The JREnsey blog for January 2019

Welcome to the JREnsey blog for January, 2019. Happy new year to all of our readers! The blog contains fewer items this month due to a longer article that was promised last month.

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The Word for Today

“How you hate honest judges!
How you despise people who tell the truth!
11 You trample the poor,
stealing their grain through taxes and unfair rent.
Therefore, though you build beautiful stone houses,
you will never live in them.
Though you plant lush vineyards,
you will never drink wine from them.
12 For I know the vast number of your sins
and the depth of your rebellions.
You oppress good people by taking bribes
and deprive the poor of justice in the courts.
13 So those who are smart keep their mouths shut,
for it is an evil time” (Amos 5:10-13 NLT).

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I am not ashamed… (Romans 1:16)

…of the Apostolic doctrine

…to be known as a child of God

…of being separate

…of His people

…of the way we worship

…of the manifestations of the Spirit

…that I am not ashamed!

…How about you?

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An Appeal to the Sons of Apostolic Pastors

A powerful word from the Lord was spoken by outgoing General Secretary Jerry Jones at the 2018 General Conference of the UPCI in Louisville, KY. He raised his voice as he passionately admonished those to whom his words may have applied: “You take your daddy’s church, or anyone’s church, and you take that [church] out of the Apostolic truth, you steal that building, and you steal those saints and you turn that into something [else]…that they paid their life’s blood for [that church]…they gave their treasure and their time and their commitment. God have mercy on your soul! You’re not only a backslider, you are a thief. It would be better for you never to have known truth than to have known it and walked away from it.” Thousands stood in agreement and some wept. Strong words, but we have all seen it happen.

In the attempt to interpret and apply what he so eloquently expressed, the following appeal is made to the sons of pastors who may be aspiring to assume their father’s or another elder’s pulpit.

Don’t equate a church with a “family business”

Pastors do not own churches, and they cannot bequeath what they do not own. Nor does one inherit a pastorate as one might inherit his fathers’s auto dealership. There are no succession rights in God’s kingdom. This is not medieval Europe where sons automatically accede to the throne held by their fathers.

Could it ever be right for a son to succeed their father? Absolutely. There have been times when it was obviously the perfect will of God. Certainly some fathers may feel more comfortable about their future and/or their retirement if their son takes over. Conversely, there have also been many situations where great harm was done to the church and the family when a family member was pushed through without a clear expression from God or the church body. Laymen are taught to trust their pastors and often yield to their wishes regarding a successor. Theoretically, a son assuming the pastorate could be the smoothest transition since the church would probably be more acquainted with his style than someone who is not well known by the congregation. By the same token, he may feel that he must put distance between himself and his father to establish his own identity and style, moving the church in a totally different direction.

A few years ago I did an extensive survey of churches going through the process of pastoral transition. It revealed that many pastors find it difficult to turn loose of the reins so that a successor can find the latitude he needs to effectively lead. In other situations, the incoming pastor felt that the elder must be totally set aside or vacate the church in order to make the drastic changes he envisions. Problems associated with pastoral transitions are rarely one-sided.

A common occurrence today is that long-serving pastors are assuming the role of Bishop in semi-retirement and their sons or other relatives are moving up to the position of pastor. In such a scenario, what sometimes happens to make Brother Jones’ comments so relevant and compelling? Too often the younger pastor takes the church in a totally different direction that amounts to serious compromise—even removing the church and himself from long-embraced fellowships. That is what he meant by “stealing a church.”

Allow me to suggest that new and/or young pastors build bridges to connect the generations in the congregation rather than erecting walls that inevitably separate them.

A change bridge

Frequently we are seeing walls go up quickly between the generations. Some younger pastors want to distance themselves from their elders whom they view as “not with it” or “locked in a time warp.” New worship styles, new platform configurations, and new lighting that mimics concert settings used by bands and entertainers are often installed early in the young pastor’s tenure. These quite often will virtually turn off the over 40 portion of the congregation. Walls go up, and rarely do they ever come back down.

