Thursday, 14 January 2016

Ministerial Outreach--The Way that Congregations Grow

In my estimation, for what it’s worth, our congregation excels in most avenues of ministry, except in ministerial outreach. We give generously to outside causes, but we seem out of practice in intentionally reaching out to our friends and neighbors in order to connect them to our congregation.

I’m no expert in ministerial outreach. I’m certainly not personally well-practiced in such endeavors, so I don’t want to come across as finger wagging, since I’m no model minister in outreach. Frankly, I need someone to help me learn how to be the conduit that connects outsiders with our congregation.

But let’s try this for starters. Is there someone in your own mind that you have identified for connecting them with our church? Our congregational growth will be proportional to such thinking. If we don’t think of specific individuals or families from our own neighborhoods or workplace in the first place, we are likely not to bring them to our church.

I think most of us want our congregation to grow. So, let’s each one consider this approach: Pause a minute to think of friends and acquaintances from your neighborhood, from your workplace, or even from your own family. If you don’t know them very well, make intentional efforts to engage them—enter into their world through acts of lavish love. Earn the right to speak to them as a genuine friend. Get yourself into a position with them that you can invite them to church. Better yet, be the Church’s personal representative to them.

We’re blessed well enough that you can invite people to our worship without offering apologies like “The service is a little long, but it’s worth it,” or “The choir is not very good, but they do make a joyful noise to the Lord.” No, our services are very inviting and engaging. So, all you need to do is get into your neighbor’s or friend’s world through lavish love, and open your heart when the opportunity arises.

People often ask, Why is that church over there growing? What are they doing to attract so many families? Most often the correct answer is that they know how to connect people to their congregation.

Pastor Jim

Think of a specific friend that you know from your neighborhood, or from the workplace, or in your own family.

Saturday, 2 January 2016

Eternal Security and Exegetical Overview of the Book of Jude Eternal Security and Making Shipwreck of One's Faith in the Book of Jude

Eternal Security and Exegetical Overview of the Book of Jude:

Making Shipwreck of One's Faith in the Book of Jude

Most people argue for or against eternal security, armed with a handful of prooftexts. These prooftexts are lifted from larger contexts which really do not have much to say about whether a saved person can abandon Christ and forfeit salvation. This is one of several articles which attempts to ground the doctrine of security with exegetical sensitivity to a handful of texts which actually do focus on the topic (see the lead article here: and on Hebrews here:

In this article, I review the book of Jude. I recommend reading and re-reading this book several times—it is short enough that it takes less than five minutes to read it aloud.
From simply reading the book, we recognize that the apostle is deeply concerned about some false church leaders. The key verse that informs the situation is v. 4: “For certain individuals … have secretly slipped in (παρεισέδυσαν) among you.” The Greek word is the one that stands behind the English word seduce, and NLT graphically translates “wormed their way into your churches.”

These false teachers operate differently from those plaguing the Ephesian church which Paul addressed in 1 Timothy. In 1 Timothy, Hymanaeus and Alexander were insiders, perhaps even placed into leadership by Paul himself. These insiders had made shipwreck of their faith and Paul handed them over to Satan. In that passage (1:18-20) Paul makes the ambiguous statement that he did so to teach them not to blaspheme. The rest of the letter, however, offers no place for their repentance, and no instructions for possible readmission to the congregation is given—we are left to assume their perdition.

The false teachers in Jude are not insiders, but outsiders. The book serves as a warning, then, to churches to beware of such false teachers. See my blog article “Calvinism on the Sly” to see how modern Calvinists have sneaked into Arminian or semi-Arminian churches in the last couple of decades: .

In the case of Jude, the false teachers were antinomian—they taught that grace means that Christians are free to sin as much as they want. The apostle writes, “They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.” The apostle associated them with Cain, Balaam, and Korah: “Woe to them! They have taken the way of Cain; they have rushed for profit into Balaam’s error; they have been destroyed in Korah’s rebellion.” Balaam was out for financial gain, and Korah worked the Israelite congregation over to conjure up dissent among other leaders against Moses.

