, “In the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed, and that kingdom will not be left for another people; it will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, but it will itself endure forever” (Dan. 2:44). 

A careful study of unfolding history reveals this particular kingdom to be the church of our Lord, a Kingdom Jesus said would be established during the lifetime of some of His disciples (Mat. 16:28). It would come with power (Mark 9:1), a promise Jesus reiterates in Acts 1:8-11. That power came by way of the Holy Spirit’s coming upon the apostles on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2. Through this means, the Lord’s church was established in Jerusalem that day (Acts 2:37-47). The Roman Empire, which ruled the earth that day, eventually collapsed. No nation or empire can rival the spiritual Kingdom of Christ. His church will stand forever (Heb. 12:28). Nothing can overtake or overpower it (Mat. 16:18). 

Assaults against the church have been ongoing for twenty centuries. At times, it has been invisible to recorded history, but it continues to stand. Her members have been assaulted many times throughout the centuries. Property has been destroyed. Possessions have been taken. Lives have been lost. But, still she stands! This Kingdom shall stand forever! A Divine promise encircles it. This confidence is fire proof! 

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Notre Dame Cathedral before today’s fire

Abraham Lincoln’s Memorandum Of August 23, 1864

Abraham Lincoln’s Memorandum Of August 23, 1864

Neal Pollard

Somehow, I was unaware of the existence of a document which Abraham Lincoln drafted and had endorsed by every member of his cabinet, though unseen by them, and which remained sealed until November 11, 1864. These were not only dark times for the nation, embroiled in civil war for over three years at that point, but gloomy for the war-weary north which could not end the conflict against the greatly outmanned but tactically superior south. Politicians and citizens were unhappy with the perceived lack of success and progress at such high cost—the death and disabling of so many of her sons in the prime of their lives.  Lincoln detected that popular sentiment was such that he would not be reelected. Thus, he drafted his memo, which read, 

This morning, as for some days past, it seems exceedingly probable the this
Administration will not be reelected. Then it will be my duty to so cooperate
with the President-elect as to save the Union between the election and the
inauguration: as he will have secured his election on such ground that he
cannot possibly save it afterward (Coolidge 139). 

Lincoln seemed to think that the north had had enough of this war and would rather sue for peace and allow our sea to shining sea to be two nations rather than continue with such devastating effects a war they could see no end to. He appears dedicated to whatever he could do to preserve unity.

Of course, several things changed the course of Lincoln’s fate in his bid for reelection that swept him decidedly into office for a second term. There was the north’s victorious show in The Battle of Atlanta, Fremont’s withdrawal from candidacy, the Democrats internal division between the Copperheads—eager to end the war now—and the War Democrats, and the fact that no electoral votes were counted from the Confederate States of America.  But, Lincoln could not see the future. He was preparing for what he saw as the worst.

There is a well-worn battle taking place in our world. It is not technically between two factions. It might be framed as Christianity versus other world religions. It could be cast as New Testament Christianity versus so many individual denominations. Yet, internally, there are multiple stressors to the biblical unity Christ prayed and died for, too (John 17:20-21). 

Christians are soldiers (Eph. 6:10ff), but our battle is not with flesh and blood (Eph. 6:12).  Our war and weapons are not “of the flesh” (2 Cor. 10:3-4). All the same, many have grown weary of fighting the good fight and not a few feel as though we are fighting in a losing cause. The restoration ideal of doing Bible things in Bible ways seems archaic and impossible to growing numbers of saints. Some fight with equal vigor to preserve traditions not rooted in Scripture, and unnecessarily harm the great cause. 

As we strive at all costs to be true to the pattern of New Testament Christianity, let us do so going to whatever lengths we can to maintain unity wherever possible. Not for a moment does that mean sacrificing truth or compromising even one “thus says the Lord.” But it does mean embracing a spirit of love and protectiveness for the precious Bride of Christ, the church. That involves loving and working with those who are the members of it. 

