Why I’m All in for Vacation Bible School

I’m all in for Vacation Bible School and here’s why.

I’m all in for Vacation Bible School at my church. We have a great group of volunteers, but I love being a part of the opening and closing rallies and helping out any way I can. I look forward to greeting parents as they drop their kids off and giving out high-fives to those same kids as they make their way down the hall. This year, I get to share the gospel with the children at a few key points throughout the week.

Here are my top 5 reasons why I’m all in for VBS:

  1. VBS is fun. I know that it takes a lot of hard work and advanced planning to put a VBS together. The daily schedule can be a little tiring, but it’s a good kind of tiring. The music is upbeat, the decorations are colorful, and the kid’s smiles are fantastic. Add in some crafts, snacks, and games, and you have a recipe for a memorable time.
  2. VBS encourages the church to focus on the next generation. There are all kinds of activities that can happen in church, but you can’t have VBS without children. Children and youth are the future and they need to be a priority.
  3. VBS encourages the church to look outward. Parents are always looking for things for their children to do during the summer months when school is not in session. VBS is a natural connection point that is easy to share with the community. These factors and more, make it easy for the church to use VBS as an outreach opportunity.
  4. VBS encourages the church to think about the gospel. The daily schedule usually includes a lot of activities. But a full schedule is an invitation to think about what kinds of messages are truly important. In other words, what do we really want to pass on to our children? The good news about Jesus Christ – his death, burial, and resurrection for us – is the best message of all and VBS an ideal time to share it.
  5. VBS brings out the best in our church volunteers. All kinds of people can volunteer at VBS. People who enjoy working with their hands and building can help. People that like to teach and organize can be a part. People that enjoy music and crafts can do their part. Even athletic types can serve.

These are my top 5 reasons why I’m all in for Vacation Bible School. Feel free to share your own reasons why you love to participate in VBS in the comment section below.

A Plan to Guide Your Personal Prayer Time

Jesus was so passionate about prayer that He taught his disciples to pray as part of his Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6:9-13 (see also Luke 11:2-4). Some people quote the Savior’s model prayer word for word, while others prefer a more relaxed approach. Both of these groups would benefit from a reminder of the spirit that stands behind this particular prayer. I believe the Lord’s Prayer teaches how to develop a posture of dependence on God. If we aren’t dependent on God, then why pray?

The six petitions contained in the prayer can be divided up into two categories focusing first on who God is and then on what God does for us. Here is a two-part plan to guide your personal prayer time based on the Lord’s Prayer. You can use this plan to help with your daily devotional time or as part of a special emphasis.

Part 1: Praise God for Who He Is

  • He is Sanctified (v 9).
    • – Acknowledge God’s holiness and perfection.
    • – Name some of the character qualities that God perfectly fulfills.
    • – Express your reverence and respect for God.
  • He is Sovereign (v.10).
    1. – Reaffirm Christ as your Savior and Lord.
    2. – Ask God to show you how His kingdom is growing and expanding on earth.
    3. – Express your gratitude for all the ways that God preserves you and your loved ones.
  • He is Steadfast (v.10).
    1. – Reflect on God’s steadiness and consistency.
    2. – Thank God for His determination to bring His will to pass.
    1. – Invite God to move in your life so that His will would be done, starting with you.

Part 2: Praise God for What He Does

  1. He Gives Us Our Sustenance (v. 11)
    1. – Give thanks to God for three specific ways that He has met your needs recently.
    1. – Share a new need with God, trusting that He wants to respond.
    2. – Look for ways to share your appreciation of God’s provision with others.
  2. He Gives Us Our Salvation (v. 12).
    1. – Praise God for the forgiveness that you have by faith in Jesus Christ.
    2. – Give God permission to reveal any areas in your life where you have an unforgiving spirit.
    3. – Life up someone in your life who may be lost and separated from God.
  3. He Gives Us Our Spiritual Victory (v. 13).
    1. – Ask God to give you victory over sin and temptation.
    2. – Call on God to give you the strength you need to stand and grow.
    3. – Identify one area that you can grow in as a disciple of Christ, and do it.
  • The Lord’s Prayer teaches us to praise God for who He is as well as what He does for us. This guide is just one way for you to connect this model prayer with your personal prayer. In doing so, I hope you are able to develop a posture of dependence on God as you engage with Him in prayer.

