The Best Thing To Do For The Body This Year

Neal Pollard

When it comes to caring for the physical body, I have a lot to learn. While I work out nearly day, my most developed muscle is the table one. I will be working to use that muscle far less this year. But judging from all the new faces in the gym this morning, there are a lot of people who are going to be exercising their bodies who haven’t been doing so—at least for the next few days or weeks.

When it comes to caring for the spiritual body of Christ, I have even more to learn. Helping the church grow, develop, and fulfill its purpose better is a challenge that grows more daunting with each new year as our culture changes, our own distractions mount, and our sight is so easily eclipsed by the influence of this world. With that in mind, there is something we can do for His body that will give it its best opportunity to please God.  It centers around what we do with the Bible, as a church.

We must have confidence that God’s Word will give us what we need to have to be what we need to be. Through such, we will be “nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound doctrine” (1 Tim. 4:6). It takes the Word to cause “the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love” (Eph. 4:16). Isn’t this what Paul is also saying to Colosse, when he urges them to hold fast to the head so that the body would grow “with a growth which is from God”? (Col. 2:19).  We cannot hope to strengthen and protect Christ’s spiritual body locally without consulting the training manual of the Great Physician.  Let’s make that specific and practical:

  • Preachers must lovingly preach even the difficult subjects (i.e., God’s law of marriage, divorce, and remarriage, the distinct plan of salvation, the undenominational, singular nature of the New Testament church, God’s sexual ethics, the role of men and women, God’s pattern of worship, personal purity, etc.) and be a living example of the believer as their ethic is driven by that Word.
  • Elders must shepherd guided by the infallible Word and not with personal favoritism, deciding solely on popularity or what the majority favors, bending to political correctness, fear of offending influential members, and the like.
  • Deacons must function in a way that shows discipline, dedication, devotion, and discretion which is shaped and guided by the New Testament pattern for their works.
  • Members must follow with love, esteem, and cooperation when their leaders urge them to follow God’s truth, even if it’s distasteful to us or challenges our comfort and complacency.
  • Individual Christians must discipline their hearts and minds to be open and submissive to what they encounter in Scripture rather than be defensive and rebellious.
  • Families must dedicate themselves to studying and honoring the Word at home, in their daily lives, to grow and mature in the Words of truth.
  • Each of us must see the mandate to save souls, repeated throughout the New Testament, as a personal responsibility for which God holds us all accountable.

Isn’t it exciting to think about how much stronger the body of Christ where we are might be this time next year? If each of us will allow God’s inspired word to be the beacon and guide of our lives, His body is going to be powerful, noticeable, and desirable. We will draw men to Christ. We will be the picture of spiritual health. As you make your resolutions, won’t you determine to let the Word of Christ richly dwell within you (Col. 3:16).

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My Daily “To-Do” List

Neal Pollard

  1. Be Productive With Your Time (Eph. 5:16).
  2. Be Pure In Your Heart (Mat. 5:8).
  3. Be Proactive In Your Relationships (Eph. 5:21-6:4).
  4. Be Peaceable With Your Provokers (Rom. 12:17-21).
  5. Be Purposeful With Your Life (Rom. 8:28).
  6. Be Praiseful With Your God (Psa. 150).
  7. Be Pleasant In Your Demeanor (Prov. 16:24).
  8. Be Prayerful In Your Decisions (Phil. 4:6).
  9. Be Patient In Your Challenges (1 Th. 5:14; Psa. 37:7).
  10. Be Positive About Your Future (Phil. 1:20-21; 4:13).
  11. Be Persistent In Your Evangelistic Pursuit (1 Cor. 9:19-22; Mat. 28:19).
  12. Be Pitying Of The Downtrodden (Prov. 19:17).
  13. Be Picky About Your Associates (1 Cor. 15:33).
  14. Be Passionate About Your Spirituality (Rom. 12:11).
  15. Be Perseverant In Your Trials (2 Th. 1:4).
  16. Be Prospective In Your Opportunities (Gal. 6:10).
  17. Be Petrified Of Falling Away From God (Heb. 6:1-6; 10:26-31).
  18. Be Powerful In Your Faith (Luke 7:9; 2 Th. 1:3).
  19. Be Persistent In Your Study (2 Tim. 2:15).
  20. Be Penitent In Your Sins And Failures (2 Cor. 7:10; Acts 3:19).
  21. Be Plentiful In Your Gratitude (1 Th. 5:18).
  22. Be Permeating In Your Influence (Mat. 13:33-34).
  23. Be Profuse In Your Generosity (3 John 5; Prov. 11:25).
  24. Be Prolific In Humility (Mat. 23:12; 1 Pet. 5:5).
  25. Be Pining For Heaven (Heb. 11:16; Phil. 1:23).

