A Quiet Assembly

A Quiet Assembly

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

Dale Pollard

It began with just a few men. They didn’t know exactly what kind of damage they were about to inflict on their own reputation, for all of eternity. The account is found in Acts 15 with “some men”  going down from Judea and teaching, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” Paul and Barnabas debated them fearlessly, but the damage had been done. The argument had so successfully confused and stirred up the assembled group that it was decided to take matters up the command chain. They were off to meet with the apostles and elders in Jerusalem. 

Paul and Barnabas hadn’t lost faith and in fact, they proclaimed what God had done for the Gentiles to all who would listen on their trip. The news of God’s grace to all races and nations brought the listeners a great joy. In Jerusalem, the apostles and elders had already gathered to deal with the fierce conflict. It didn’t take long for the group to separate into two teams each holding two different beliefs about God’s will for all. It was at this moment where Peter stands up and begins to speak. He explains that God knows the heart of all of us and He’s always known. 

The spirit had descended on the apostles to prove that there is no discrimination between Jews and Gentiles. The demand for proof is always in our hearts, and so the Spirit demonstrated miraculous powers to give credence. Peter would explain that under the Jewish law, even Moses and the greats couldn’t bear the load. It wasn’t sustainable, and it wasn’t meant to last. 

It’s verse twelve that gives one some additional insight. It says, “And all the assembly fell silent, and they listened to Barnabas and Paul as they related what signs and wonders God had done though them among the Gentiles.” How do we solve our conflicting views that spring up in our midst? There’s only one effective way to do so and that’s to take our matters of division to the top. Not preachers, teachers, deacons, or elders, but to the very top.

If God is going to speak, we’ve got to be quiet. The assembly went silent. Everyone there, no matter what their belief was—decided to listen. Speaking over each other never solved a problem and this is true on a congregational level, as well as a personal one. How many times do we fall victim to the assembly of the thoughts and bias in our own minds when reading God’s word? It can be difficult to hush those voices, but it’s when we do that real change has a chance to take root. 

1 Peter–Part IX

1 Peter–Part IX

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary Pollard

For the next several weeks, I’ll be repeating the book of I Peter in present-day terminology. It’s not a true translation of the book, as I am not qualified to do so. It will be based on an exegetical study of the book and will lean heavily on the SBL and UBS Greek New Testaments, as well as comparisons with other translations (ESV, NASB, NIV, ERV, NLT). My goal is to reflect the text accurately, and to highlight the intent of the author using concepts and vocabulary in common use today. 

This is not an essentially literal translation, and should be read as something of a commentary. 

Everything’s about to come to an end. You have to be reasonable and self-controlled for the sake of your prayers. Most importantly, don’t ever lose your love for each other. Love hides all kinds of mistakes. Take care of each other without complaining. Use your assets to help each other, since God helps us in so many ways. If your talent is speaking, speak as if you’re talking for God. If helping others is your talent, do it with limitless energy. This way every aspect of our lives gives credit to God by our dedication to Jesus. He gets all recognition and authority forever! 

Family, don’t let these hard times shock you. Don’t feel like you’ve been targeted. You are suffering like Jesus did, so let that keep your spirits up! When he comes back, we’re going to be indescribably happy! If people insult you because you love Jesus, you’re lucky! The full weight of God’s spirit and power is with you. Just make sure none of you suffer because of something you’ve done wrong, like murder, stealing, practicing morally bad things, or sticking your nose where it doesn’t belong. If you suffer because of your faith, though, don’t feel bad! Instead, give all the credit to God. 

We’re about to be judged by God. Since we’re going to be judged first, how do you think it’s going to be for people who rejected God? It’s hard enough for a morally good person to be saved, so what’s going to happen to morally bad people who don’t follow God? Since we’re about to suffer, we have to trust God with our lives. He’s going to take care of us if we’re doing the right thing! 

Since we’re about to face difficulties, it’s very important that your elders lead you carefully. I’m an elder, too, and also look forward to sharing in the recognition we have coming to us. Elders, don’t lead people because you feel like you have to. Do it because it’s what God wants! Don’t lead because you want to get something financially out of it. Don’t abuse your power, but lead by example. When the ultimate leader shows up, your reward will be indestructible! 

