Thursday, July 20, 2017

7 Reasons to Join us for In Christ Alone Conference

We are gearing up for another great bible conference this year in Perry County, AR! Click this link to get more details about the conference, but here's the quick scoop: 8/26/17, 10am - 4pm at First Baptist Church of Perryville, AR.

Why should you give up a whole Saturday to join us? Glad you asked! Here are 7 reasons:

1. The Topic -

In Christ Alone! Jesus Christ, the 2nd person of the Trinity. The One who took on flesh having two natures in one person being 100% God and 100% Man. He lived a perfect life of obedience and died a propitiatory, substitutionary death for us. Salvation is found in Him alone. We often talk about being saved by faith which is certainly true! But it is more precise to say we are saved by Christ through faith.

In much preaching today the message is "Christ and..." instead of "Christ alone." You need Christ and a good job or a great family or a wonderful life-purpose to be whole. You need Christ and good works to be saved. No friends, the message of Christianity is that salvation is found in Christ alone. He is the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but by Him.

We need this topic to be reminded of our standing with God in Christ. We need this topic to remind us of the message we are to share with a lost and dying world. We need this topic to remind us of the type of sermons we should aspire to preach and to listen to. This conference is for everybody. So bring a friend. Bring a pastor. Bring a church member. Bring a lost person. Let them come hear the glorious truth of Christ alone as our only suitable and all sufficient Savior! (Although unrelated to the conference, here is a recent message I preached at Perryville Second Baptist on this subject).

2. The Speakers -

As always, I am humbled at the men who are willing to come and participate in this event. Not only do we have great plenary speakers, but also great breakout speakers. These men are pastors, professors, itinerate preachers, authors, scholars, missionaries, and the list of titles goes on and on! What a wonderful group of men coming to central Arkansas to share the truth of Scripture. Furthermore, this conference is FREE! Many people pay money to go hear the type of quality speakers we have coming, but it is our vision to keep this conference free to you. We have a wonderful opportunity to hang out an entire Saturday with a solid group of men who have a heart for Christ and for teaching His truth.

3. The Breakouts -

Last year, we had a Q&A session which I thought went really well (listen here). But this year we are trying something new: Breakout sessions. I think this opportunity will give you some practical takeaway from a conference like this. You could bring a group of people and then divide up for the breakouts and come back and compare notes. Read more about the breakout sessions here. This is a great way to benefit from this conference!

4. The Fellowship and Worship -

One of the things I've come to love about this conference (my fourth year in a row to be in charge) is the networking that takes place. I love meeting brothers and sisters from all around the state of Arkansas and beyond. I love to eat together and share in Christ together through gospel rich conversations and seeing how the Lord is at work all around the State. This year Fellowship will be more conducive as lunch will be on site (this will cost you $10/plate). You are free to drive off campus to eat, but having a meal available at the church will give us more opportunity to visit and get to know one another.

Each year we've had this conference I've been overwhelmed by the worship. It's not the 'leader' that makes the difference as much as the singers. When you gather with a group of Believers that you normally don't get to worship with and hear them lift their voices to our Triune God, it is amazing!

5. Free stuff! -

We always love giving away free stuff at these conferences. And we plan to do so again this year.

6. Torah Scrolls - 

Ok, this is not confirmed yet but something we are working toward! It is our hope to have some scrolls available at the conference to look at. I've seen some of these personally and I can tell you it is awesome to see God's preservation of His Word at work! It is my hope that we can make this work.

7. The Exhibitors -

We will have a great book store from Grace & Truth books. We will also have 3 exhibitors that you might not know anything about but in actuality are wonderful opportunities that you could be involved in. These include International Church Planters, Capitol Commission, and the Grace Bible Institute. Come meet these brothers and see more of how God is working right here in Arkansas!

Just typing all of that out makes me excited about 8/26. If you have any questions please feel free to contact me. Registration is not required but it sure helps us if you will take the time to pre-register. You can do so here. Anyone pre-registered on or before August 1 will automatically be entered in a drawing for a book giveaway. We will draw 5 winners! So, if you plan on joining us you might as well sign up!

Looking forward to August 26! #InChristAlone

Monday, July 17, 2017

How to Leave Your Family a Treasure

I was given the Bible of a 92 year old woman today. She passed away peacefully in a nursing home recently and I had the honor of preaching her funeral. 

I wasn't 'given' the Bible for keeps mind you! It was just so I could learn a little more about this saint since I did not have the privilege of knowing her very well in this life. 

I can't say how old this bible was but I was scared to flip through it. The pages were barely hanging on, clinging to the binding with all their might after having been turned and turned again through the decades. There were notes and markings on several pages and I'm sure if I could have examined closer I would have found a few tear stains in places. 

I'm actually using the notes she wrote to preach the funeral. This is a precious treasure that her family will have for generations to come. I wonder if we might not strive harder to leave such a treasure for our own families?

You know, financial experts say one of the best ways to keep wealth in your family is to have good life insurance. I honestly don't know about that. But I do know a way you can leave your family a treasure that has the potential to bear eternal fruit. 

Leave them a bible that's falling apart. 

A bible that is falling apart speaks volumes about a person's life. It tells that the owner didn't merely say the Bible was important, but that they actually read it. They spilt their coffee on it. They flipped the pages quickly in search of an answer. They turned the pages slowly meditating on Truth. Some pages are worn more than others as the reader turned to that portion of Scripture over and over. They pressed the pages down as they knelt in prayer with both hands clutching Scripture. A tear drop of joy, or pain, or longing has fallen here or there. Not just a day or two here or there, but throughout a lifetime. Day in and day out they turned the Bible's sacred pages as they caught a glimpse of the glory of God and reveled in what He has accomplished for us in Christ. 

Furthermore, underlining, markings, sermon notes, study thoughts, meditations, and exhortations that are in a bible will live on long after a person is gone. Though dead, you will still speak. Imagine your great great grandson reading some thoughts you had one day about Proverbs 3:5 and the Lord using that to convert him! Imagine being able to speak into the lives of generations to come by the way you handle the Bible tomorrow morning! Imagine leaving your posterity such a treasure. 

I hope I've piqued your interest. The question now is, How? How can you leave your family something so valuable?

First of all, no matter your age, resolve to do this now. I don't care if you're already 80 years old. I don't care if you're 13. Start this today. 

Secondly, find a good bible and stick with it. For this purpose you will need a NON-Study bible. Just something with the text will be sufficient. And binding is important. A nice leather one would be a good investment. Something with wider margins would be helpful. You could always start with a hard back and maybe have it rebound later in life (my current plan). Translation is important too. I prefer a more formal equivalent translation like the ESV. 

Thirdly, get some good pens. Try these.
Good pens are important so they won't bleed through. If you want to leave more than just a worn out bible, pens are a necessity! 

Fourthly, read your bible daily for YOU! Don't think about your posterity so much as thinking about what your soul needs from Holy Writ. Read it. Study it. Meditate on it. Memorize it. Why? To feast on the glory of God in Christ! To mature in the faith. To be convicted, corrected, rebuked, encouraged, challenged, and comforted. Find a reading plan. Read through the Bible in a year or read through a book or two over and over. Or some sort of mixture of both. But, find a plan and do it. Mix it up over the years. But make bible reading a daily habit. 