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THE VALUE OF REMEMBERING

Neal Pollard

I am not sure what the connection is, but some people tie a string around their finger to remember an important date or appointment.  Some people just write on their hand.  Others preserve it electronically.

What do we do to keep from forgetting what is important to us spiritually?  Peter writes in 2 Peter 1:12-13 that he was stirring them up by reminding them.  Studying God’s Word awakens our memory to things we may have forgotten, things we have not looked deeply into in the past, or brings something to our attention in a way it has not previously.  It is noteworthy that he was reminding them of something they already knew.  False teachers were trying to distract and deceive them from what they knew.

Bible study is good for us to keep from falling into the traps of false teaching. Many of us come to the Lord from religious groups that teach something different from the Bible about salvation, worship, the end of time, leadership, or the like.  Keep your Bible and your heart open to what you study, and you will keep reminding yourself of the joy and blessings of New Testament Christianity.

Later in the letter, Peter writes, “Beloved, I now write to you this second epistle (in both of which I stir up your pure minds by way of reminder), that you may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandments of us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior” (3:1-2).  That covers everything–the Old Testament and the New Testament.  It is also a reminder that if you live another 50 or 75 years, you will always need to study and remind yourself of what the Bible says on every subject.

If you have ever lost or forgotten something important that cost you in some way, you learned the value of remembering.  If you have ever been to a memorial or monument, you have benefited from that reflection.  If you want to grow in your faith and knowledge, be stirred up by being reminded of the important, spiritual things revealed in Scripture.

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Each One Will Bear His Own Load

Neal Pollard

Ulm Minster, a Lutheran church building in southern Germany, is the tallest church building in the world, has the tallest steeple in the world, and is the 4th tallest structure built before 1900. Construction began in the 1300s and was finished in 1890. The masonry building is thought to be the tallest load-bearing brick or masonry building in the world. That means that each brick supports its own weight (Wells, Matthew. Skyscrapers: Structure and Design, King: London, 2005. p. 8).

In Galatians 6, Paul urges Christians to reach out, gently and introspectively, to help a fallen brother (1). We do so because it is the fulfillment of Christ’s law to help each other (2). None of us is above this (3). But at the same time, we have personal accountability (4) and responsibility (5). The example, in context, is financial support of the Word rather than fleshly indulgence (6ff). But a fair application of this principle extends to the need we each have to pull our own weight. Just as I need to help others in need, I need to realize my need to stand on my own two feet. What are some areas where the individual Christian must bear his own load?

  • Involvement in the work of the church. 1 Corinthians 12 tells us every member plays a vital part to the overall function of the body. I cannot just be a pew-sitter. I must be at work. When I hear announcements about needs or opportunities, I should not console myself thinking that others will do it. Let them do their part. I must do mine.
  • Financial contribution to the church. Being in a generous, giving church is no substitute for my personal obligation. The command is to “each one of you” (1 Cor. 16:2; 2 Cor. 9:6-7).
  • Personal relationship with God. A godly spouse, parent, or child is a wonderful asset in our lives, but none are a substitute for my own faith and intimacy in the relationship with God. No one can say my prayers, read my Bible reading, or walk my walk with the Lord.
  • Battling temptation.  Temptation is common to all men and escape is available to every man, but none can do the escaping for me (cf. 1 Cor. 10:13). I can draw strength from others and receive prayers from others and confess to others, but it is ultimately a battle I must win, with God’s help, in the trenches of my own life.
  • Being an encouragement to those in need. The exhortation to “therefore encourage one another and build up one another” (1 Th. 5:11) is very personal. The uplift I give is uniquely mine and no one can give this in the way that I can.
  • Visiting those who are sick, in prison, and the like. Matthew 25:31-46 puts the individual in the Judgment before Christ. That means I will answer for whether or not I did this, whether preachers, elders, deacons, or others did.
  • Meeting benevolent needs. The same passage challenges me in meeting the physical needs of those around me. Paul makes it personal, too, in Galatians 6:10.
  • Loving the brotherhood, with each individual brother and sister. This is to be the trademark trait of a disciple of Christ (John 13:34-35). And, it is individual (cf. 2 Th. 1:3). As I measure how I treat, talk about, and think about the spiritual family, am I bearing my load?

