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Don’t forget – my blog has moved here.
A new post for today, called “The Nutcracker, the Nations, and NOW” is here.
The web address for the blog is: matthewspearson.wordpress.com.
You can sign up to receive email updates. Look on the sidebar for the link under the heading “Want Mail?”
I have so wanted to be more ‘intentional’ in the way I blog and to do so by being more ‘intentional’ in the way I pastor.
So, I have ‘reworked’ the ole’ blog and moved here.
The address is: matthewspearson.wordpress.com
The title of the blog? “Intentional Pastoring.”
What are you waiting for? Get over there and check it out. . . NOW!
And the Winner Is. . .
Last night at SNL (Sunday Night Live) here at FBC, I finished my 4-part series through the book of Jonah.
I asked the children in the congregation to draw Jonah 4. I’ve never tried, but I think I might even like to draw this chapter sometime!!! I mean – a pouty prophet, a plant, a worm, a scorching East wind, and a bald guy getting sunburned. One’s imagination can go wild!
Several children turned in great pictures. I chose this one as the winner for this week. . .
Great work!!!! Thanks for paying attention to the story!!!!
Leadership Lessons from the Collapse of Auburn Football
I am a Dye-Hard Auburn fan (only truly Auburn fans know why I spelled ‘Dye’ this way). I can’t help it. My granddad went to Auburn. My dad went to Auburn. My dad’s brother went to Auburn. It’s in my blood. I grew up hearing, “Son, if you ever say ‘Roll Tide’ Santa Claus ain’t comin’ to this house.” Yes, I did. And he was serious. Being an Auburn fan means by definition that you dislike all things Alabama (the University, that is). You either love Auburn and hate Alabama or vice-versa.
That’s why Saturday’s Iron Bowl felt weird. Every honest Auburn fan knew we would get beat badly. No question about that. So that wasn’t what felt so weird. What was so weird was the person I was most frustrated with on the field. Usually, during a game like this, it is the men wearing the red and white that I cannot stand and want to . . . I better not go there. But Saturday, the person I was most frustrated with was the man wearing a white windbreaker with Auburn logos on it. Yeah, coach Gene. It was also weird because it was obvious Nick Saban was being merciful to us by not running the score up our throats (which he could done have VERY easily). That doesn’t happen in Auburn-Alabama games. No. We hate each other so bad that we would not dare back down. Unless there was something very unusual going on.
And unusual it was.
I am also a leader. I pastor the First Baptist Church of El Dorado, Arkansas and love, though daunting, the responsibility of leading this flock. So obviously I am interested in what happens in an organization that can be on top of the college football world in 2010 and then be at the bottom just two years later.
I have read numerous articles surrounding the debacle at Auburn University in recent days. Three leadership lessons for me personally – and I am guessing any leader – stick out that I want to remember and learn from.
1. The first responsibility of of a leader is to define reality.
I read this truth months ago from Ron Edmonson. He’s right. The responsibility of any leader is to define reality for the group of people he is called to lead. I was so frustrated with Gene Chizik on Saturday (and really most of the season) because he seemed to be living in another world, always talking about needing to do better – but never living in the reality of what was going on. Kevin Scarbinsky wrote this following the Iron Bowl: “Chizik proved powerless to stop this avalanche, and yet, all the evidence to the contrary, he continued to demonstrate that he has no grasp on reality.” He then quoted Chizik who said, “There’s no question in my mind, I believe we can get this thing turned around and get back on the right track.” Scarbinsky’s response? “He may be the only one.”
I honestly believe one of the main – if not THE main – reasons Auburn fell from ‘Hero to Zero’ in 2 years is due to blindness of reality from the leader.
I confess, I may be dead wrong. I am far removed from what goes on behind closed doors. But it seems this way from where I sit and it does so to the extent that it haunts me of doing the exact same thing. Unless reality is seen by the leader and made known to the people – a proper and aggressive course forward is impossible.
So, questions I need to ask myself are these:
Are we reaching unchurched people, or are we simply attracting ‘already churched’ people?
What percentage of our budget is given toward evangelism and missions and making disciples of all nations?
How many people are we baptizing compared to last year? Last month? Five years ago?
Am I spending more time trying to keep saved people happy or lost people out of hell?
Are the programs we are running helping us reach our vision, or are we just doing things because we always have?
2. At the end of the day, NO ONE likes change.
I read a quote from an Auburn player Saturday night that literally blew me away. Jonathan Wallace, Auburn’s starting quarterback at the end of the season, said this about the Auburn coaching staff: “He should be back. They know exactly where this program needs to go, and they know what to do. I hope they are back next year. I really have no doubt. I really do believe they will be.” Are you kidding me?