Fifthly, WRITE in your Bible. You might write a note of prayer. You might write some meditative thoughts. You might jot a note or two of praise, exhortation, challenge, or comfort. You might write a study note or two about historical context or word usage. You may even put a few notes down from the sermon you just heard. Write cross references. Over the years your bible will begin to fill up. Again, it's ok to think about generations to come, but write notes primarily for you. This will be most beneficial for those who come after you. 

Sixthly, circle, box, underline, star, etc. Circle repeated words in a passage. Underline important truths. Draw arrows to make connections. Star key ideas. There's no magic formula here. The important thing is that you engage the text. Mark the text as a way for you to soak it in better. 

Seventhly, repeat steps 1-6 if necessary! What I mean is, if you fill up a Bible, praise the Lord. Set it aside and buy another one and start over. The Word of God is rich. You will not regret spending a lifetime mining its depths. 

Can you imagine at your funeral, a preacher holding your worn out bible, and preaching the gospel to your family in your own words? Can you imagine your family rebinding the Bible and having it in the home for years to come? Can you imagine the legacy you could leave in the lives of your great grandchildren just by loving the Bible today? This gets me excited! With just a little effort you could leave your family an invaluable treasure. 

What are you waiting for? Make it happen today. It's worth the investment, I promise. 

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Breakout Sessions for In Christ Alone Conference

For more info about the conference overall: click here

We are trying something new this year with breakout sessions! First, let me give you a run down on lunch: Like last year, we will have an hour and a half break for lunch. Unlike last year, we will have food served on site. This will be BBQ sandwich plates for $10/plate. It will be most convenient to eat on site, but you're free to go anywhere to eat, just be back in the allotted time!

Breakouts will begin right after lunch. I think we have a great lineup! We aren't requiring people to 'sign up' for breakouts, but I will be emailing registrants a couple weeks ahead of the conference to gauge interest so we can make sure to have the biggest rooms available for the biggest breakouts. Each attendee will only be able to go to one breakout! They will all be held at the same time from 2:00pm - 2:45pm. So, with that being said, here are our options:

1. Expository Preaching – David Miler

This is for those who regularly preach God's word or for those who feel a calling toward ministry. But it's also for those who regularly teach God's word (Say Sunday School teachers, youth ministers, children's workers) or those who regularly hear God's word taught or preached! Really anyone can take this breakout and benefit. Bro. David is a masterful expositor and has a God given passion for expository preaching. You will be blessed by this breakout.

2. The Absurdity of Unbelief: A Worldview Apologetic of the Christian Faith – Jeffrey Johnson

Pastor Jeff Johnson, of Grace Bible Church in Conway, AR, is a gifted writer and preacher. This breakout will be an apologetics class on why only the Christian worldview is rational. Dr. Johnson is very familiar not only with the Christian perspective but also the other side, which manifests itself in a variety of futile worldviews such as naturalism, existentialism, post-modernism, Non-Trinitarian Religions, et al. So, this breakout will help sharpen you in the Christian faith as well as help you be able to understand the presuppositions of some of the people you interact with every day. The banker, the grocer, your professor, or even a family member.

3. Hebrew Scrolls Exhibit – Brian Rickett 

This breakout is still being worked out. But the goal is to have some Hebrew Scrolls at the conference. Professor Rickett will discuss their importance and significance. This is a fascinating piece of the history of God's people and Professor Rickett has a heart for the Word of God as you will be able to ascertain if you choose this breakout.

4. How does Jesus Speak Today?: The Authority and Sufficiency of Scripture – Gabriel Hughes 

You want to hear God's voice? Read the bible! Pastor Gabe will discuss why the Bible is authoritative and sufficient for the Christian life. Authoritative because it is the very word of God! This doesn't man we don't have other authorities in our life, but it does mean that the Bible is our highest authority. Also, the Bible is sufficient for knowing God and doing his will. You might be surprised at how often conservative churches move away from these foundational truths. You might even be surprised at how often you move away from these truths without realizing it! So, join Pastor Gabe as he deals with a much-needed subject for churches today.

5. Digesting the Word of Christ: Strategies for Healthy Bible Intake – Eddie Ragsdale 

Pastor Eddie Ragsdale of First Baptist Marshall, AR,  will be taking his attendees through a 'workshop' of biblical intensity! Learn how to saturate yourself in the word of God. Learn how to read, know, understand, and apply God's word better in your daily life. This is for those who teach the Bible as well as for those who just want to learn it better. If you're looking for a breakout where you can sit in the back and scroll through Twitter, this isn't for you! This will be a hands-on time of diving in God's word together.

6. Christ-Centered Worship: Zeb Balentine 

Zeb is the worship minister at First Baptist Church of Clarksville, AR and the founder of Vital Worship, a ministry for helping churches develop a healthy worship culture. This breakout is for musicians and worship leaders, but also for anyone who loves to worship Christ! Dr. Balentine will be discussing the history of Christ-centered worship as well as the elements of it, and some of the stumbling blocks to Christ-centered worship to watch out for in your church and personal life.

7. Taking Christ to the Nations: The Vison and Strategy of International Church Planters – Dylan Anderson

If you've never heard of Internation Church Planters, you have a wonderful opportunity at this conference! Not only will they have a booth for you to receive more information, but Dylan will also be leading a breakout session to tell you more about them, their vision, and how you can be involved. Having a conference on Jesus wouldn't be complete unless we talked about tangible ways to get Christ to the Nations. This breakout session serves that purpose. 

Be sure and preregister for the conference! Those who register will be getting an email a few weeks before the conference asking you your breakout preference. You are certainly free to change your mind on the day of! But, this will help us have an idea so we can put the breakouts in the best available rooms. Hope to see you 8/26!

Come to Christ

All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Sin is breaking God's holy law. It is doing the things God says not to do and not doing the things God says to do. All sin deserves justice.

Jesus has endured that justice on our behalf. He has lived an obedient life to the Law, died on the cross for our sins, and rose again in victory. 

Our only hope is Christ. Come to Him.

Listen to the end of a recent sermon at Perryville Second Baptist Church (full sermon here):

Monday, June 12, 2017

In Christ Alone Conference - August 26, 2017 FBC Perryville

We are excited to announce this year's FREE one day Bible conference! The conference is produced and funded by the Conway/Perry Baptist Association, a fellowship of cooperating Southern Baptist Churches in Central Arkansas affiliated with the Arkansas Baptist State Convention.

If your questions about the conference are not answered below, please feel free to contact us by clicking here. Also, be sure and 'Like' our Facebook page! (Also a good way to keep up to date).

Here are the details about the conference:

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER! (We do not require registration, but registering by August 21st increases your chances at some conference giveaways!). We'll also do a book giveaway for those registered by July 1st and again for those regesitered by August 1st.

Date: August 26, 2017

Time: 10am - 4:00pm (Doors will open at 9am for coffee/donuts, bookstore, and exhibits)

Location: (NEW PLACE THIS YEAR!) First Baptist Perryville, AR. Perryville is about 45 minutes NW of Little Rock, 35 minutes west of Conway, and 15 minutes south of exit 108 on I-40 at Morrilton. CLICK HERE for MapQuest. 