Ultimately, the Lord’s cause will prevail. His victory is as assured as every other divine promise. We must be striving on His side to share in that. For now, we cannot give up the fight! Let’s cooperate wherever and however we can, standing unitedly on the foundation of Christ and His will. The rest (which is most of it), we will leave to our Great Commander In Chief!

Works Cited:
Coolidge, Louis A. American Statesman Ulysses S. Grant (New York: Chelsea House, 1983).

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VISITORS—HANDLE WITH CARE!

VISITORS—HANDLE WITH CARE!

Neal Pollard

I’m not sure where the phrase, “handle with care,” originated. It’s usually reserved for advice regarding that which is fragile or even volatile. It really is applicable to those who visit our assemblies because of their value and importance. They came through the doors of our church building intentionally and with a purpose. Initially, we cannot know why or how sincere their purpose. That process of discovery could not be more important. Consider some reasons why we should handle every visitor with care:

  • Each has an eternal soul (cf. Mat. 25:46). 
  • God could not love that visitor any more than He does (John 3:16; 1 Tim. 2:6).
  • God loves that visitor as much as He loves you and me (Acts 10:34-35). 
  • That visitor is likely seeking spiritual guidance (cf. Mat. 7:7).
  • Each visitor is subjected to a first impression, being left by you and me.
  • That visitor is going to make judgments about the church, the Bible and Christ based on what he or she sees (or fails to see) from you and me.
  • The smallest gesture of kindness toward such a one could lead to the salvation of a soul.
  • We cannot know what anyone else is doing to make their first visit a good one.
  • Each one is being exposed to the Bible and to New Testament worship, and follow up can lead to further interest.
  • That soul is connected to many others, who might subsequently be reached (2 Tim. 2:2). 
  • You and I are official ambassadors for Christ (2 Cor. 5:20).
  • The Golden Rule should prompt our warmth, helpfulness, and sensitivity (Luke 6:31).
  • We are each part of a team, trying to connect each of them with what only Christ can offer them (1 Cor. 12:18; John 14:6).
  • There is no guarantee that there will be a next time (Prov. 27:1).
  • Statistics tell us that most visitors find the churches they visit to be unfriendly toward “outsiders” (see, for example: Thom Rainer).
  • Loving others is commanded, and visitors are included in “others” (Rom. 13:9; Gal. 5:14; Jas. 2:8; etc.).
  • Visitors constitute perhaps the easiest inroad to developing interest in a Bible study, as such have reached out to us by attending.
  • Our excuses (“I’m shy,” “That’s not my job,” “I’m not good at it,” “I’m busy”) ring hollow when carefully examined. 
  • We love the church and believe in its relevance and importance.
  • Each contact is a valuable way you and I can contribute service for our Servant-Savior (cf. John 13:12ff; Mat. 20:28).

The list is far from exhaustive. I am convinced that none of us neglects a visitor out of contempt or even indifference. Yet, it is good for you and I to encourage each other, to “stimulate one another to love and good deeds” especially as it pertains to assembly-related matters (Heb. 10:24-25). Wouldn’t it be exciting to be the friendliest church around, especially if our message and practice is faithful to God’s Word? What a powerful combination! Let’s help each other earn such a reputation, for reasons such as the above. 

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A Warm And Welcoming Church

A Warm And Welcoming Church

Neal Pollard

Once, I received a call from a woman who watched our TV program. She shared her religious background with me, including the fact that she was raised in a church of Christ. While she was baptized many years before, she committed fornication, became pregnant, and had a child out of wedlock. She said that she publicly repented, coming forward to ask forgiveness. While some forgave, one prominent member wouldn’t let her forget her past sins. Ultimately, she left that congregation and soon after left the Lord’s church altogether.

She joined a large denomination in the area in 1985. She gave some interesting reasons for joining them. Reflect upon them for a moment.

(1) She received personal visits from church members.

(2) She was warmly welcomed by many who greeted her when she attended the services.

(3) She was quickly put to use in the church’s works.