Here are two books on prayer that I’ve found particularly helpful:

On Earth As it is on Heaven: How the Lord’s Prayer Teaches Us to Pray More Effectively by Warren Wiersbe (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2010).

How to Pray: Developing an Intimate Relationship with God by Ronnie Floyd (Nashville, TN: W Publishing, 2019).

Is the Bible Still Relevant for Today?

Is the Bible relevant for today?

The negative response to the Supreme Court’s recent rulings on religious liberty and abortion is heartbreaking. An increasing number of Americans are opposed to authority. They are against any limits that might be put on their personal choices, even if that choice involves ending the life of an unborn child. They are offended by the free exercise of religion in the public square. In the end, they reject the idea that a document written hundreds of year ago could have any authority over their lives as citizens of the United States of America.

The Bible was written thousands of year ago, but it has some similar challenges in today’s culture. It is automatically dismissed by some as a collection of myths and fairy tales. It is rejected by others as a handbook for religous zealots. Even those who say they believe in the authority of Scripture seemly increasingly open to reinterpreting and renegotiating doctrines that have been establishes in the church for ages.

The church were I serve as senior pastor just affirmed Teaching the Bible as one of our Core Values. This means that we believe in the inspiration, inerrance, and authority of God’s Word. We will do our best to opperate our shared ministry according to Biblical principles. Our decision making will push us towards ways that we can teach the Bible and share the gospel with as many people as possible. We will encourage our church family to follow God’s Word in their everyday lives. Teaching the Bible means that we affirm the authority of a text written years ago.

I am grateful for the people in our society who are willing to submit their lives to the authority of a higher power. If we throw off all others sources of authorty in our lives, we make ourselves out to be the ultimate authority which never ends well. Senece, the Roman statesman and philosopher said, “If we are our own authority we enslave ourselves to ourselves, which is the worst bondage of all.”

Why is Children’s Ministry So Important?

Why is children’s ministry so important?

People bring their Bibles to church, but they also bring their expectations. Sometimes, those expectations clash with other churchgoers in the same congregation. Since children are rarely involved in church leadership, their needs and interests can take a backseat to other “more important” ministries. Here are 10 great reasons why churches prioritize children’s ministry.

  • 1. The family is an important part of God’s plan for the world. He invented gender, marriage, and procreation – God invented the generations! The 10 Commandments and the Epistles both include important instructions for children to honor and obey their parents (Exodus 20:12, Ephesians 6:1).
  • 2. The majority of people who make a decision for Christ do it before the age of 18. Most studies place the percentage around 85 percent. This number may vary slightly by family or by the stripe of church, but surely it is above 50 percent. Consider your own experience – did you make a decision for Christ as a child or a teenager? If so, then you know about the importance.
  • 3. If a person comes to Christ at a young age, they can follow Christ for their whole lives. The rich young ruler in Mark 10:17-27 is identified by his age, as well as his wealth. What if this young man would have decided to follow Christ? That would have been an amazing story of God’s grace.
  • 4. Children can be examples of sincere faith. Jesus’ disciples drove children away, but Jesus welcomed them into His presence (Mark 10:13-16). The way children accept things as truth is a living illustration of what it means to have saving faith.
  1. 5. Believing parents are commanded to disciple their children – and they need help. Parents in the Old Testament were expected to teach their children about the things of God (Deuteronomy 6:4-9). This expectation is continued on into the New Testament as well (Ephesians 6:4). Parents can have a huge positive spiritual influence on their kids, e
  2. 6. There are all kinds of forces clamoring for our kid’s attention and loyalty. Retailers and advertisers have focused their efforts on children for decades. Today’s social reformers are directing their efforts at younger and younger ages to capture kids while they are still impressionable. The destructive power of Satan takes on a whole new level of meaning if you think about it in relation to our young ones. (1 Peter 5:8)
  • 7. Reaching out and ministering to kids is the key to ministering to the whole family. Children’s and youth ministry is one of the top three ministries that modern families are looking for in a church. (The other two are worship/music style and preaching). Some church planting experts are recommending a children’s minister/director as the first staff hire beyond the church planter himself. Parents will come to and even in engage in the church if their children are happy and growing.
  • 8. Churches need the energy and enthusiasm of up-and-coming generations. It’s inevitable – we all grow older over time. Churches need a balance between the wisdom and experience of older generations and the energy and enthusiasm that children and youth bring. I’ve had several conversations recently with apologetic parents and concerned church members about the noise and activity level of some of the kids in our church. In my opinion, that’s a good thing because we need these kids!
  • 9. God blesses the discipling efforts of those who minister to children. Proverbs 22:6 is a general principle rather an iron-clad promise. As a church, we have an opportunity to partner with parents as they “train up their children.” This kind of ministry focus invites God’s blessing and we need all the blessings we can get!
  • 10. Every person, no matter how young they are, is precious and important to God. The sanctity of human life begins at conception and extends all the way to natural death (Psalm 139:14). Sanctity refers to the holiness and intrinsic value of every human life. The very young and the very old are frequently discounted in our culture, but not so with God.