Who is this for?: This conference is for all who love Christ! It's not merely a pastor or leadership conference but one that will benefit the whole body of Christ. Furthermore, since it will be so focused on Jesus, it'd be a good conference to bring your lost friends to! If you are within reasonable driving distance of central Arkansas, you should make plans to join us. What better way to spend a hot August day than to be inside an air-conditioned building, with fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, learning more about Jesus?


We live in an age of religious pluralism. An age in which the only wrong idea is to say your way is the only way. Christianity, therefore, is being increasingly marginalized in our society. Either that or some are compromising the truth of Christianity in such a way that it is no longer biblical Christianity. The true message of Christianity has always been this: Salvation is found in Christ alone. The eternal Son is not one of many ways to God, rather Jesus is the only way. In Christ alone is our hope. Christ alone is our only suitable and all-sufficient Savior. This was a doctrine preached by Jesus and the Apostles. It was also a truth recovered 500 years ago during the Protestant Reformation in one of the 5 Solas, 'Solus Christus'. We do not find forgiveness of sins in our works or the efforts of men, but only in the atoning work of Christ our Lord. The conference this year will feature messages and breakout sessions focused on Christ, His work, and sharing this message with others. Plenary sessions will cover the atonement, Christ in the Old Testament, and other core truths about the person and work of our God and Savior. Breakout sessions are something new this year but will cover several topics. You can view breakout sessions here.


David Miller is an Arkansas Native and prefers the title 'Country Preacher at large.' He has been involved in Southern Baptist life around the state of Arkansas and nationally for decades and speaks regularly at conferences big and small. Bro. David, an active member of Tumbling Shoals Baptist Church, is also the president and founder of Line upon Line Ministries in Heber Springs AR. Bro. David suffers from a degenerative muscular disease called peroneal muscular atrophy, however, he remains one of the most powerful preachers today – from his wheelchair. It has been said about David Miller that although he is forced to sit down in his wheelchair to preach these days, he still stands head and shoulders above most preachers in our present day. He is a great brother in Christ and we are blessed to have him join us!

R. Brian Rickett is the founding Pastor-Teacher of the Bible Church of Beebe, AR. His ministry objectives are to faithfully fulfill the goals given to the New Testament minister in Scripture and to be utilized by Christ in the expansion of His Kingdom. In addition to serving as the Pastor-Teacher of the Bible Church Beebe, Brian is Campus Administrator and Professor of Biblical Studies for the Baptist Missionary Association Theological Seminary’s Arkansas campus. Brian has served in various church planting and pastoral roles in Arkansas and California since 1993 and has taught in a variety of church and academic environments.

Gabriel Hughes was saved at a very young age and has always had a passion for the word of God, helping others understand the Scriptures in their proper context. He started preaching in the pulpit at age 17, and is the current pastor of the First Southern Baptist Church of Junction City, KS. He's the voice and creator of When We Understand the Text, an online video ministry viewed by thousands each day worldwide. He also hosts a daily podcast providing 20 minutes of Bible teaching each day. He is also the author of the book 40 of the Most Popular Bible Verses (and What They Really Mean) which is available on the WWUTT store page in both paperback and Kindle formats. 

We are blessed to have these three brothers to share the Word with us during our main plenary sessions. In addition to these three speakers, the conference will feature other faithful men from around the state of Arkansas teaching during our breakout sessions.


It is our vision to keep this conference completely free to those attending. We have a great set of speakers lined up this year and we also plan on doing some giveaways. The only thing you will be responsible for is your lunch. We are also privileged once again this year to have Grace & Truth Books with us. You'll definitely want to bring some money with you for the bookstore! But everything else is free. Remember, the conference runs from 10am - 4pm (with a break for lunch) and doors will open at 9am. You don't have to register, but it helps us if you do! You can register by clicking here.

If you'd like to help promote the conference you can request a flyer for your church via the contact form by clicking here.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

When Bad Stuff Happens

Fire Fighter Wearing Black and Yellow Uniform Pointing for Something

I've been reading through A Little Book on the Christian Life by John Calvin recently I think he has some excellent words for us to consider. His words below:

We are continually harassed by one illness or another: the plague advances; we are cruelly vexed by the calamities of war; frost and hail render the land barren and leave us with little, devouring our expectation for the year's crop. Wife, parents, children, and close relatives are snatched away by death: homes are consumed by fire. These are events which make men curse their lives, despise the day they were born, hold in contempt heaven and its light, rage against God, and being fluent in blapshmeies, accuse God of unfariness and cruelty.

But the believer must in these same circumstances consider the mercy and the fatherly kindness of God. If the believer, then, should see his house made lonely by the loss of those nearest to him, even then he must not stop praising the Lord. Rather, he must turn himself to this thought: "The Lord's grace continues to dwell in my home and will not leave it desolate." If the believer should see his crop consumed by drought, disease, or frost, or trampled down by hail and famine threaten him, even then he must not despair within his soul, nor should he become angry toward God. Rather, he must persist with confidence in this truth: "But we your people, the sheep of your pasture, will give thanks to you forever" (Ps. 79:13).

God, then, will provide for us, however barren the land. If the believer should be afflicted by illness, he must not be so stung by the severity of his hardship that he erupts in impatience and demands from God an explanation. Rather, he must, considering the justice and gentleness of God's discipline, recall himself to patience.

Indeed, the believer should accept whatever comes with a gentle and thankful heart, because he knows that it is ordained by the Lord. Moreover, he must not stubbornly resist the rule of God into whose power he has placed himself and all his affairs. So let the Christian make it his priority to drive from his breast that foolish and unfortunate comfort of pagans, who, in order to bolster their spirits against all adverse events, credit those events to fortune. They think it's silly to be angry at fortune, since she is reckless, aimless, and blind - inflicting her wounds equally on the deserving and the undesdrving. In contrast, the rule of godliness is to recognize that God's hand is the sole judge and governor of every fortune, and because His hand is not recklessly driven to fury, it distributes to us both good and ill according to His orderly righteousness.

Monday, May 22, 2017

New Fish, New Bait?

Brown Black Fishlure on Rod Selective Focus Photography

I wanted to post a quick response to a blog I read today (here) on Catching a New Kind of Fish.

I'm hesitant on posting because #1, we live in a society where any sort of push back is seen as judgmental. That's not my goal. I don't want to be contentious. I want to help. This isn't a bashing post. It is a desire to help us think through this from all sides. And 2ndly, I'm running short on time this afternoon, so I know this won't be as long as would do it justice.

So, read the first post, and then see the reply below:

Let me start by saying I am thankful for Arkansas Baptist church planters! I am thankful for their zeal for the lost and their desire to see the kingdom of God grow. If you are a church planter, I want to tell you thank you! To the brother who wrote the original post, thank you for your heart of wanting to see sinners come to Christ. Thank you for the time and effort you put into seeing people experience the life-changing encounter with the gospel. This post is not an attack on you. However, there are some things I'd like for all of us to think through from a different perspective.

Let me specifically respond to this paragraph:

So what do we do to get people through the door? Well, to catch a new kind of fish, we need a new kind of bait!I would say New Faith has moved away from a lot of traditions. We don’t have a pulpit where the preachers sit up front on the stage. We don’t ask people to turn around and look at the congregation after they’ve made a decision.On the fourth Sunday of the month, we wear jeans and t-shirts on Sunday morning! 
What if the new bait is simply the old bait packaged differently?