In v. 5, Jude reminds the readers of what they already knew about the Israelites: God “…at one time delivered his people out of Egypt, but later destroyed those who did not believe.” This is a significant statement, for through this urgent reminder, Jude recalls the Old Testament principle that people who had been previously “saved” were later destroyed for their unbelief (see also the similar argument in Heb 4). This Old Testament principle is significant in and of itself, but Jude applies it to his New Testament churches. This is the first of several Old Testament lessons in Jude that are retold in order to warn New Testament believers.

The second lesson is similar. Jude points to the fallen angels, explaining that their prior position of security did not keep them from falling into ultimate judgment: “And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their proper dwelling—these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day.

By “reminding” them of these Old Testament lessons, Jude is issuing warnings to his churches: just because you sit in a favored position does not mean that you cannot forfeit your privileged status. The NLT draws this point out well in its translation of v. 12: “When these people eat with you in your fellowship meals commemorating the Lord’s love, they are like dangerous reefs that can shipwreck you.”

The only clear safeguard against the influence of the false teachers is spiritual growth and abiding in Christ: “But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life” (vv. 20-21).

Jude concludes with some practical advice to the church about dealing with three different categories of people: “Be merciful to those who doubt; save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.” Especially relevant for our topic of security, Jude urges all effort to rescue “from the fire” those members of the congregation who were most in danger.

As happens elsewhere, these apostolic warnings are followed by an encouraging word. The encouraging word does not negate such warnings. Jude does not conclude his letter by saying, “I have issued you warnings, but these warnings are only rhetorical and not to be taken as real threats.” Rather, the word of encouragement is meant to reinforce the teaching that Jesus protects those who abide in him, and this makes for one of the Bible’s most loved benedictions:

To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.

Although it is quite short, the letter of Jude is one such example where verses that contradict eternal security are found in a context which actually does focus on continuance in salvation. By themselves, any prooftexts in Jude are not all that impressive. But when taken together with the larger context of Jude, these verses become all the surer guideposts that warn that believers may shipwreck their faith and fall under the severest judgment.

The Role of Associations in Baptist Renewal

Annual State Meeting Nagaland Baptist Church Council
At the core of Baptist life is the local associations. Most local associations are more or less mostly dead. This allows a great opportunity for denominational renewal. I'll explain.

Since most local associations are on life support, a competent leader can step in and effect change much easier than can be done when the association is vibrant. Here's the strategy.

Attend all your association meetings, and contribute as the opportunity arises. Make sure your church gets maximum delegates to attend. Find other like-minded visionaries and forge alliances with them and put together a plan for renewal. Implement the plan, and see what can happen in a couple of years.

Tired of your denominational churches ordaining mediocre and uneducated clergy? Take over your local association, and implement higher education standards for ordination. The first step might be to require ordination candidates to write a book review on Arminian Baptist theology. If a preacher wants credentials in an Arminian Baptist denomination such as Free Will Baptist, why not require him to read and review Forlines' Classical Arminianism? Start with baby steps. Eventually you might be able to require formal theological training.

Tired of your denominational churches being KJV-only? Why not require ordination candidates to write a paper that involves some research into the issue? You can give them a bibliography.

Use your local association to make connections with model ministers and ministries. Invite guest speakers. Allow organizations to set up a kiosk to promote their ministries.

Once your local association has been renewed, make sure that it sends maximum delegates to the state meeting and repeat the process there.

Local associations are so dead that competent leaders can create a spark that will have significant impact.

Essential Reading for Arminian Baptists

Essential Writings and Short Bibliography for Arminian Baptist Theology

Ashby, Stephen. “Reformed Arminianism” in Four Views of Eternal Security, ed. by J. Matthew Pinson