Pink Floyd was pessimistic when they said, “All we are is just another brick in the wall.” But, there is such an exciting prospect when we consider that we make up that holy temple to the Lord (Eph. 2:19-22). When all of us, as individuals, bear our part of the load, more and more growth and expansion is possible! Help each other, but do your own part. It’s the way Christ wants it.

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What Kind Of Church Do We Want To Be?

Neal Pollard

V–ictorious? Faith is the victory that overcomes the world (1 Jn. 5:4). No coach hopes to win without first planning and architecting. The blueprints have already been put in place (Rom. 6:17), but we must work the plans to be a success in God’s eyes!

I–nvolved? Do we want to merely keep house and meet together each week? That is not New Testament Christianity (cf. Acts 2:46). They took Christianity out of the church building’s doors. They were tangibly involved in doing God’s work. Will be be?

S–erving? This is a self-serving world. Many seem intent to climb over whoever is in their way to the top. Jesus’ religion runs contrary to that (John 13:12-17), and He calls us to follow His example. A serving church is a living, thriving, arriving, surviving church.

I–mpactful? Do our neighbors know who we are? What about the surrounding communities? What about the farthest reaches of our world? Don’t you want to be part of a church putting a Christ-sized impression on those around us?

O–bedient? We have one authority (Col. 3:16-17; John 14:1-6; Acts 4:12). There are potential masters, but only one will lead us to heaven. A church that steps outside His “lines” will become eternally out of bounds. Those intent on obeying Him will be saved (Heb. 5:9).

N–urturing? Don’t we want to be part of a people with an infinitely more profound purpose than that found by the patrons and workers portrayed in the old sitcom Cheers? We want everyone to know our name and be glad that we came, but we should also want a place where we can grow in every right, positive way. This must be a church that cares about all, whatever our age, background, interests, income, or education!

A–ble?  Do we want to focus on our liabilities or, through Christ, our limitless resources? We have so much to do, but we’ve been given so much to do it. Don’t we want to be part of a “can do” church, doing with our might what our hands find to do?

R–eaping? If we are a working church, we will see results. They will come through baptisms, programs of work, outreaches, visitation, stronger fellowship, missionary success, and much, much more. As my good friend, Cy Stafford, says, “What God controls, grows.” The law of sowing and reaping is positive, too (Gal. 6:8).

Y–earning? A church that is alive and growing is full of holy desire, enthusiasm, and a confidence that we can do all things through the Christ alive within us (Phil. 4:13). Our greatest desires will be to do spiritual things to the glory of God.

How does a church become a visionary church? We must be intentional! What do we intend to do?  With God’s help, that is up to us!

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HOW CAN WE ENSURE THE CHURCH WILL NOT GROW?

Neal Pollard

  • Talk Up Big Plans And Follow Through With Inactivity. This will build frustration and discouragement. Satanfears not the plan, but rather the working of it.
  • Make No Plans For The Future: Just Accept The Status Quo.  Just hope that the future will take care of itself. Buy into the “is/ought” fallacy: “The way it is is the way it ought to be.”
  • Do Not Practice Church Discipline. Let the disorderly walk unchecked in ungodliness. Let all members see how nonchalantly bad or grossly negligent behavior is treated.
  • Under-appreciate The Leadership. Do not pray for the elders, actively seek to help them, encourage them, express appreciation for them, submit to their authority (Heb. 13:7,17), or respect them. Just expect them to be without flaw or feelings.
  • Do Not Actively Enlist. Allow a small nucleus of folks to do the brunt of the work. Leave the majority of the members in the dark as to how and where to be involved. Ignore the fact that people must be personally invested to be faithful.
  • Pressure Or Allow The Pulpit To Be Form Over Substance. Make sure the preached message is soothing and non-offensive, fostering comfort and expecting little to nothing. Have the pulpit heavy on the social and light on Scripture.
  • Get Into The “Change Extremes”: “Nothing Is Sacred” Or “Nothing Is Changeable.”  Departing from the left or right will kill the church, whether its identity or effectiveness. Buy into every new fad that comes along or suspect and oppose any change which may scripturally improve the life and work of the church.
  • Make Personal Preferences And Opinions Binding. Equate personal discomfort with doctrinal sin. Take presumptuous positions, supposing there is biblical foundation without finding such. Allow the nay-saying of one or two thwart effective, soul-winning, and needed programs.
  • Have No Follow-up Program For New Christians. Let them make their own way to heaven after the water of baptism dries. Have no Bible study follow-up, fellowship mechanism, or other effort to integrate and educate these spiritual babes.
  • Maintain An Unchallenging Budget. Do not risk offending non-sacrificial members. Make plans by sight, not by faith. Do not make ambitious financial goals as a congregation.
  • Be Distant And Unloving With One Another. Confine association and fellowship to the building, and that in passing. Stay out of each others’ homes. Do not visit. Do not build friendships with those of like faith. Do not be involved in one another’s lives.
  • Take “Christ” Out Of Christianity. Be secular and worldly. Fail to be distinctive to a world desperately seeking something different from itself.
  • Ignore The Small And Voiceless. Be it children, elderly members, or the sick and shut-in, let them fall through the cracks of inattention. Treat singles, new Christians, and weak, struggling members as second-class citizens of the Kingdom.