You see, we've been on a kick the last couple of decades of doing away with 'traditional' and all we've really done is create the same problem on the other side of the pendulum so to speak. Moving away from traditional doesn't actually move away from traditions - it only creates new traditions that someone else will try to 'move away from' in 50 years (or less).

In other words, when we make 'church' about 'traditional' or 'anti-traditional' we have the same problem. The paradigm of ministry is not as much the issue in our day as is the substance. Not to be too cliché here but the answer really is the gospel. The pure, unadulterated, life-changing gospel of Jesus Christ is our only hope. We must put all the effort we can into preaching this gospel to the masses, into helping churches keep their focus on Christ as their greatest joy and treasure, and into showing others what the power of the gospel really can do in the local church. 

What I mean is, do we want churches where people say "I go here because they don't have a pulpit"? Or "I go here because they sing heavenly highway hymns"? Or "I go here because they have deer heads on the wall", or "we can wear cowboy boots"? Is not the bait for winning souls to Christ the free and full forgiveness offered in the completed work of Christ? Nay, it's not the bait! It's the true food! 

So, it is my plea to have us eschew any attractional methods we are tempted to employ and simply proclaim Christ and Him crucified. May He be the center! May He be the draw! 

Brother pastors, and brother church planters, please do not have something other than Christ and your commitment to Him and His Word as the 'draw' for uniting with your local body. I maintain that if we truly want to catch new fish, we have to listen to the chief Fisherman. Let us be less concerned about creating the right 'atmosphere of worship' and more concerned about being faithful to what the Head of the Church would have us do. 

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

We Did Not Seek Him According to the Rule

It may be surprising to many but God is not only concerned that we seek Him, but also how we seek Him. You are probably familiar with the story of Uzzah from the Old Testament but just in case you're not, let's do a quick review:

After David became King he desired to move the Ark of the Lord to Jerusalem. While they were moving the Ark there was a great celebration of joy and praises to God for the victories He had given David and the very fact that His presence, symbolized by the Ark, was among His people. But during the midst of this celebration something awful happened. Perhaps it was at the very crescendo of one of the praise choruses that the Lord struck down Uzzah. God killed someone during a worship service.

Our initial response may be like that of David. Absolute disbelief and even anger that God would behave in such a manner. After all, isn't God obligated to be pleased that we seek Him regardless of the 'how'? Shouldn't the Almighty be giddy by the fact that of all the things we could be doing we are setting aside time to come to Him, even if it's on our terms?

David needed to snap out of such man centered thinking and so do we.

By chapter 15 of 1 Chronicles David understands his error and tells the Levites:

"You are the heads of the fathers' houses of the Levites. Consecrate yourselves, you and your brothers, so that you may bring up the ark of the LORD, the God of Israel, to the place that I have prepared for it. Because you did not carry it the first time, the LORD our God broke out against us, because we did not seek him according to the rule." - 1 Chronicles 15:12-13

God had given specific instructions on how to carry the Ark and He had made it explicit in His Word that touching the Ark would result in death (Numbers 4:15). As R.C. Sproul has quipped "Uzzah thought the mud was dirtier than his hands."

Because we are sinners we have to come to terms with the holiness of God. And coming to terms with the holiness of God means that we must understand that God will not be approached in anyway but only in His way.

There are many worship services that occur every Sunday across our Nation and even the World that deserve God's death sentence. Many gather each week expecting God to be impressed by the fact that they've gotten out of bed and showed up to corporate worship. There are a myriad of songs sang that have no place on an elevator playlist let alone a worship gathering for the Lord of hosts. There are other practices performed by churches each week that aren't found in the Word. In fact, I think that in some places (many?) the Lord has left a long time ago leaving the people to carry out their abandonment of His Word. Many people leave these gatherings feeling the 'spirit'; the only problem is it's not the Spirit of the Lord.

Here is the point: God is to be sought according to His rules. This isn't legalistic. It's biblical. God is not impressed with our ingenuity. We must hold to what the Word says. And we must see that the Word actually does prescribe not only that God should be worshiped but also how He should be worshiped! God deals with us according to His terms, not ours. Here are a few application points:

1. All worship must be gospel focused

Hebrews 4:16 says "Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace..." Confidence yes, but in context this is grounded in the finished priestly work of Christ. In other words, all approaching of God must come through the veil of Jesus. If I approach God based on who I am and what I've done, I am not seeking Him in His way. We must have the mindset of the hymn writer: Nothing in my hands I bring, simply to the cross I cling!

In fact, this has application for how a sinner comes to God in the first place. We don't demand for God to compromise His holiness for us. We see our filth and we repent and cling to Christ in faith. The only worshippers God accepts are those who come to Him through Jesus.

2. All worship must be Word driven

If Uzzah had listened to the Word, he wouldn't have been killed. Instead, he invented his own way of doing things. Churches must take heed here! We would do well to examine all we are doing on Sundays periodically to make sure it aligns with Scripture.

Furthermore, I wonder if your service highlights the same things the Bible does? Here are some things that must be part of our services:

1. Preaching the Word (2 Tim. 4:1-2) The preaching of God’s Word is essential. It should be central and priority to all other things happening on Sunday morning. Perhaps you do all the rest on this list on Sundays, but if you leave out this one out you’ve missed the “main ingredient” to God’s intent for our gatherings. 
2. Singing the Word (Colossians 3:16) This doesn’t mean you have to find a chapter in the Bible and sing it exactly word for word (although that can work at times!). But it does mean that you should actually be singing portions of Scripture in your songs, and songs that are not portions of Scripture should be able to be easily “proved” to be implied by portions of Scripture. 
3. Reading and Praying the Word (Acts 2:42, 1 Timothy 2:1, 4:13) Yes, this element is included in the Sermon, but it should not just be during the sermon that the church is reading and praying the Word. There should be other times during the service that the Word of God is read publicly and that the prayers of the Saints are prayed according to the Word. 
4. Living the Word– This is the local body living out the Word during corporate gatherings (not just “go act like a Christian when the services are over”). What I mean is that there are other elements that God says to include in our services that I am classifying here as “living the Word.” So, these elements include:

  • Financial Giving (2 Corinthians 9:6-8) Giving to the church is not just a “good idea” but it’s the duty of Believers! This doesn’t mean you have to “pass the plates” during a service, but it does mean there should be at least a designated area (offering box, etc.) Where the Body can give financially in worship and obedience to Christ.
  • The Lord’s Supper and Baptism (Matthew 28:19, 1 Cor. 11:17-34) These may not actually happen every Sunday but for a healthy church they should be happening on a regular basis.
  • Fellowship (Hebrews 3:12-14, and many others!) This does not mean merely eating (although, I’m down for lunch any time) True fellowship is sharing the truths of Christ with one another. We must constantly be willing to ask how one’s walk with Christ is going and to share what Christ is doing currently in your life.

3. All worship must be God-centered

If we our worship is gospel focused and Word driven we can be sure that this one will more readily fall into place. However, some things still need to be noted here.