Take your pick – there a lots of reasons why children’s ministry should be important in today’s church. Investing in children will pay off dividends now and for eternity. 

How Do We Get Godly Wisdom?

  1. The screen revolution has had positive and negative impacts on society. One of the negative impacts it has had on many people is moving the focal point of authority from external to internal. Meaning that people feel freer to disagree with the things they learn because they think they discovered that information on their own by looking it up on Wikipedia or Google.
  2. This past Sunday, we talked about the importance of passing wisdom down from one generation to another. Not just any knowledge or wisdom, but godly wisdom. According the book of Proverbs, godly wisdom is the key to life.
  3. The first section of Proverbs 1 serves as an introduction to the book as a whole and primer on gaining godly wisdom. The first 7 verses contain four principles for growing on godly wisdom. Here they are…
  1. 1. Proverbs are pint-sized portions of Godly wisdom (v. 1). The book of Proverbs contains a long list of short, pithy sayings and poems. They contain a concentrated dose of reality to help the reader see things for how they really are vs. how they appear. The book of Proverbs was written by Solomon, Hezekiah, Agur, and Lemuel during Israel’s golden age – and has stood the test of time.
  2. 2. Proverbs help unlock the mysteries of life (v. 2-3, 6). Most of us have a set of keys that we use to open up our house, turn on our vehicle, and gain access to our workplace. The right key makes all the difference. Proverbs help unlock the mental mysteries of life by providing wisdom, instruction, and understanding. 
  3. 3. Proverbs are for the innocent, inexperienced, & impressionable (v. 5). Those who already have life figured out don’t need godly wisdom. But those who are teachable and humble, will find a wealth of wisdom in God’s Word. Steph Curry is one of the greatest basketball players of all time. According to one of this coaches, Curry is, “The most educable player I’ve ever known—both in terms of his willingness to listen and in his ability to absorb and execute.”
  4. 4. Proverbs pave the way to Godly wisdom (v. 7). The closing verse in this passage introduces theme that is reapted throughout the book: godly isdom is a path that must be pursued (It shows up again in chapters 4, 9, and 15). Those who purse wisdom will find it and will be transformed by it.
  • Godly wisdom is the key to life, but it must studied and acted upon. Instead of treating like one more news headline, or one more piece of trivia, or one more social media post, we must hold on to it like a priceless treasure. We must do whatever it takes to incorporate godly wisdom into our lives and to share it with the next generation.

What Happens When a Church Doesn’t Know or Act on Its Values? (Part 3)

What happens when a church doesn’t know or act on its values?