It is easy to arrange things in the local congregation so that the church fails to grow. But, the Lord wants His body to grow. The early church grew (Acts 6:1,7; 9:31). A growing church reflects a church on fire for the Lord’s mission (Mat. 28:18ff) and in focus with the Lord’s desire (2 Pet. 3:9). May we overcome these church-shrinking tendencies and build a great church!

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CHURCH GROWTH STARTERS

Neal Pollard

  • Offer “medical missions” benevolent campaign in the neighborhood, utilizing the talents of members with medical expertise.
  • Have a worship leadership training class.
  • Incorporate periodic explanations about the purpose and biblical foundation for the acts of worship and the invitation during the worship services.
  • Have an elder/deacon intensive training class.
  • Host community Bible studies in various homes on a regular basis, inviting friends, co-workers, neighbors, unchurched family, etc.
  • Have a benevolent financial planning and strategies seminar, utilizing the talents of members with accounting and other finance-related skills and backgrounds.
  • Have a “special events Sunday,” where a special contribution is taken to fund evangelistic events for the year.
  • Host a website, which you advertise to the community, soliciting religious questions they have on their minds (for an example of this, see 12questions.net—hosted by the Mount Juliet church of Christ).
  • Utilize deacons to identify the talents of new members and new Christians, and then look for ways to leverage them.
  • Start a “come back home” campaign to retrieve erring and fallen away members.
  • Create a bumper sticker that identifies the congregation concisely and in a way that would draw community interest. The Palm Beach Lakes congregation has seen several baptisms from such an effort (pblcoc.org).
  • Make the church website current, interactive, and informative, not just about churches of Christ as a whole but what makes the local church relevant to people’s needs.
  • Give the teens an evangelistic project (teen gospel meeting, teen visitation program, feeding the homeless, etc.).
  • Incorporate as many members as possible in grading Bible correspondence courses (for students both foreign and domestic).
  • Plan, publicize, and promote a Sunday for every member in the directory to be present for worship, then use that day to present the plan and work of the church.
  • Train and use members to “carry” visitors from the parking lot to the dinner table, adopting visitors and helping them find classes and seats in the auditorium as well as connecting them to other members.
  • Keep your eyes peeled for new faces, stepping out of your comfort zone to meet and greet them. Be prepared to follow up and help them meet others, too.
  • Pray about ways you can be more involved in the work of the church and ask the leadership for ways you can be put to work.
  • Make a list of members and visitors that you can influence and encourage, then utilize it.

May I Help You?

Neal Pollard

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly all the top 1o most common U.S. occupations are in the service industry—retail salespersons, cashiers, fast food workers, office clerks, waiters and waitresses, and customer service representatives, just to name a few (http://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/ocwage.pdf).  But one of the most common complaints you hear is about poor customer service, rude or unhelpful customer service staff, being overcharged or neglected, or a bad attitude.  There may be a great many reasons behind this, but one may well be that our culture is not conditioned to serve, but to be served.  Those in positions of service may just be reflecting the culture.

This is not a new problem.  Jesus addressed that mentality with His followers in Matthew 20:25-28.  In a world insistent upon being the chief and asserting their own rights, Jesus’ message does not play well today.  Yet, it did not play well even when He taught it on earth.  Jesus was very clearly the suffering servant (Isa. 53:11), and how did the masses ultimately react to Him? They shouted, “Crucify Him” (Mark 15:13-14).

The concept of serving others turned out to be a struggle for the church at Philippi.  To that end, Paul urged them to adopt a better mindset, a proper attitude (Phil. 2:1-4).  Paul reminded these Christians that they were in the spiritual service industry.  It was their job to serve one another.  We can understand why this teaching is a bitter pill to swallow.  We all know those members of the spiritual family who are difficult to deal with, the ones who can be like fingernails on the chalkboard to us or who set our teeth on edge.  We might enjoy doing for the benign brother, the sweet sister, or the friendly family.  The real test comes in serving someone who does not make serving a pleasant, happy task.  A servant heart was lacking among some at Philippi (cf. 4:2), and an unwillingness to put others first will have a dangerous, negative impact on a church if such a spirit is allowed to grow unchecked.

