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character church church function evangelism friendliness reputation Uncategorized

What Would Our Slogan Be?

Neal Pollard

A Bear Valley member gave me a mailer she received from a new, area denomination.  The oversized postcard, in attractive colors (the background of which looks to be a paint palette), leads with the header, “Messy Grace.” The subtitle reads, “It’s okay to not be okay.” The brief message beneath says, “God loves you. God cares for you. God wants a relationship with you. NO MATTER WHAT!”  Now, there is a lot of truth in that message, if we don’t necessarily care for some of the jargon. Could it leave a wrong impression? Yes, if the message does not include the response we need to make to His amazing grace. We cannot stay messy, if that means willful sin. But we will all continue to have our messes, even after coming to Him.

But, the mailer itself, with the self-appointed slogan, is what got me to thinking. If our visitors got to write our slogan, what would it be? For some places I’ve visited, it could be the following: “Don’t Sit On My Pew!”, “Race You To The Restaurants!”, “Visitors? What Visitors?”, “Joy Is For Liberals”, or “Are You Ready To Rumble?”  If the Lord wrote our slogan, what would it be?  For some congregations He diagnosed, it was also less than flattering: “We’ve Left Our First Love” (Rev. 2:5), “We’re Following False Teachers” (Rev. 2:14-16), “We Tolerate Immorality” (Rev. 2:20ff), “We Look Alive, But We’re Really Dead” (Rev. 3:1), and “We Think We’re Something Great, But We’re In Really Bad Shape” (Rev. 3:15ff).

Here at Bear Valley, there are several potential slogans I would hope represent who we are and what we are trying to convey by the way we act when we’re together on Sunday and Wednesday as well as our interaction at other times. Here are some good options:

  • “We Love One Another” (John 13:35).
  • “We Walk In Truth” (3 John 4).
  • “We Continue In His Word” (John 8:31).
  • “We Bear One Another’s Burdens” (Gal. 6:2).
  • “We Like Being Together” (Acts 2:42ff).
  • “We Look For Our Lost Sheep” (Luke 15:4).
  • “We Know Who The Enemy Is” (Eph. 6:11).
  • “We’re Not Conformed But Transformed” (Rom. 12:2).
  • “We Put Others Before Self” (Phil. 2:3-4).
  • “We Act Toward Others As If Doing For Christ” (Mat. 25:40).

The thing is, we are going to have a general character and emphasis as a congregation. Whatever we prioritize and do, that’s what it is. It’s not what we say, sing, or “sloganize.” To see it in print is sobering. May we collectively strive to earn a reputation that reveres our Master, reflects our mission, and renews our minds.

1akxyz

Categories
preaching

Don’t Preach!

Neal Pollard

What an odd thing to say, especially when our Lord (Mark 16:15; Acts 10:42) and Paul (2 Tim. 4:2) say to preach!  I’m not saying don’t preach at all, but there’s too much “preaching” that is not really preaching.  We must not preach that way.

  • Don’t preach self!  No matter how funny, folksy, charismatic, creative, good-looking, glamorous, smart, or suave I might be, it’s not about me.  I am no Savior. I am a sinner proclaiming the Savior.
  • Don’t preach doubt!  People already wrestle mightily with doubts.  Don’t reinforce them.  Clear away such cobwebs with the definitive, hopeful, concrete message of truth.
  • Don’t preach man-made doctrine!  It’s a foundation of sand.  It will land countless people on the Lord’s left hand at the day of reckoning.  If a doctrine is at odds with the gospel, keep it from the message.
  • Don’t preach unprepared!  Every hearer deserves a well-planned, well-thought-out, and well-practiced sermon.  They are giving their time.  Make sure you have put in yours.
  • Don’t preach in a pandering way!  Audience analysis is helpful, but don’t “play to the crowd.” It seems insincere and disingenuous. Don’t carry the standard down to the people. Call the people up to the standard.
  • Don’t preach philosophy!  Philosophers prefer questions without answers more than answering questions.  “What ifs” may be fun with sports teams and political elections, but they too often tear down rather than build up faith.
  • Don’t preach arrogantly!  The preacher, George Bailey, would often say, “A man wrapped up in himself makes a mighty small package.”  How many times have people echoed the sentiments of the Greeks, “Sir, we want to see Jesus!” (cf. John 12:21).
  • Don’t preach timidly!  Should we apologize for the Lord’s message?  We never want to be harsh, antagonistic, or in any way present an obstacle with negativity or our presentation, but we must have the courage to share what the Lord said. If the Lord commands it, we must convey it, even if it’s difficult to do so.
  • Don’t preach indistinctly!  Truth stands out. We must let it.  We cannot hide the parts that may make the church or the preacher seem in the minority or at odds with prevailing views.  We must be Micaiahs, intently committed to preach with this philosophy: “As the Lord lives, what the Lord says to me, that shall I speak” (1 Kin. 22:14).

Instead, preach the Word!  Saturate your message with His message.  The late Wendell Winkler would say, “Fill your lesson with Scripture. At least that much of it will be right!  Let God get a word in edgewise!”  Some have convinced themselves that they know better than God does what makes sermons effective.  The old song, “None of Self and all of Thee,” is in order here.  Hide behind the cross and lift Him up.  Being thoroughly biblical, applicable, and practical, we will grow the church and we will grow people.  If one is prone to veer from His pattern and example of New Testament preaching, may we ask such a one is genuine, loving candor, “Don’t preach!”

(Carl preaching the word in Cambodia last month)