This is the last post in a short series on the importance of core values in the local church. Core values are helpful in emphasizing what makes a particular church unique. But what happens when a church doesn’t know or act on its values?

So far, I have described two scenarios that can spring up in a church where they don’t know or act on their core values: perpetual conflict and mission drift. These of the symptoms of the greater problem of ignorance and apathy. Here is a third scenario that can arise from this problem.

Scenario #3: Misplaced Priorities

Calvary Church has had many ups and downs during Pastor Mark’s tenure. During the last few years, however, the downs seem to be happening more regularly. In order to “rebuild momentum” and “turn things around,” Pastor Mark has encouraged his church to lower their standards for membership. In fact, they have discussed removing membership from their church altogether. The line of thinking is that people are just people. If they make it as easy as possible, with no expectations or required beliefs, then maybe more people will opt in. This idea gains a lot of traction with the church’s existing membership and they make it a major emphasis as they promote their church out in the community. For a brief time, the emphasis seems to work, attracting a handful of newer people to the church. But they don’t stick around very long because their commitment level is so low.

Another problem pops us in Calvary Church as well. Some of the newcomers to the church hold some unbiblical views and others are involved in some questionable practices. One charismatic and persuasive newcomer offers to teach a study that describes heaven and hell as a myth instead of real places. Another caring and creative newcomer begins a class on the benefits of all world religions. In time, these groups weaken the church’s convictions about the necessity and uniqueness of the gospel message.

All values are not created equal. Some values are real and some are aspirational (“I wish we believed in X, Y, or Z”). Some values are shared and others are personal (Think back to the scenario about perpetual conflict). And more importantly, some values are biblical and some values are not. This may one of the most important reasons for a church to identify and define its core values. If a church chooses and implements an unbiblical value, it will wander away from its Scriptural basis.

Being open and welcoming to newcomers are good and healthy things. Removing unnecessary barriers to participation and membership is a must. For example, people shouldn’t be expected to meet a specific dress code to attend or join your church. But removing any and all doctrinal boundaries or expectations for membership is a value that goes too far. In fact, it’s unbiblical. The Scriptures make repeated references to the importance of being a recognized part of a local church (Acts 2;47, 1 Corinthians 12:12, Hebrews 13:17).

It is important that church leaders and church members know their core values to make sure they line up with Scripture. Things that are unexamined and unexplained can lead subtly in the wrong direction.

Feel free to leave a comment about what you’ve observed about core values in the local church.

What Happens When a Church Doesn’t Know or Act on Its Values? (Part 2)

What happens when a church doesn’t know or act on its values?

This post is a continuation of my last post on the importance of core values in the local church. Core values are foundational concepts that shape a church’s personality and “drive its ministry”, according to Aubrey Malphurs.

So far, we’ve been exploring what happens when a church doesn’t know or act on its values. In the last post, I described a church that was damaged by perpetual conflict because influential parties in the church refused to take ownership of their own personal values.

Here is another scenario…

Scenario #2: Mission Drift

Pastor Mike has served at Christ’s Fellowship Church for more than a decade. He is well known for his strong pulpit ministry and his shepherd’s heart. Christ’s Fellowship is known in the community as one of the busiest churches in town. They have events and programs going at the church building every day of the week. Sunday’s schedule is full of Bible studies, worship services, and volunteer training. Monday and Tuesday feature specialty studies, outreach programs, and a full slate of committee meetings. Wednesday evening has a long list of age-graded ministries along with ministry teams preparing for upcoming services. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday include affinity groups for outreach, numerous social gatherings, and a large youth sports program. Pastor Mike and his church members work hard to maintain all of these ministry opportunities. They don’t have as many people involved as they once did, but they are faithful to “get the job done.”

In time, Pastor Mike notices that his church members seem tired and worn out from all of the activity. He spends an inordinate amount of his time recruiting new leaders and volunteers. He is proud of all that His church is doing, but secretly wonders how long they can keep it up.