Very simple formula, wouldn’t you agree? Some fundamental needs were recognized by that religious group: Approach. Accept. Assimilate. While their doctrine was wrong in vital areas, their practical wisdom was on target! While she traded truth for error regarding their teaching, she sought but didn’t find among God’s people the very things many seek today. None of the things she sought were wrong.

In the church, the main emphasis should be serving rather than being served. But look at what she sought. She sought personal contact from concerned people. The denomination responded. She sought acceptance, not of sinful choices, but of herself—the sinner. She received that. She sought ways to be involved, ways to serve. She was given opportunities despite some physical handicaps that restricted her.

There is much to do, much more than is being done, though we are doing much. Some bare essentials that all of us can be doing is visiting our visitors, making visitors feel like honored guests, and finding ways to include those who become members in the work of the church.

We have opportunities every week that walk through our doors. Are we doing our part to make ourselves a warm and welcoming congregation? People will form lasting opinions about the Lord’s church by what we do to make them feel welcome. Each individual Christian is accountable for visiting (Mat. 25:34ff), accepting (Js. 2:1-13), and including (1 Th. 5:11).  Let us glow with the warmth of Christ! Who knows who we will turn onto the narrow path or who we will help stay on it?

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A Family, A Fraternity, And A Fellowship

A Family, A Fraternity, And A Fellowship

Neal Pollard

A little over a week ago, my son Dale called me to tell me one of his elders gave him tickets for the Georgia-Missouri football game. He asked if I could swing coming. Thanks to a generous travel voucher from American Airlines, I was able to go on short notice on their nickel. The best part of this trip was getting to see one of my adult children for a couple of days. We made the most of those moments, and that game between the hedges was not a disappointment. Though Dale had watched games with me on TV, he was not the diehard fan I have been since 1979. We made the drive from Valdosta to Athens. Once on campus, he got his first glimpse into “Dawg Nation.” By the time we left the game, he was hooked. Georgia has another diehard fan. What did the trick? Perhaps the camaraderie between people who otherwise would not come into contact with each other. There was the shared lingo, shared knowledge, shared passion, and even shared clothing color schemes. There were traditions to partake in. People were excited for every play and intensely interested in the outcome. That was infectious! It was an unforgettable experience we plan to duplicate in the future.

As I look back on that great memory, I got to thinking about an infinitely stronger bond I have. Even regarding this game, I think about the part they played. I’m talking about the Lord’s church and the Christians who make it up. There was Doug Jones, the elder who gave us the tickets. There was Wes Hazel, who let Dale borrow his car so he didn’t have to pick me up from the airport or carry me around on the back of his motorcycle. There were Lance and Susan Leavens, who opened their home to allow Dale and me to take a nap before I caught a flight back to Denver yesterday morning and Dale drove back to Valdosta. While I was in Georgia, Kathy was in Texas doing a ladies day, and Carl was experiencing major trouble with his truck, an overwhelming, generous response from literally dozens of Christians helped make it possible for our youngest to resolve that heart-sinking trouble.

All too frequently, I see people who major in pointing out the perceived problems and seeming shortcomings of the saints. To listen to them, we do nothing right and even do those things from sinister motives. As a preacher’s kid who’s lived a life of a full-time preacher for more than a quarter century, I am far from naive. The church, without exception, is comprised of flawed, faulty, and finite folks. I have been extremely disappointed in the actions of church members, from the leadership to the membership. I have tearfully witnessed Christians abandon the church for the world, breaking many hearts in the process. But, the church is special. It is unique, from the doctrinal standpoint, dedicated to speaking where the Bible speaks and being silent where it is silent and seeking to replicate New Testament Christianity.

In addition to that, there is the common bond we share. What a fellowship! What a family! What a fraternity! You read it when you open up the New Testament. As importantly, you experience it today when you open your heart and life to all the others who make up this special group. We’re incurably imperfect. We should strive to be more patient and gracious. But, God’s people are the greatest in the world! Thank God for that blessing today and every day.

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