It is true that subtle changes are often needed along the way. Change is not inherently ill-advised or wrong. However, drastic or sudden change may send a chill into the congregation and leave them wondering where the church is headed. When crossing a river of change, take time to build a bridge for those coming behind. Don’t leave them to struggle in any way they must in order to get across. Many might be lost in the crossing.

Bring the entire congregation along with you when changes are made in administration policies, or worship patterns, or when major physical appointments are incorporated. Don’t leave the older folks with question in their minds. They’ve been around and have seen some things. For instance, how tithing is apportioned is something in which a church board or at least a special committee should have input. The hiring of office personnel and the renaming of particular segments of church life can sometimes invite consternation. Renaming the platform a “stage” and the players of instruments a “band,” can create images and impressions that are difficult to dismiss. Communicate often with the elders of the church. Let them know the reasons for any substantial changes that may be in the offing. Good communication will almost invariably diminish the chatter and the potential angst.

The point is, don’t leave any portion of the congregation behind. The wisest young pastors are those that recognize the value of communication. Too often elders get the feeling that their voice doesn’t count, and it is whatever the more youthful portion of the assembly wants that really matters. Avoid division. Unify the assembly; don’t divide it.

A music bridge

Music and worship styles constitute a potential area of disagreement and dissension. If they change, it should be very slowly. Traditional music has had a definite role in discipling new converts. It encouraged the veteran saints of God when they were young in the Lord, and now helps maintain a hope for them as they grow older. Paul exhorted the congregations in Colosse and Ephesus to “(L)et the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs…speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord” (Colossians 3:19; Ephesians 5:19).

Singing songs in service does more than merely create sound. They provide a platform for worship and training. Notice what Paul says singing does: 1) it helps instill wisdom, 2) it teaches the Word by including scriptural phases and truths, 3) it admonishes believers to turn their attention to the values set forth in the Word, 4) melody is made in the heart of the singers. Many of the worship songs used today are written by those who seem to care little about truth, righteousness, hope, and things to come. They contain a minimum of teaching or admonition, and melody is certainly not their object.

Most Christians over forty cut their teeth on the backs of pews while hearing “It’s All In Him,” or “At Calvary,” or perhaps “How Great Thou Art.” They taught truth and motivated trust. Note the three types of songs mentioned by Paul: psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Would to God that songwriters would keep Paul’s words in mind when composing, rather than tagging in with the Hillsong groupies down the street, where only the “praise singers” know the songs. Songwriters and worship leaders should know the difference in a congregational type song and a chorus that might fit better in a setting of consecration and special worship moments.

Composers might remember that someday what they are writing now will be “out of date” and passé. A new genre will likely be developed and they will then feel left out to some degree. All know that few still sing “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God,” or the soaring “Ava Maria” variety of songs. Times and song types change. That is a fact. Got it. But at the congregational level, wisdom would dictate a slower transition, with the consciousness that the traditional songs had a teaching and admonition factor that is missing in many contemporary worship choruses.

No, most elders do not feel that the congregation must sing “I’ll Fly Away” or “Everybody Will Be Happy Over There” in every service. But to abruptly depart from the old songs that helped to mold faith and trust in God in their youth can be traumatic to the soul. Why leave half the assembly (the half that pays most of the church bills) standing and barely mouthing the words on the wall, not having an idea of where the next note is going or even the meaning of the lyrics. Why not a mix of types and melodies? Make the transition simpler and easier. Build a musical bridge. It pays.

A lifestyle bridge

Somehow, in this era of the Internet and social media, youth find it easy to grasp the idea that “holiness teaching” is also passé and does not have relevance in today’s environment. “We must change our emphasis regarding holiness if we are going to reach our current generation,” the say. What does that mean—that they don’t like the Apostolic lifestyle so we should adopt what they like so they will feel comfortable in our services? Such an attitude flies in the face of a thousand scriptures.

Too often new or young pastors assuming a leadership position seem to feel that they must acquiesce to the contemporary Bohemian* mindset, as one pastor posted on his website. They evidently think numerical growth depends on the compromise of biblical standards of holiness. We are not here to merely build crowds; our purpose is to build churches, populated by God-fearing, Spirit-filled, right-living believers.