There can be a tendency even in gospel focused, word driven services to make things about us. We can too easily drift into making our preferences the priority over God. That might be 'style', dress code, or even preferred length of sermon. 

God is not like us (Psalm 50:21). He is the Triune God of the universe! May we be in awe of Him. Not what we can bring or do in a worship gathering.

4. All worship doesn't merely have vertical aspects but also horizontal

Part of worship is not only glorifying God but also actually serving our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Singing robustly, praying before and during service for one another, and listening attentively to the exposition of the Word are all important aspects of worship not only because they are gospel focused, word driven, and God centered, but also because they help serve one another. Again, look at Colossians 3:16. 

I might also mention here that the gifts of the Spirit are to be used to serve one another (1 Cor. 12). Any use of the gifts that seek to magnify self and not serve the Body are gifts of the wrong spirit. Consider also Hebrews 10:24-26.

5. We can please God in our worship

Ephesians 5:10 says "and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord." When we worship God we don't have to wonder if He is pleased if we are gospel focused, Word driven, God centered, and serving others. God has not left it to us to figure out how to worship Him. He's laid down His desires in Scripture! Will we labor to discern what is pleasing to Him? We don't find this out by what 'feels' right but what the Word says.

So, let us be in the Book. Let us search His Word so that we will have worship that pleases God. It is possible, and sadly too often the case, to have a worship gathering that pleases man, but not God. Let us strive to seek Him according to His rule! And we will find any worship that please God will always be satisfying to the souls of true Believers.

Monday, May 15, 2017

"Are we going the right way!?"

It may not sound all that fancy but we took a Mother's Day drive with our family of 7 in our now maxed out 9 year old dodge minivan on some back roads here in Perry County. It was a fun time of singing, enjoying each other's company, and seeing some of the beautiful scenery that we have almost literally in our backyard. 

Apparently, my kids aren't overly confident in my navigational abilities because several times during our little excursion they asked "Dad, are we lost!?" Hey now! C'mon. Give the old man a little credit. This is where I grew up! I can still get us around. Just enjoy the ride and trust me.

And for the record, no, we didn't get lost one time!

The next day I was amused that my 3 year old's confidence was still (unfairly!) waning as en route to our newborn's checkup she asked several times "Are we going the right way!?" Yes honey, we are going the right way. Daddy knows what he's doing.

Ok, I did make ONE wrong turn this time because I didn't realize we the pediatrician's office had moved!

I do have a point in all of this. When our children are young they may be perceptive enough to ask if parents are leading them in the right physical direction. Are we lost? Are we going the right way? Are you sure dad? But when it comes to spiritual matters they seem to have a lot of confidence in us! They don't often ask us if we are doing the thing or going the right way. They just follow our lead. They assume we know what we are doing. And boy, are they watching us closely.

  • Dad says it's ok to miss church for sports, or hunting, or fishing. I'll follow him. 
  • Mom says this tv show is ok for me to consume. I'll follow her. 
  • My parents don't open the Bible except on Sundays. That works for me too. 
  • The gospel has no real impact on my parent's marriage, or friendships, or lifestyle in general. It must just be some secondary aspect of life. 
Are we going the right way?

The privilege of parenting is a gracious gift isn't it? But along with that comes the high expectation and responsibility the Bible puts on parents. We are to:
  • Teach our children diligently (Deut. 6:7)
  • Raise them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6:4) 
  • Train them (Prov. 22:6)
  • Explain spiritual matters to them (Exodus 12:26)
  • Aqquaint them with the Scriptures at a young age (2 Timothy 1:5, 3:14-15)

And these are just a few biblical examples! To what destination does this journey that you're leading your family on lead? Your children are watching you. They are learning from you. What you say and don't say are showing them a picture of who God is. The priorities you put forth for your family are teaching them where your faith really lies. And the road you travel is the same one they will most likely venture down as well. Is it the right way? 

Can your children entrust their souls to your navigational ability? 

What place does the Bible have in your home? Is it the well respected relic that sits on the coffee table but is never used? Or is it the centerpiece of the home that is well read? Is it treasured? Do you treasure it? Your children notice. And more than likely they know the real answer to that question. 

The stakes are high. And in a sense we should feel the weight of the consequences of making a wrong turn every day. But at the same time, don't be so overwhelmed that you're frozen in inaction. When God called you to be a parent, He also equipped you with everything you need to get the job done. No, He really did! He's given you His Word. He's given you His local church. This local body should have a pastor who can help you in this. It should have brothers and sisters to encourage you in this and to hold you accoutable. Furthermore, God has given you the church universal in which many faithful brother and sisters throughout church history have written helpful resources that we can put to use. And most importantly, He's given us His own Son to be crucified for our sin, including the sin of neglecting intentionality in raising our children in the Lord. This doesn't excuse our sin, but it does compel us that we can rest it in Christ! And because of Jesus we can (and must!) repent of it and strive to now be faithful in this area. 

Dads, lead. Moms, if dad is out of the picture or won't step up in this, you lead. Here's an example of family worship here. And here's an excellent sermon from a pastor friend on family worship here. And if you'd like more information or more resources don't hesitate to contact me! May God be glorified in the way we raise our children. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are the children of one's youth (Ps. 127:4)! Use those arrows wisely. May be weapons that the Lord uses to push back the domain of darkness and bring many sons to glory. 

Are you going the right way?

The Rare Jewel of Biblical Observation

Today's post is from my friend Adam Willett. Adam is a husband and father who loves Christ and has a desire to see the gospel advance in our state (Arkansas) and the nation. I am blessed to call Adam a close friend and I know you will be edified by what he has to say. Read and heed! His words below: 