Chizik had an opportunity to turn a ‘minimal’ season in 2011 around with brand new coordinators. This coaching staff had an incredible group of players. They weren’t able to win a single SEC game. I know I am on the outside looking in, but how could this coaching staff have any idea where the program needs to go? How could Wallace possibly say such a thing?
The ‘C’ word. CHANGE. Nobody likes it. If Jonathan Wallace gets a new head coach, he will probably get a new offensive coordinator. If he gets a new offensive coordinator, he will probably get a new quarterbacks coach. Everything will . . . change. The most obvious thing for the Auburn program to get back on its feet is to get a new leader. To do so will mean . . . change.
Wallace’s quote was very eye-opening for me. Leaders are called to chart a course for what is best for the organization and the people charged to their care. Sometimes that means. . . change. Change is hard. It’s always easier for us humans just to keep doing things like we always have. But that may not be what is best for the program. What’s best for Auburn football? Wins. Are they winning? No. What needs to happen? Change.
What’s best for the church? Intentionally, strategically, purposefully, and aggressively make disciples of all nations.
If the quarterback for Auburn wants the same scenario as this year, he simply doesn’t like change.
If a church member doesn’t like contemplating redirecting resources to reach more people, he simply doesn’t like change.
What’s a leader to do? Define reality, communicate the vision, and move forward in a way that is best for the institution as a whole. Isn’t that what a leader is charged to do? Move forward in a way that is best for all he has been called to lead? If so, change is inevitable and many won’t like it.
3. A Leader Intentionally Develops Others to Be Better.
In another article I read, another frustration I felt came to light. Throughout the season, no one seemed to care. The lack of passion on the field was obvious. The lack of discipline was painful to watch. The thoughts of ‘my grandmother could tackle better than that’ came more and more frequent. I hate to watch Auburn lose. But to watch them lose game after game with zero passion or desire – that became unbearable. Absolutely ZERO improvement was made throughout the season. If anything, Auburn’s play went from bad to worse to awful. There seemed to me to be no intentional effort to help the players be better – to improve – to be developed – to care about winning a football game.
Again, I am far removed from what really was going on behind closed doors. I don’t know, at the end of the day, what was REALLY happening. But as a leader, it does force me to think through whether or not I am intentionally and purposefully pouring into others so as to make them better. Do I strive to improve other people? Do I work to make the institution I lead better than it was by developing people?
Ignoring this will prove fatal. Coach Chizik was able to ride the backs of Cam Newton and Nick Fairley for a season. It got him a contract extension and a book contract. But it didn’t last. Once the ‘rock stars’ left, reality set in. No intentional coach or player development led to almost immediate destruction for the program.
Jesus poured Himself into 12 and saw a revolution after he ascended to glory. His parting words were to ‘go and make disciples.’ Paul charged the leaders in the church to ‘equip the saints for ministry.’ Leadership is about developing others to make them better.
I can sit here and point fingers at Gene all day. But at the end of the day, this is for Matt Pearson. How are you doing, Matt? What’s reality at FBC? Are you afraid to do anything because someone may not like change? How active are you at pouring into others?
It doesn’t take long to go from first to worst.
And the Winner Is. . .
This was probably one of the most difficult decisions I have had to make for the ‘And the Winner Is. . . ‘ portion of the blog. Tons of good pictures were turned in. Excuse me, tons of GREAT pictures were turned in.
The winner for today is . . .
The title of yesterday’s message was “Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is” from 2 Corinthians 8:8-15. You can listen to it here later today. I, of course, asked the kids to draw a big mouth with money being stuffed into it. They did!!! The pictures were great. Thanks, kids for doing such a good job! Don’t forget to remind your parents to put their money where their mouths are regarding the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering and their burden for those who have never heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
“Father, please help ________ as she more than likely spends this last holiday with her dad before she and her family go to serve you in _________.”
A sentence from an IMB Trustee as she prayed over one of the 84 missionaries being sent out from the IMB this week. This particular missionary just learned that her father has stage 4 cancer. She and her family are leaving for one of the hardest places in the world next year. . . all for the sake of God’s glory among the nations.
“And He said to them, ‘Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life.'” (Luke 18:29-30)
And the Winner Is. . .
Yesterday morning, I began a four-part series out of 2 Corinthians 8-9 called “God Loves a Cheerful Giver.” You can listen to it here later today. Go ahead and click – we have a BRAND NEW WEBSITE UP and it looks FANTASTIC.
The first message was out of 2 Corinthians 8:1-7. I asked the children to draw a group of people begging the apostle Paul to pass the offering plate around again. Seven entries were turned in – all of which, by the way, were outstanding. For today’s winner, however, I chose . . .