In addition, Pastor Mike has also noticed that Christ’s Fellowship seems to have a hard time keeping newcomers. Guests visit and attend for a few weeks or a month, but they fade away with no explanation. When he follows up with some of the guests who are more open about their experience, they share that they are unsure where to get started or how to plug in since there is so much going on at the church.

This is a more subtle problem with core values, but it is just as damaging. When a church fails to define and defend its core values, it begins to drift from its mission. If you try to chase too many priorities, you will get overwhelmed, and soon or later you will have to let something go. Churches leaders that do not know their church’s core values will be tempted to adopt every new ministry trend that comes along. Church members that do not understand their core values will try to start programs to meet every need. Or, they will have a very hard time letting go of a ministry that has outlived its usefulness.

Churches that drift from their mission will have a hard time retaining newer members. People are excited about joining in with a group of people that are going somewhere. They are less excited about joining up with a group that seems to be going everywhere at the same time.

It is important that church leaders and church members know and act on their core values. They are what brings the church together. Tomorrow’s post will describe a third scenario of what happens when that’s not the case.

Feel free to leave a comment about what you’ve observed about core values in the local church.

What Happens When a Church Doesn’t Know or Act on Its Values?

What happens when a church doesn’t know or act on its values?

Every church has the same mission, but its own personality. We all go about making disciples for Jesus Christ in our own unique way. Some congregations emphasize the relational part of church life, while others focus more heavily on the praise and worship part. Other assemblies pay more attention to community engagement and missions.

A church’s personality is shaped by its core values. Church leadership expert, Aubrey Malphus, defines core values as, “The constant, passionate, biblical core beliefs tha drive ministry.” A church’s top priorities are what bring a church together – or at least they should!

What happens when a church doesn’t know or act on its values? How can you tell if there is a breakdown in communication or a missalignent? What does ot take to reenergize a church that is struggling? How can you repair an unhealthy church culture?

This post will introduce the first of three church scenarios involving ignorance and inaction when it comes to core values. Each scenario is an example of what can happen when a church and its leaders are unware and out of touch with its operational convictions. The remaining church scenarios will be described on posts that will be released later this week.

Scenario #1: Perpetual Conflict

Pastor Tom came into First Church with a ton of energy and enthusiasm. He was excited to serve in his first senior pastorate and the church was excited to have him. First Church had been a thriving and growing church at one time, but recently they had been struggling. Pastor Tom introduced a number of well-thought out initiatives that were designed to attract new people to the church. In time, those initiatives began to work and the church was reinvigorated with stream of new faces. But some older members of the congregation were uneasy about the changes. The new changes interrupted the weekly schedule they had been accustom to. The new people were unfamiliar and hard to get to know. The increase in attendance meant that it was more difficult to get their pastor’s attention when they had a need.

In time, these older members began to complain about how their church had gotten “too big” and how the newer people were moving the church in the “wrong direction.” The complaints continued until they stirred up a significant amount of friction and discontent in the church. Attempts to address the concerns by Pastor Tom and other supportive church leaders were unsuccessful. In time, Pastor Tom felt pressure to leave First Church for another place of ministry, even though the church was evangelizing the lost and attracting new members.

This is an example of a breakdown in communication between a pastor and the congregation he is called to serve. Pastor Tom put a high value on evangelizing the lost and growing the church through new people. Few church members would openly oppose evangelism or church growth, but in this example, the disgruntled church members have a different set of core values. They are more interested in personal relationships and fellowship. These priorities are not bad or wrong. Healthy relationship are vital part of any healthy church. The problem happened when neither party (the church or the pastor) took ownership of core values that were driving their approach life and ministry in the church. They never sat down together and discussed why they felt so strongly about their opposing visions of the church.

It is important that church leaders and church members know and act on their core values. They are what brings the church together. Tomorrow’s post will describe another version of what happens when that’s not the case.

Feel free to leave a comment about what you’ve observed about core values in the local church.

Can You Predict the Future?

Can you predict the future? Think about the last time you made plans for an outdoor event or activity. Did the weather work out the way you hoped it would?

No matter how hard we may try, we cannot predict the future accurately. Sometimes we get it right, but just as often we get it wrong. This can leave us with a sense of dread.