Bodmer Papyrus of Peter’s epistles
Three Keys To Better Bible Classes

Three Keys To Better Bible Classes

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

image

Dale Pollard  

The Tompkinsville church family is blessed to have some righteous and knowledgeable elders. In the past week and in separate Bible classes these men have each shed some insight on three different biblical texts. One elder brought a passage of scripture to the table that clarified the difference between anger and sinful anger. Another elder gave a separate take on the dispersion of humanity after the language change at Babel. After a discussion surrounding the blessing that was promised to Jacob, one of the elders broadened the scope and showed how that promise played out in Jacob’s life and in the life of the Israelites. Though the insights they offered in class were contrary to some beliefs in the brotherhood, they navigated the disagreements with grace and tact. These were not matters of salvation and in some cases were simply a matter of opinion.

The biblical text is not always clear in the English translations since there is the cultural and linguistic barriers that must be taken into consideration. Since that’s the case, there are occasionally opposing views that could both be correct. To some degree, speculation and educated guess work will attempt to fill in the gaps. Is there a hard line in the sand that indicates when anger becomes sinful? Certainly. Could God have miraculously scattered the confused people after the Tower of Babel was completed? Yes. God could have also allowed them to naturally migrate to their respective regions. Are there several applications that can be taken from Genesis 32 where we read that Jacob wrestled with God? Definitely. A church family should appreciate an eldership with a heart and mind so immersed in God’s word that they have drawn their own conclusions based on their personal study. Godly men and women express their faithfulness in Bible classes in several ways. 

  • First, they understand that the truth must be spoken in love (Ephesians 4.15). They are able to tell the difference between matters of opinion and matters of salvation. 
  • Second, they are eager to maintain a unity of spirit and a bond of peace (Ephesians 4.3-6). Godly members are not purposefully divisive or quick to start heated debates. 
  • Third, the older Christians recognize the responsibility they have to share their wisdom with the younger generation and the godly youth respect the wisdom that is given from the older generation (Titus 2.2-12). 

When the body of Christ is unified it’s also unstoppable. The church family that respects those God-given rolls that we are all assigned will find that Bible classes, Biblical discussion, and relationships are enriched and strengthened. Knowledge is both shared and received in love and humility. 

WHY PLANNING IS POWERFUL

WHY PLANNING IS POWERFUL

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

 

 

 

 

 

Neal Pollard

  • It forces us to focus. So often, churches just “do stuff.” We don’t ask who, what, where, when, or how. We don’t ask if the thing is effective, evangelistic, edifying, or empowering. Is it outmoded? Is it merely self-serving? Can it be improved? Planning clarifies. 
  • It makes us intentional. Whether we are looking at what is currently done or what should be done, planning makes us deliberate. Especially is this true when we consider whether or not the activity, program, or work is merely internally-focused (for us) or externally-focused (for lost souls). Do we plan to grow? Reach a tangible number of people each year? Increase the depth of our footprint in the community? If so, how? Specifically how? 
  • It says that leadership is thoughtful. Planning takes precious man hours from the leadership, but how it pays off! Personal analysis, congregational analysis, and biblical analysis require thought. Done well, it will build conviction that doctrine is never to be tampered with, but that methods and means in harmony with Scripture require judgment, discrimination, and scrutiny. Putting thought into the church’s works and needs is Acts 20:28 in motion.
  • It combats chaos. So often, a church’s works lack cohesion and coordination. There are no filters in place to ask if an individual work fits with the church’s vision and mission. Works may be good, but who knows what goes on with them or if they are working. Who is accountable? To whom are they accountable?
  • It expresses discontent with the status quo. It is easy to continue with works, programs, and activities that are already in place and have people managing and executing them. But, most of our methods and means of doing church work need to be evaluated regularly to ask if changes are needed. Change brings discomfort and takes work, but as our resources change–time, talent, treasure–we may find that we are more or less able to engage in the various works of the church. We should always be looking for more and better ways to serve and glorify God. 
  • It is biblical. Jesus had a tangible plan for world evangelism (Acts 1:8). Paul had a tangible plan for growing the church through the missionary journeys (Acts 15:36ff). Look at how 1 Timothy reflects and requires planning to help the Ephesus church (1 Tim. 3:15). Paul had a tangible plan for establishing elders in congregations throughout the island of Crete (Ti. 1:5ff). Something that was in God’s mind in the eternity before time (Eph. 3:9-11) deserves our best effort, using our brightest minds to find biblical ways that are most effective to grow and strengthen it! 