True, our ladies don’t still wear dresses that sweep the street as they walk. We get that. But that does not mean that there should not be a line drawn beyond which they should not go. A line creates a margin of spiritual safety for both Apostolic men and women. When a line is not drawn, then there is no line, and everyone does what he or she thinks is appropriate—traditional understanding of biblical holiness and the expressions of the corporate body be hanged. Finding God’s sense of modesty expressed in the Scriptures is not difficult. “Nakedness” in the Bible seems to include the exposure of the thigh, the upper part of the leg. Covering of the upper arm is not a bad idea either. High necklines and longer hemlines have always been sensible guidelines for ladies’ attire. Actually, dedicated Christian men and women intuitively know what is over the line in their apparel. It was disappointing to have the nation’s First Lady, just past, to set a style of sleeveless, low necklines attire for public and media wear. What leaders do will usually be reflected in constituents. Remember the adage, modesty quietens the emotions and evokes respect.

Young pastors, this appeal is to you. Some things will never be appropriate for pulpit wear. Ugly T-shirts hung out over pre-torn jeans and sneakers, for instance, are signboards pointing to the future. They say, “Bohemians, please love me! See, I am like you. I dress like you, and together we reject the old power styles of suit and tie. Come be a part of our liberated church.” Platform styles often betray where you are wanting to go, what you will be teaching, living and believing within the next three to five years. We have seen it over and over.

Ornamental jewelry will never be in proper style in Apostolic churches. Ladies cutting their hair and men wearing long hair will never be accepted as a biblically approved Apostolic practice. At least a modicum of personal decorum has marked the American Christian community since its founding. Sure, drastic changes are taking place in every segment of our society. But what the culture does is their business; what the church does is our business.

Immoral homosexual acts that lead to confusing sexual identities are condemned in the Bible and will never become acceptable to God or true Apostolic Christians. That which God loathes will never suddenly become licit in His sight. Biblical principles are unchanging. Current morals being advocated in America’s institutions of higher learning—and in many denominational churches—are destructive to our society and are invitations for God’s judgment. It is up to the spiritual leaders of our movement, including our young pastors, to set a higher standard that maintains our distance from the world—one that is supported by both Scripture and common sense.

Summary

We love and appreciate pastors’ sons who dedicate themselves to the pastoral ministry. To lead God’s people is a high calling and entails great responsibility. Therefore this appeal urges them to use wisdom in assuming the pastoral role, considering not just one but all segments of the congregation. To remove the church from a theologically conservative position to a more liberal one is not the will of God. Don’t even come close to being a church thief. If you feel that churches should be different from the way their fellowship teaches and what their traditional stand has been, then go start one of your own. Don’t steal one.

Backsliders who want to return to the Lord will seek for a place that that looks and feels like what they left back there earlier in their life. Should they walk into some churches today, they would not recognize it as being the church they walked away from. The energy of our churches should not be spent totally on reaching the current culture, but maintaining what we have. “Be watchful and strengthen the things that remain,” Jesus said to the church at Sardis.

If you are being considered for a leadership role in a church, tell them exactly what you believe and any changes you intend to make. Taking a church under false pretenses amounts to prevarication and deception. Leadership in the kingdom of God is serious business. May we all feel obligated to the Lord Himself who is the “head of the body,” as Paul declares. It is His church and He is the final authority. When Jesus changes the salvation message and rescinds the apostolic holiness declarations in the Bible, then we can change our message and positions. Until then, let us dedicate ourselves to strengthening the things that remain—among them, our Apostolic truth and identity.

 

* A free-spirited, unconventional, open-minded thinker opposing traditional values; usually dedicated to recreating society in their own image. (Not a reference to someone’s nationality.)

If this article is not relevant to your situation right now, but you know someone who might benefit from it, please send them a link to the blog.

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Thanks for visiting the blog. Feel free to leave your comments. Have a safe and enjoyable New Year blessed by the greatest ingathering of souls in the history of your church. May the peace of God rule in your heart and home until Jesus comes.

JREnsey

Published in: on January 1, 2019 at 1:07 AM  Comments (7)