Gordon MacDonald said, “You can tell whether you are becoming a servant by how you act when people treat you like one.”  Paul is urging a united, humble, and serving attitude on Philippi and on us.  Our task is not to gauge how others are growing in service, but to examine self.  May we live what we sometimes sing to God, “Make me a servant, Lord, make me like You, for you are a servant, make me one, too!”

MILLENNIALS LEAVING THE ESTABLISHED FOR THE CONVENIENT?

Neal Pollard

I was more than a little amused to read one of the latest offerings at the offbeat online food site “Munchies” (munchies.vice.com).  While it seems to be having fun with the overkill-reporting of all movements millennial, they give hard data to support the idea that those in the age range of 18-34 are forsaking fast-food chains and sit-down restaurants in deference to convenience stores with their nachos, taquitos and slurpies.  This data is being interpreted as a reflection on their tendency to impulse buy or be lured in by novelty.

Having at least two children who would fit the broad definition of “millennials,” I am always trying to figure out how this demographic ticks.  It seems that every news story featuring them, as a generation, casts them as fickle, rebellious, self-serving, or disconnected from the rest of society.  While they have inherited some broken systems (educationally, economically, religiously, etc.) and, as such, may naturally feel some distrust and disdain for those responsible, stereotypes and broad brushes are usually faulty.

When I view Christian millennials, having spoken with a great many of them over the past few years, I see a group intent on doing great things for Christ.  They don’t want to hear plans for helping the poor and needy; they want to organize and supply manpower for doing it.  They want more than Bible classes and sermons on soul-winning; they want to see their “role models” doing it and involving them in it.  They don’t want to simply accept our word for it on why we do what we do in worship and doctrine; they want well-thought-out explanations and demonstrations of book, chapter, and verse.

Today’s millennials are on the frontline of a battlefield more daunting than any living generation before them.  The prince of this world has attempted to brainwash and indoctrinate them with his lies.  The institutions of our culture actively seek to redefine right and wrong for them.

So many of the Christian millennials I know are eager to serve as soldiers in the Lord’s Army.  They may disparage some of the “established” forms not founded upon the Rock, but the kind of faith they are developing and must grow will be anything but “convenient.”  They may have to pay a higher price for holding onto their faith than any of us did at their age.  May we have the wisdom and take the time to mentor, encourage, love, and assist them in influencing a world so rapidly changing.  They can do it, and we must help.  God certainly will (cf. Rom. 8:37-39)!

“What’s Wrong With The Church…”

Neal Pollard

The blogosphere is getting pretty rife with posts about how the church is inept in method or impure in motive on just about everything, from good works to evangelism to preaching to leadership to cultural relevance. It appears that we (the church) have a skewed perspective of the past, we are doing practically nothing now (at least nothing right), and we have a doomed future.  We have no clue how to reach millennials or keep converts (not that anyone’s winning anyone).  We’re losing our young people. We’re full of hypocrites. We have no vision or it’s the wrong vision.  We’re at once too legalistic while too soft on sin and uncommitted in discipleship.

Do such posts draw an elevated number of hits or similar attention?  Do they gratuitously spark or provoke strong emotions from readers?  Do they make good tabloid journalism?

The church faces enormous challenges that require greater service, dedication, faithfulness, and sacrifice.  Being full of sinners, we’re imperfect and have plenty of room for improvement.  I guess my question is what the objective of this “Negative Nelly” approach is.  To better motivate and encourage growth? Or is it to beat down, create guilt, or demonstrate some sort of superiority by the “pundit”? Is it a spiritual approach or does it look more like the world than we might like to admit? May we never be like the ostrich, head buried in the sand and ignorant of reality around us.  Yet, as Christians, may we exemplify a joy and positivity borne of following Jesus.

Because of sin, things have always been bleak–including when He walked the earth.  Yet, rather than lament a falling sky, He came to make a positive difference in this world.  His followers’ writings were rich with words like “hope,” “grace,” “heaven,” “faith,” “unity,” “forgiveness,” and “peace.”

What if we made more suggestions and used less sarcasm? What if we concentrated more on our own example and less on everyone else’s errors? What if we balanced our hand-wringing about what’s wrong with the church with hand-raising about what’s right with it? What if?