Goals, dreams, intentions, and ideas will not, by themselves, accomplish anything. We must work to make those things a reality. But, a crucial first step is to articulate where we want to go. That makes planning so powerful! 

How TEN Creative Congregations Are Growing In 2020 

How TEN Creative Congregations Are Growing In 2020 

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

DaleandJanelledirectorypic

Dale Pollard

COVID19 may be a serious problem, but the real damage is the affect it has had on congregations who are tempted to just throw in the towel. These congregations are just hoping that next year will be a better one. It’s this mindset that makes some feel like God has somehow lost control over this year— is God smaller or weaker than the virus? Absolutely not. 

Here are TEN creative congregations that have decided to adapt and overcome some of the challenges of 2020— and they’re working! Who’s to say it won’t work for your church family? 

  1. The Hebron church of Christ in Grant, Alabama, despite a smaller building, bought new microphone equipment so that they are able to have drive-in services and members are able to listen through their car radios. An un-intimidating way for visitors to be able to drive up and hear the gospel preached from the comfort of their own vehicles. Many other churches are also doing this, bringing people from the community to hear the gospel preached.
  2. The Chase Park church in Huntsville, Alabama, has implemented the local police force to help people exit in and out of the building in an orderly fashion. This has developed a great relationship with the police officers who have shown interest in the church after meeting some of the loving members. 
  3. The Farley church in South Huntsville, Alabama, had a food drive for those in the community who have fallen on hard times. Gloves and masks were worn to load the groceries up in people’s cars. Some church pamphlets were given, emails and phone numbers were written down, along with any prayer requests they might have. It has resulted in several local contacts. 
  4. Many of the Lehman Avenue church members in Bowling Green, Kentucky, led by the elders, have been driving around every Sunday afternoon to visit shut-ins. They deliver bread, sing, and pray with them. It has made a great impact on the morale within the body there. 
  5. The Wisconsin Avenue church in Huron, South Dakota, have come up with a creative way to reach out to the community by building what they call a “Blessing Box” in front of the building. In this box the locals have access food and Bible study material. 
  6. The preacher of the LaFollete church, Ben Shafer, in Tennessee, has been producing daily devotional videos to help the members stay connected and in the Word. This is also being done by Bud Woodall, the preacher for the Northeast congregation in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Andy Miller, a minister for the Southern Hills church in Franklin, Tennessee, and in countless other congregations.
  7. The hispanic minister, Chase Turner, at the Jackson Street church in Monroe, Louisiana, has discovered that posting videos/messages in Facebook groups that locals are a part of is a great way to get people interested in spiritual conversations. It has proven to be very effective! 
  8. Colt Mahana, who ministers at the Dahlonega church in Georgia, has started a daily college Bible study over Zoom. This daily study has made the college group there more engaged than they were before the pandemic. 
  9. Dr. Bob Turner had this to say about a church in Mannford Oklahoma: “I visited with several elders from numerous congregations over the last few months…I wanted to share what an eldership in Mannford, Oklahoma, has done over this period of time. While they do their classes over Facebook live, they have done additional things to help the congregation. First, they spend their Wednesday night time for prayer. Instead of teaching a class, they invited people from the community to submit prayer requests and they spend Wednesday evening praying for all the requests they receive. Second, they make special use of each holiday. For example, at Easter, since they could not host an Easter Egg hunt at the park with a potluck, the elders and wives stuffed eggs and the elders went to every home with children in the congregation and hide eggs for all the kids to have their own hunt at home. For Mother’s Day, they made a customized card and personally wrote a note and signed each card for every mother in the congregation. These are a few of the areas they have been creative to do and help members know they are cared for, thought about, and prayed over during this time. They have also emphasized that when they get back together, they want to do it right in order to make a good impression on anyone that might visit. They have constantly communicated with everyone in the congregation each week to make sure they have opportunity to share anything they might be dealing with.”
  10. Chuck Ramseur is working with a congregation in Virginia Beach, Virginia. This church family set up the Marco Polo app and encouraged everyone to share anything and everything going on during the day in their lives. It has helped them stay connected daily. Another area they took up working on is helping with the Crisis Pregnancy Center (alternative for woman thinking about abortion).This ministry has been one of the best outreach programs for the church. They’ve also planned services in the park on Sundays when they could not meet in the building, but could meet with social distancing in an open area.