One of the biggest benefits I’ve ever experienced in my Christian life is that of biblical repetition. What I mean is simply reading the Bible over and over again, specifically reading the same passage over and over again. I once heard John MacArthur tell his church of the importance of staying in a specific text and reading it repeatedly. He suggested taking a group of about 5 chapters and reading those everyday for a month. For instance, read the book of Galatians every day for the entire month of May. I was immediately drawn to the idea because of the simplicity of it. I am no biblical scholar and I am certainly no Greek or Hebrew scholar, so I need every help I can get. I started in the book of First John. I read the same five chapters every day for a month. Honestly, I was more engaged with the text that month than I ever had been. The way the Spirit worked through the word was incredible. I continually learned the text and continually found myself asking questions and wanting to know more. There were days when light would shine bright on a text, and I would see things on day 17 that I had not in the previous 16. Repetition helps my weak mind remember and pay attention to the word.
Since I started reading the Bible this way, the Lord has been gracious to reveal more and more of who He is in His word. I’ve since modified how I read the text. Instead of simply reading through a set of chapters daily, now I read through a set of chapters and every day pick one of those chapters to pray through. So, if I were reading through Galatians every day, on Monday I would read all five chapters and then pray chapter 1. On Tuesday I would read all five chapters then pray through chapter 2, and so on. Reading the Bible in this way has been a huge encouragement and has yielded much fruit for meAt one time I would drudge through a passage just trying to get to the end. My goal was quantity and not quality. There is a certain emptiness and despair in reading the Bible that way. It leaves me clinging to self-righteousness – that I had accomplished something by reading the Bible – but left me spiritually wanting more. Reading through the Bible in a year and other ventures of the sort aren’t necessarily bad suggestions, I just believe that repetition is a better, more fruitful way for the Christian who longs to glean from the Holy Scriptures. In fact, I would suggest doing both, but it may take you longer than a year to read the Bible in a year.
This is really not some revolutionary new way to read the Bible. It couldn’t be sold as a new “how to guide.” All it really comes down to is observation. All it really comes down to is spending time in the Word of God and letting the Holy Spirit lead and guide. It is certainly pragmatic. I genuinely believe that a Christian must grow by reading the Bible this way. He has no choice. The Bible is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, right?
     Again, this is not a Bible study program meant to make us scholars. This is simply reading the text and the Spirit showing us things we may normally glance over. I’ve found as I read through several chapters repeatedly, I notice the context of the passage and how each idea fits together. It’s not that I'm looking for context. I haven’t sat down with medical instruments ready to dissect the text. I am just reading and the context shows itself. After several days, the theme of the author is made apparent. I start to understand why Paul said what he said in Galatians 4 and how it relates to his opening chapter. I start seeing his concerns and how the Holy Spirit moved him to use those specific words. I start noticing the same words used often, that tell me of the authors concern and focus. 
     One of the most incredible insights I have gained is seeing the love and concern the author has for the readers. I spent a few months reading through the Thessalonians. After several weeks, it became glaringly obvious that Paul had a deep and caring love for the people of Thessalonica. His words were dripping with love. It wasn’t just one verse that I could pinpoint either, it was chapters and the book as a whole that lead to that conclusion. I don’t think I would have ever really understood that without reading it over and over.  Such knowledge was and is invaluable to me.
     We are not called to be like the teenage pupil in 8am biology class, dozing as the instructor reads through the book. We are called to be paying attention. We are called to see, hear, and obey what is in the text. Read through and notice the imperatives. See how the author focuses on one theme throughout a passage. Don’t just focus on the core verses, like the John 3:16’s, but also read the verses in between. We often scan through passages looking for the verses that would look nice highlighted, but remember that the rest of the text is inspired too. The letters in black are just as inspired and important as those in red. Read both with a thirst for knowing Christ and knowing the God of the Bible.
     And I haven’t even mentioned the benefit of praying through the word. That’s for another article but it is imperative we know and believe that the Holy Spirit of God works through his word. He works both by the reading of His word and by praying through it. 
     Ultimately, if we cherish God's Word, we will want to read it like we would a love letter from our beloved. We would read it over and over and focus on each little word. We would notice how the letters are rounded off a specific way or how they dot their I’s. We would notice the smell and the paper on which it was written. We would fawn over those words like they were more valuable than any precious stone. Well, the scriptures are much more than any love letter and they are more precious that jewels. They tell you of the holy and righteous King of the universe, God Almighty. Dive into those words.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Mutants and their Immutable God

What follows below is a guest post by Eddie Ragsdale, Pastor of First Baptist Church in Marshall, AR. I've known Eddie only 4 years but he has become a dear friend and brother in Christ. I appreciate his pastoral heart and theological insights. Hope you are blessed today from his writing:

Last evening I was watching a science show about genetic modification. In the course of this show there were several interesting topics being discussed such as bioethics and just how expansive an impact these new technologies might be. However, what seemed to stir my thinking the most was an off handed comment about how that we are all 'mutants' and the very important role the ability to mutate is for us to adapt and survive. Now I would of course take a different view of history and origin issues than those on this program. They would clearly have an evolutionary worldview whereas I would have a biblical young earth creationist worldview. But still the fact that there have been mutations in all of our genomes is clear and observable scientific information.

What seemed to be so intriguing to me is the fact that we are mutable. We change! As a matter of fact we are always changing. You are not the same person you used to be. Have you ever had the experience of reconnecting with an old friend that you haven't communicated with in years? Now I know the sappy stories of people picking up where the left off and bonds lasting even through time and separation blah blah blah. But my personal experience has been that even close friends I once had are almost strangers after years of separation because we have both changed so much. As a matter of fact I think that's healthy. I mean if you can pick right up with someone from twenty years ago with out any problem, what have you been doing for twenty years? Personal growth and life experiences should change us. I'm not even sure if I could relate very well to myself from twenty years ago. The fact is all this change can be both exciting and terrifying.

So what's the point, why am I writing all of this? Well, I was drawn into thinking about this whole subject of our mutability because that word 'mutable' made me also think about the word 'immutable'. Now it would be a tragedy if we were immutable because we need to grow and develop. A child that didn't grow and develop would quickly be found deficient for the next stage of life. The fact is we need to change because we as imperfect beings need to get better; we need to improve. Our current state simply isn't good enough. So immutability would be a bad thing for us.

However, there is One who is immutable! The Bible says that God does not change. "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever" (Hebrews 13:8). Now while it would be a bad thing for fallen imperfect beings like us to be immutable, it is an altogether great thing for a holy, righteous and perfect triune God to be immutable. Actually, in a universe filled with so much expansion and change the only reason that we can know anything is because God who has made and continues to hold all things together is unchanging. If our God could change or did change then everything we think we know could change. All of our understanding of matter and science is built on the idea that there are absolute laws that must exist in the universe. These laws depend on God and if He changed then they could change. However, even more important than any of these physical things is the reality that if God changed then we would have no confident hope in His promises. We can trust God's promises and His amazing work of redemption because He does not change! So much more could be discussed here: the immutability of His word or of His will or of His ways. But for the moment let us marvel at His glorious immutability. I might add also let us as sinners take full advantage of our mutability by repenting of our sins and putting our settled trust in the Lord Jesus Christ!

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Was Acts 2 the first Altar Call?

Peter's Sermon in Acts 2

In my discussion on Altar Calls, I had some interaction with a brother on Facebook who disagreed with my take. He said this:

"I fail to see how an altar call is in itself substantially different than what happened at Pentecost."

Well, then. Was Acts 2 an Altar Call? I don't think one can really build such a case. Here are some very important differences:

1. No one was told to come forward in Acts -

They weren't invited up front. They weren't asked to close their eyes and lift their hands. They were commanded to repent and believe the gospel. 

2. No music was played

Often music is employed as a way of setting the 'mood'. There was not 'invitation hymn' in Acts 2.

3. v.37 - The Holy Spirit moved upon the hearers, not Peter's manipulation

The hearers are actually the ones who initiate the response to the sermon, not Peter! They cry out "What must we do!?" I'm telling you, that would be simultaneously startling and amazing if someone stood up during a sermon I preached and cried out "What must I do to be saved!?"

4. No one was told to pray a prayer or led in a prayer or to recite a prayer -

This is the end game of altar calls. Get the sinner to recite a prayer and then tell them that if they really meant it, they are saved. That's not anywhere close to Acts 2 methodology. Peter commands his hearers to repent and believe the gospel. 

Furthermore, he testifies to God's prerogative and sovereignty in salvation saying that "promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.

5. The gospel was preached, they were told what to do, and it was left to them and God what would happen

Peter simultaneously calls the hearers to repent while letting them know that God must be calling them. Again, as I said in a previous post, we can't close the deal. That's the Lord's work in the sinner.