Instead, it should push us towards faith – faith in the One who can predict the future. We should acknowledge our limits and lean on the one Person who knows our past, our present, and our future. We should trust Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ’s ability to predict the future was highlighted during the weeks that led up to His death, burial and resurrection in Jerusalem. Just before approaching the capital city, He took His followers aside and explained to them that He was about to die. He told them He would mocked, scourged, and crucified, but on the third day he would be raised back up to life (Matthew 20:17-19).

Jesus had made many other hints and declarations of His death and resurrection; this was just the most direct. Not only does it underscore His dedication to God’s plan for redemption, it also helps to explains why He made it a point to tell His follows about His death and resurrection before it ever happened (Matthew 16:21-23, 17:22-23, 27:63, 28:6).

This last prediction was meant to help His followers find their part in God’s plan for redemption. In Matthew 20:18, Jesus said, “We are going up to Jerusalem.” The rest of His statement implies that He was sharing more than travel instructions. He was sharing how His followers would be involved in and affected by the coming events. The Jewish officials would condemn Him to death. The Roman authorities would carry out that sentence. And His followers would have a front row seat to what happened next.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is more than a historical fact, it’s the focal point of God’s plan to redeem the world. The clues that the Savior dropped along the way to Jerusalem were shared as request for all His followers, past and present. They were meant as an invitation to share in His death and His resurrection.

Easter is a reminder that “He has risen, just as He said” (Matthew 28:6). It is also an invitation to put our faith in the Savior who defeated sin and death on our behalf. It’s an opportunity to follow the One who knows our past, our present, and our future.

What Kind of Partnerships are Permissible?

This past Sunday I shared a message with my church about the distinction between the kingdom of light and the kingdom of darkness from Ephesians 5:3-14. In the passage, Christians are called “children of light” and called to live in God-honoring ways. One of the instructions in the passage that stands out is the warning about partnering with unbelievers (v. 7, “Do not be partakers with them”).

This should make thinking Christians ask, “What kind or partnerships are permissible and what kind of partnerships are out of bounds?” This original question led me to four more additional questions. The answers to these questions serve as a framework for evaluating the types of relationships believers should engage in with those outside the faith.

Will it affect your identity? Proverbs 22:1 says, “A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold” (NIV). A “good name” involves your identity and reputation. Once your identity and reputation have been tarnished, they can be very hard to restore.

Associations with certain social clubs or even social movements can be viewed a kind of voluntary partnerships. Believers should be careful not to associate themselves with a club or a cause they don’t fully understand. If they do, they might unintentionally harm their identity.

Will it affect your values?  2 Corinthians 6:14 is verse another verses that addresses Christian partnerships, especially marriage. It says, “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?” (NIV). This verse emphasizes the importance of going the same direction, pursing the same things, and valuing the same things in a long-term relationship.

A solid marriage is built on agreement in a number of key areas. How will you spend your time and money? How will you raise your children? How will you express you religious convictions? Bible believing Christians and agnostics have different views on these key areas because they have conflicting values. This is just one of the reasons why it is unwise for a believer to marry an unbeliever.

Will it affect your resources? In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt. 6:21). In other words, the way someone uses their money is a window into their soul.

Entering a partnership with someone who has a different faith commitment can be tricky. A business partnership along these lines may be strained as you make decisions that affect your bottom line. Christians must be cautious here.

Will it affect your witness? 1 Peter 2:12 is just one of many verses that urge believes to steer clear from blameworthy behavior. If a Christian lives like a non-Christian, it can be hard for them to explain their faith to others. Some connections, and even some friendships, can have a negative impact on your ability to share the gospel.

The warning in Ephesians 5:3-14 should not be misunderstood as a call for isolation or various levels of separation from the world. We must engage the world and the kingdom of darkness. But we must also be thoughtful and wise about our longterm partnerships, so that we can live in ways that honor God.

What questions would you add to evaluate the types of relationships believers should engage in with those outside the faith? Please leave your comments below.