So, there’s the proof! God is bigger than COVID19.

105950189_3248468518508147_1343333531772853091_o

 

 

HOW TO TRULY MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN THE LIVES OF OTHERS

HOW TO TRULY MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN THE LIVES OF OTHERS

Neal Pollard

Bloomberg Businessweek’s Ira Boudway wrote a fascinating article about the perennially successful head basketball coach of the San Antonio Spurs. He called the piece, “The Five Pillars of Popovich.” Gregg Popovich, who has led the Texas team to five NBA championships in a little over 20 years, is the epitome of steady in a league notorious for constant change. Boudway laments that Popovich wouldn’t actually cite his own pillars of success, but the thoroughly researched column definitely exposes the principles that have made this legendary coach tick with exquisite precision. Those five pillars, in order, are:

  • Own your luck. That is, be modest, humble, and don’t try to take credit for things you didn’t do.
  • Do your work. The same tenacious ethic that made him way more of a player than he should have been has translated into his incredible success as a coach.
  • Unleash your anger (strategically). Know when (and how) to get angry, channeling your passion and conviction into others.
  • Widen your world. Always be a learner, and inspire others to do the same.
  • Know your people. Build relationships, taking time to really know the people in your circle of influence. Former player Will Perdue articulates what so many say of the coach, saying, “I was kind of amazed by how much he wanted to know about you as an individual… He saw you as a human being first and a basketball player second.” In Pop’s own words to Sports Illustrated in 2013: “Relationships with people are what it’s all about. You have to make players realize you care about them. And they have to care about each other and be interested in each other. Then they start to feel a responsibility toward each other. Then they want to do for each other.”

(Bloomberg Businessweek article)

We would modify and adapt the wording of some of the pillars, but the principles are unmistakably sound. When it comes to spiritual leadership, whether in the home or the church, these qualities are powerfully attractive.

Great leaders work hard to give others the credit and, most of all, God the praise. The goal is more important than the glory (Eph. 3:20-21).

Great leaders will not ask others to do what they won’t do (Mat. 23:3-4). They exemplify what they expect (Heb. 13:7).

Great leaders get the difference between the “big stuff” and the “small stuff.” Spiritual wisdom helps them channel their passion nobly. They reserve emotion for the eternal and temperance for the temporary.

Great leaders are learners, growers, and improvers. They hate complacency and disdain settling. Nowhere do they demonstrate this more than their pursuit of sacred truth, as consummate Bible students (2 Pet. 3:18).

Great leaders truly know those whom they lead. Assumptions, perceptions, prejudices, and appearances hamstring and even sabotage leaders. There is no substitute for loving people, genuinely caring about and being intimately involved in the lives of those whom they lead (John 10:1ff).

People are looking for leaders like this. They will follow them to the ends of the earth and, consequently, to heaven! None of these qualities necessitates a Ph.D. or a million dollars. They simply require dedication and discipleship! May God raise up more men who have the will and want to be successful leaders for Him!raburntrip-gunnison-9-21-07069

“I Praise, I Participate, I Proclaim”

“I Praise, I Participate, I Proclaim”