6. There was no concept of 'this prayer is the beginning of a relationship with God'  

That's problematic theologically on a few levels. We have to see that the initiating work of salvation is not our response but what God has already done in Christ and His application of that in real time by the Holy Spirit when He draws us. The point here being that one's calling on Christ is not what prompts God to begin a saving relationship. 

7. Because of the culture we've been raised in, I think we actually see people in Acts 2 "coming forward". 

I've heard men preach on Acts 2 who actually seem to think that's how it went down. This is a misunderstanding of not only the situation of Peter's preaching but also the point of the text as well.

The point being in all of this that Acts 2 is most assuredly not a proof text for altar calls. However, it is an amazingly beautiful encouragement of the power of God in the gospel and His willingness to save sinners! So, let us rest in that. Let's proclaim the gospel from the rooftops and compel all men without distinction to come to Christ in repentance and faith. Let us extol the mercies of God in Christ and share them the glories of the gospel and the reality of the wrath that remains upon them if they refuse to bow the knee to King Jesus. Trust in the work of God in the hearts of sinners, not in our ability to extend an Altar Call.

Keep laboring brothers. 

A few thoughts on the Sinner's Prayer

Woman in Black and White Stripe T Shirt With a Book on Her Lap Sitting on Sand during Daytime

I had quite a few readers of yesterday's blog (for me anyway, which isn't too many actually!), and so I wanted to follow up a little bit today.

Many people have recited a 'sinner's prayer' in their life as part of their conversion experience. If someone has said the sinner's prayer it doesn't mean they are or are not a Christian, it's just the reality of the culture we live in that many people have probably said the prayer sometime before in their life.

I just want to say a few things about that prayer in today's post:

1. It's nowhere in the bible -

Not in one place in Scripture does the 'sinner's prayer' appear. When anyone wants to become a Christian in Scripture they are never told to recite a canned prayer.

2. It is an evangelical 'sacrament' -

We rightly reject Roman Catholicism's system of justification by faith and works. And yet, we often use the sinner's prayer as a means of making God save us.

3. It stems from a desire to 'close the deal' - 

We all want to see results. I get that. There is no greater joy besides our own salvation than seeing someone else come to Christ! What a blessing! But we can't close the deal. We have to let the Spirit work and the sinner truly understand.

4. It is a misunderstanding of conversion -

Sinners are saved by grace through faith. No one is saved without repentance from sin and faith in Christ. A sinner's prayer should be the expression of that faith to Christ for what he or she already believes. In other words, you don't conjure up faith via prayer. Instead, the sinner calling on God for salvation should express what he or she wants.

Yeah, but what if they can't express it? Then maybe they don't understand it.

When counseling with people I've let them voice a prayer to God and sometimes they've prayed for their sick grandmother and thanked God for blessings. But there was nothing about repentance, needing Christ, or anything like that! So, it's clear they didn't understand the gospel. If I would have led them in prayer they would have repeated after me and thought they were saved when in reality they had no clue what was going on!

So, let's stop leading people in a repeat after me prayer to come to Christ. Instead, let's share the gospel and call them to repentance and faith. If we feel they understand the message then it's perfectly fine to suggest some things they might pray, but don't have them repeat after you. (But I will also say this: It can also be best to clearly explain the gospel, call them to repentance and faith, and then let people alone with God).

And, don't convince them that 'because they prayed that prayer' they are now a Christian no matter what. No. If they never exhibit the fruit of faith, they are not a believer. What needs to take place for a person to be a Christian is to be born again. Sadly, many have said the sinner's prayer but have never been regenerated by the Holy Spirit.

What if you've said that prayer? I've probably said the prayer about 1,000 times growing up! But what we need to understand is that it's not the prayer that saves. It's faith in Christ. If you are holding on to a prayer even though your life is not in pursuit of Christ, you need to repent and believe the gospel. It's not whether or not you said the prayer 'sincerely' but whether or not you trust Christ as your only suitable and all-sufficient Savior.

Hope this is helpful. To God be the glory.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

The Alter Call: The Key to Removing a Major Hindrance to Missions and Evangelism

arrow, communication, direction

Last summer I moved my family back to our hometown. This is the place both my wife and I grew up, came to Christ, and graduated high school. It has been a real joy serving this community, rekindling old friendships, making new ones, and seeing the Lord work. I am humbled even as I write this!

Over 10 years ago I had served in this area as a Youth Pastor. I was much younger in the faith obviously and one of the mistakes I made during that time was believing that I could bring people to Christ through means of an altar call and sinner's prayer. I reaped some of this fruit last fall when I met with a young man who had been in my youth group over a decade ago and invited him to the church I pastor. His response was something along the line of "I know I'm ok with the Lord. I remember when you saved me when I was in your youth group." Talk about a punch in the gut.

By God's grace, over the last 6 months or so we have seen 5 conversions. Thankfully, one of those was the young man to which I referred to above. But his testimony is not unique. Out of the 5 conversions we've seen, all 5 have been in a place at one point or another where they thought they had been converted because of some sort of altar call, whether at a church service, or a youth retreat, or one even at a VBS.

By 'altar call' I mean a call issued by a pastor or evangelist for people to 'come up front' to receive Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior. Something along the lines of "If you want to be saved come up and pray this prayer" or "If you'd like to be saved repeat this prayer after me" issued to the congregation at large.

From my observation, this practice has been a major hindrance to Missions and Evangelism in our churches. It seems like for the last 20 years or more the Southern Baptist Convention (my denomination) has been fighting over this. And every year I hear a sermon or two from leaders in our denomination about how doing away with altar calls will stifle our evangelistic impact. But I think quite the opposite! And I think the Bible, history, and the current fruit of the altar call system backs me up. Therefore, I contend we must alter the call. We must return to the true public invitations that we see in Scripture. We must publicly invite sinners to repent and believe this gospel! We see this type of preaching by Jesus and His Apostles throughout the New Testament. Furthermore, we see this carried out by faithful men throughout the history of the church.

But what we do not see in the Bible or in the history of the church until the 19th century are invitations to have people come up and repeat a prayer.

Why is the practice of having people come forward to recite a prayer such a hindrance to evangelism and missions?

1. It confuses repentance -

At a church I served in 2011 there were some people who equated 'repentance' with voicing sorrow for sin. Now, surely repentance entails sorrow for sin! But that is most certainly not all repentance is. When we think repentance is merely 'going forward' or 'saying sorry' then this causes a misunderstanding of the essential call of the gospel: To repent and believe (Mark 1:15).

Isn't this at least one reason we see so many 'rededications' at evangelistic events? People feel compelled to 'rededicate' their lives because their initial 'act' of repentance didn't stick.

2. It conveys false assurance -

My friend who recently came to Christ, and the other 4 we've seen do so recently, all lived in a state whereby they thought they were right with God. If they had died in such a state they would have stood before King Jesus who would have said "Depart from me, I never knew you" (Mt. 7:21-23). It is tragic how many are deceived because they have walked an aisle and prayed a prayer! Some of those people are off living for the world and in heinous sin. Others though are right there in the pew every Sunday, and when they hear a call to repent and believe the gospel they think "I've done did that. I'm ok," not knowing that if nothing changes, they will spend an eternity in Hell.