Neal Pollard

Yesterday afternoon, the Bear Valley eldership stood before us one by one to talk about their priorities both for themselves and for us. They distilled them into five simple words that describe five profound concepts: (1) Worship, (2) Communication, (3) Fellowship, (4) Accountability, and (5) Leadership. They told us that as the religious world is growing more homogenous in their worship style (a la community church model; rock concert-ish), distinctive New Testament worship has a chance to stand out even more. Yet, we need to always be improving our efforts in leadership and participation. They emphasized that communicating news, ideas, and needs is a process that will always need work and priority. No church ever arrives in this regard. They spoke of the importance of building a closer church family, knowing each other through age-related opportunities and entire congregation opportunities. This happens when we’re all together, in the classroom, and away from the building. They stressed the importance of holding one another accountable, for faithfulness, commitment, and support. Otherwise, there is no way to move from ideas to action. They told us that all of us exert leadership in some area. There is formalized leadership positions, as outlined in the New Testament (elders, deacons, preachers, teachers). But, inasmuch as we all have a sphere of influence (cf. Mat. 5:14-16), God expects us to lead. Throughout their entire presentation, they were specific about strategies aimed at helping us be successful. I appreciated the great challenge this was for us to work and grow. There were so many quotable sayings from their collective lesson, but the one that struck me most was made near the end. As we have adopted three planks of emphasis as a church, based on Acts 2:42-47 (praise—worship, participation—fellowship, and proclamation—evangelism), we were challenged to think: “I praise,” “I participate,” and “I proclaim.” It can be so easy for us to approve the church’s need to grow and improve in these areas or to expect the elders to do these things. But, no matter who we are, we can and must ask, “What can I do?” The key to being a great church is the willingness of every member to make personal application. It’s not, “What are they doing?,” “what are you doing?,” or even “what are we doing?” No! It must always primarily be, “What am I doing?” I’m thankful that our elders spoke with confidence and clarity about the fact that there is plenty of opportunity to be involved in making Bear Valley a strong, relevant church, a city set on a hill shining a light in spiritual darkness. Thank God for strong leadership, which encourages me to say, “Here am I, send me!” (cf. Isa. 6:8).

29513166_10155440294575922_8869656347900125980_n

Armchair Elders

Armchair Elders

Neal Pollard

He shouts at his TV with a mouthful of Cheetos. “I can’t believe you! Four receivers downfield and you throw it behind the line of scrimmage to a man who’s double covered! You’re pathetic. Must be nice to get millions of dollars to make awful decisions. Where do I sign?” After several additional one-sided conversations with the TV, Mr. Potato (first name: “Couch,” aka “Armchair Arnie”) dusts crumbs off his potbelly with those trademark orange fingertips and limps into the kitchen, stiff from sitting three hours, to get another snack before the second half of the NFL doubleheader.

Water cooler wide receivers. La-Z boy linebackers. The game’s true experts do not prowl the sidelines with headsets, nor do they actually suit up, strap on, and sweat it out. The guys with all the answers are the ones who would crumble with fear if placed on the same field with the athletes they so roundly criticize for bungling with the ball.

I have observed that the same temptation can occasionally strike some with regard to elders. Whether it be their judgment or painstaking decisions, their handling of a member’s problems or needs, or their overall “job performance,” elders get taken to task more often than they realize by pew chair presbyters. They may criticize elders for what they did or for their failure to act, for being too strict or too lenient, for showing favoritism or trying to please everyone, for being too conservative or too liberal–all with the regard to a single action taken or decision made.

There is a striking similarity to the “armchair quarterbacking” done by unfit, unqualified spectators at sporting events. Those who can’t are apt to criticize those that can and do. It is far easier to question and condemn the actions taken by elders without the benefit (and angst) of wrangling with problems and decisions oneself. How we can eloquently outline the plan of action we would take absent the pressure and responsibility of being in the position.

Let’s pray more for our elders and pass judgment less! Let’s support them with might, not scrutinize them under a microscope. They need our cooperation and submission (Heb. 13:17). They could do with less backbiting and murmuring (cf. 1 Co. 10:10).

That’s not to say that elders are beyond reproach and rebuke (1 Tim. 5:20). Occasionally, an elder or eldership may be deserving of question–particularly in the area of doctrine or their personal qualification. As a longtime Falcons fan, I had to endure the likes of Scott Hunter, Pat Sullivan, and June Jones! They were terrible quarterbacks, though much better than I could ever have been. Elders will answer directly to Christ for their shepherding of the local flock. We, as embers, will also answer for how we cooperated with and supported them. Let’s all resolve to get out of the chair and join them on the field (cf. John 4:35)!

sedentary

Watching Godly Elders

Watching Godly Elders

Neal Pollard

We are blessed with seven wonderful elders here! They span in age from 48 to 81, are of varying backgrounds, personalities, and skillsets, but collectively they reflect God’s wisdom for a plurality of godly men shepherding the flock. With the magnitude of the work and workload here, I cannot help but stand in awe of the great job they are doing. To watch men like these, I’m reminded of the powerful good done by apt, able elders. Far from an exhaustive list, they:

  • Show Hospitality—They open their homes freely and frequently, getting to know the sheep.
  • Keep Track—They make it their business to account for the sheep, knowing they will give an account for each of them ultimately.
  • Cast Vision—They do not lead from the rear; they thoughtfully, decisively get out front and show the way.
  • Greet Visitors—They care about our members, but they are constantly focused of who’s new around here.
  • Contemplate Problems—In the spirit of Solomon, they are presented with and must decide often complex, hairy matters…in real time.
  • Faithfully Pray—Listen to men pray and you get a pretty good idea how practiced they are. These men are devoted to it.
  • Show Heart—They aren’t afraid to demonstrate their care, concern, and love. We see it in their passion, their tears, and their involvement.
  • Manage People—Sheep are also of differing temperaments, needs, problems, and levels of maturity. They deal with “all kinds.”
  • Consult God—How exciting to see overseers humbly searching for and submitting to a “Thus saith the Lord.”
  • Balance Time—They do all of this while being competent employees, conscientious family men, and character-filled Christians.
  • Set Direction—They are tone setters in a basic way; What they emphasis, we will make important. We hear their voice, in the assemblies, meetings, and private conversations.
  • Make Mistakes—Despite sometimes unreasonable expectations from some, they are terminally human and inevitably subject to imperfection.
  • Follow Jesus—They are good shepherds walking behind the Good Shepherd. They want to serve, please, and imitate Him. Ours do a fantastic job of that.

Have you seen what a great job these men are doing? Have you taken the time to stop and let them know? Many churches veer from the straight and narrow path because of ungodly elderships. Thank God for the shepherds at Bear Valley!

13239021_10153682591930922_3851531815462243933_n

WHERE ARE THE ELDERS?

WHERE ARE THE ELDERS?

Neal Pollard

  • At the hospital, attending a surgery
  • At home, hosting a family or families and getting closer to the sheep
  • Hosting and attending church activities
  • In private meetings with hurting, needy members
  • In meetings together, praying over and discussing the needs of the sheep
  • Spending time with their wives and children, nurturing that needed part of their lives
  • On their knees and in their Bibles, strengthening their walk with the Good Shepherd
  • Teaching our Bible classes, leading our worship, and even preaching as needed
  • On the job, exemplifying Christ before the world in a superlative way
  • Weeping with the weepers at funerals
  • Found among our graduates, parents of newborns, celebrating newlyweds, and other happy moments experienced within the flock
  • In Bible studies with non-Christians or Christians wrestling with some Bible matter
  • Looking for visitors and new faces in our assemblies
  • Working, sleeves rolled up, on workdays and other occasions where they can serve
  • Enjoying fellowship, their very actions reminding us they’re normal and one of us
  • Watching and listening carefully, especially at the teaching and preaching that is done, ensuring the spiritual food their sheep ingest is healthy and nourishing
  • Holding up the hand of faithful gospel preaching, having their hands help up by their preachers
  • Touching base with the deacons, encouraging and aiding their success in ministry
  • Attentive to little children, the elderly, the alone, and others that many might unintentionally overlook
  • Ensuring the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, rooting out divisiveness
  • On the phone and in the homes with erring sheep, striving to retrieve them and, sadly, if necessary, leading the flock to withdraw fellowship from the irretrievable
  • Setting the spiritual tone, emphasis, and direction of the flock

Our elders, like faithful elders everywhere, do a lot that is unseen by the majority.  It is hard to quantify the time and effort each of these godly men put into their work, but God sees it. What is more, God rewards it. My prayer is that righteous elders everywhere will take heart at what an inspired elder once wrote: “Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.”

13239021_10153682591930922_3851531815462243933_n
Bear Valley elders among our 2016 High School graduates