I do not mean to suggest that if you did this that you are 'lost'. That might be true, but it's not necessarily true! But I do say this: If you came forward and prayed a prayer, that's not what saved you, It was your repentance and faith initiated by the grace of God through the work of the Holy Spirit.

3. It ruins church membership -

Many churches in the SBC have wildly inflammatory membership rolls. Say something like 500 on the rolls with 150 present on a Sunday morning. This ratio fluctuates depending on the size of the church but in my estimation, it is generally 3:1 of roll to attendance. This is something that we need to labor to change. I hope for an SBC president one day to lead in this. But that's not something we can wait around on. Pastors must get this conviction and seek to be faithful to the Church's Head in having a regenerate church membership that actually attends.

There is nothing more stifling to evangelism and missions than unhealthy churches. And when we don't practice regenerate church membership rightly, we see unhealthy churches. I mean, surely we can see the negative practical ramifications of lost people serving in our churches?

4. It stifles personal evangelism -

The idea is to 'get someone saved' I just need to bring them to church and get them to walk the aisle. Hey, I'll even walk down the aisle with you if you'll go! I'm sure many Pastors would not support such an idea but it is certainly at least implicitly communicated by the crescendo of the altar call at the end of the service.

There is more that could be said but suffice it to say that the result of an Altar Call atmosphere has created a culture that has actually hindered missions and evangelism. When churches struggle because of unconverted members, or we have unconverted teachers, pastors, or missionaries on the field, or we are proclaiming a confused or truncated gospel, then surely we can see that these things not only aren't advancing the cause of Christ, but actually being a hindrance to it. When everyone in the Bible Belt is 'already saved' because of the Altar Call, but there is little true love for Christ, little holiness, paltry concern for God's glory, no hatred of sin, then we must face the grim reality that the numbers of people who 'came forward' so boasted about at the evangelism rally (or youth camp, or VBS, etc) 50 years ago, and then again 30 years ago, and then again 10 years ago, and then again last year, didn't actually hold true.

So where do we go from here? My suggestion is the alter call. Instead of calling sinners to come forward and say a prayer, let us call them to repent and close with Christ. But, actually when we think of it in terms of Scriptural evidence and historical precedent, the reality is that the 'Altar Call' is the alter call! The call of repentance and faith has always been the true call of response after gospel proclamation. I'm not the one advocating anything new, but going back to the Book.

What will this look like? Here are a few thoughts:

1. Be Clear on What Sinners Must Do -

I've heard the argument that the Altar Call is really just about helping people understand what they must do to be saved. I've heard pastors say that they invite people forward and to repeat a prayer so that they can know what they are doing. Why can this not be communicated in the sermon? Was Jesus not clear in Mark 1:15? Was Paul not clear in Acts 16:31?

Is prayer involved in our salvation? Of course! We must call on the Lord to be saved. But if we need someone to articulate for us what that means via a prayer to be repeated, have we really understood the gospel? The best illustration I've heard is this: Suppose a man wants to repent to his wife for sinning against her. His idea is to call the preacher and have him come over. The preacher says "Ok son, just repeat after me" "Dear honey" "Dear honey" "I'm really sorry" "I'm really sorry".... So, surely you can see how that definitely is NOT going to be seen as true repentance from the wife!

And in fact, I think the 'sinner's prayer' actually adds requirements. Remember the publican? He simply said 'be merciful to me a sinner.' The heart that is pricked by the Spirit will express itself well enough. In fact, it's God who knows the heart isn't it?

2. Make Counseling a Priority -

Great men of the past have set aside significant time to counsel with people about their salvation. Instead of trying to squeeze in a conversation about the gospel during a 5 minute time of invitation, invite people to talk with you at a later time. During counseling, we can see whether or not there is a clear head knowledge and heart knowledge of the gospel.

3. Trust the Lord's Work and Timing -

God saves sinners. There is nothing you or I can do to move them across the threshold so to speak. We can't move them from darkness to light. That's the work of the Holy Spirit. We live in a results based society. We want to see results now. But as Tom Nettles has said, "Conversion is certainly instantaneous, but not all instantaneous response is true conversion; sometimes the evidence of true conversion is slow (Luke 8:11-15)." Not every immediate responder to the gospel is converted. Instead of laboring for results, let us labor to make the gospel clear and to show clearly what it means to repent, trust Chist as Savior, and follow Him as Lord.

4. It's Ok to Sing a Hymn at the End of the Sermon -

We sing a hymn at the conclusion of our sermons. We even have an opportunity for people to pray with the pastor or publicly unite with the church (after previous counsel of course!). I'm not saying preach the sermon and walk out the doors. Singing a hymn can give people sufficient time to reflect on what's been said. They can praise God! They can pray to God! But don't make this the crescendo of your service whereby you play 17 verses of Just As I Am and plead with people to come forward. Let the pleading to close with Christ happen in the public proclamation of the Word. There doesn't need to be an 'after sermon' after the sermon. One is sufficient.

5. Remember that Sunday Mornings Aren't Primarily Evangelistic -

The church is made up of Believers. The primary exhortations during the sermon should be directed to the church. Yes, call unbelievers to repentance. But the whole sermon shouldn't be geared toward the lost, at least not in the vast majority of the 52 Sundays every year. The beautiful thing about preaching the gospel though is that Christians need it to. So, the exhortation to Believers to continue to trust the gospel, and repent of sin, and rest themselves in the finished work of Jesus is also a call to unbelievers that they need to do the same thing.

When we understand the truth that Sunday mornings are for the church, this will greatly aid us in a right view of what we should be doing and not doing in our services. We don't tailor services for the lost! Rather, we submit to Scripture's authority and trust its sufficiency for how we do Sundays. Evangelism is taking the gospel to the streets. We must equip our people to share the gospel in the home, at their work, with their neighbors. And their goal isn't just to get people in their life to 'come to church' but to repent of their sin and trust Jesus alone as their only suitable and all sufficient Savior.

6. Trust God's Grace for Past Failures -

As I said above, I failed in this before too. I shudder when I think about some of the people I led in a Sinner's Prayer who are not in church and by all evidences afforded to me, not true Beleivers. But there is grace for this too. I'm not saying it's not a serious error! I'm just saying the Savior's blood speaks a better word. So, if you've failed in this, trust God's grace, repent, and change.

7. Understand the Difficulty of Change -

I have had personal experience of trying to teach on this where it was rejected. So, commit this issue to prayer. Be willing to talk with people. Be humble. Be patient. But be serious in your conviction to please the Lord. Love the church and lost people enough that you are willing to adapt your methods to line up with Scripture. But also realize that change is difficult. Especially something that has been engrained in our culture for so long.

I've never shared this publicly before but while I was serving at a previous church, I actually had a denominational leader tell a pastor friend of mine that I had 'stopped doing invitations'. This was not true! But it was something a church member had communicated to this person and so this person communicated it to someone else and it got back to me. As an aside, I sure could have used the help instead of the gossip! The point is, you need to understand change in this area won't be easy. But it's ok. It's worth it!

This has been on my heart for a number of years now. But there is something about seeing the bad fruit of Altar Calls personally time and again over the last several months that has prompted me to write this post. I truly believe that if we want to see the work of God furthered and not hindered in our area and across the globe, we must eschew the foolhardy methods of Altar Calls and Repeat After Me Prayers for salvation.