Excellent job! Thanks for the hard work!!!! Keep it up!
“We Ought to Get the Bible Straight” (A Quickening Quote)
Today I received an email that linked to an article where the author more or less ‘went off’ on evangelicals for getting the Bible wrong about abortion and homosexuality. For this week’s ‘Quickening Quotes’ I want to quote the author of the article and then do my best to offer somewhat of a response.
Here’s why: Evangelical Christians MUST think hard and critically and biblically and compassionately on these issues. Because I pastor a local church – I feel it is my responsibility to help those entrusted to my care to think through any and all accusations with as much biblical wisdom and insight as possible. The claims that Christians are wrong about same sex marriage and abortion are growing. We must know how to deal with these things correctly and gently; with both truth AND love.
I am not going to mention any names or link to any sites. My purpose here is not to ‘fight back’ or ‘provoke’ an argument. I don’t EVER want this blog to be a ‘bully pulpit’ or a place for arguing. My purpose here is to help evangelical followers of Jesus (mainly members of FBC El Dorado) think rightly about these critical matters.
The author of the article sent to me today was upset over many so called evangelical Christians who make a big deal about the two issues of abortion and homosexuality. He believes evangelicals are guilty of twisting the Scriptures to make a case for having a Republican President. He argues that in recent American history, people have ‘used God’ for their side – Democrat or Republican. In the case of evangelicals wanting Mitt Romney in office, according to the writer, they use the God they want to get him in the Oval office – not the God of the Bible.
The author laid out his purpose and defense as follows: “Here is my basic proposition: Bible-believing Christians who want to base their politics on the Bible ought to get the Bible straight, which is to say (a) correct and (b) directly from the page, rather than filtered through the spin of the GOP. To this end, I would like to challenge them to look at an amazing website, part of ‘The Official King James Bible Online,’ which lists each and every word in that translation of the Bible in order of popularity.”
Using this ‘grid,’ the author says the words ‘abortion’ nor ‘homosexuality’ are found in the Bible. He does admit to there being references to these issues, but their uses definitely are not “central” based on their “popularity.” Concerning other political issues pertinent to Presidential elections, he says “war,” “peace,” “economics,” “rich and poor,” “prison” and “prisoners,” and “Israel” are used many more times than references to same sex marriage and abortion. He purports that true Bible believing Christians should be much more concerned about things the Bible is actually concerned with.
His conclusion: “I have no problem with evangelical Christians voting for Romney. My complaint arises when they say they are doing so because the Bible commands them to vote for the candidate who is opposed to abortion rights and opposes same-sex marriage. The Bible itself is relatively unconcerned with these matters. It is far more concerned with questions of poverty and wealth, war and peace, and (need I add?) theology.If you think otherwise, it’s not the Bible speaking. It’s the political operative at the bottom of the well.”
To put it simply, this particular writer believes that since the Bible mentions “war” and “peace” and “Israel” (among others) much more than it references homosexuality or abortion – then Christians who spend all of their time arguing against these things are wasting their time and getting it all wrong. In his opinion, “The Bible itself is relatively unconcerned with these matters.”
How are Christians to respond to this? Is he right? Have many evangelicals been wrong about the Bible’s emphasis on these things? Read the writer’s conclusion again. Those are strong words. If he is right, then many, if not most (myself included), evangelicals need to do some serious reevaluating. According to the article, I wasted my and the congregation’s time over the last two Sundays.
I offer several suggestions as to how we can respond/think about these things in biblical, wise, and loving way:
1. Popularity of words in the Bible does not necessarily make subjects more or less important.
Just because the Bible uses some words more than others does not make those words or concepts more important. I’ve banked my life on the doctrine of the Trinity. The word ‘Trinity’ is never found in the Bible. But I believe there is One God and that He exists in Three Persons – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Similarly, I just happen to believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the main storyline of the Bible. I am certain, however, numerous other words are used more than Gospel. Simply because the Bible uses some words more than others does not mean it is ‘relatively unconcerned’ about various issues or doctrines.
2. The beginning and the end of the Bible is about marriage.
Family is the foundation of any society. God created Adam and Eve in the Garden. They were to be fruitful and multiply and be a family. Why? One reason is because this is how God designed it and how a solid society works. God created husband and wife before He did the church, government, etc. A second reason is because – in the heart and mind of God – marriage between a man and woman is to picture the relationship between Jesus and His Church (See Ephesians 5:22-33) – often referred to as His “Bride.” Thus the last book of the Bible – Revelation – concludes with Jesus coming for His Bride (the church).
Though homosexuality may not be mentioned much – the obvious purpose of God is for marriage to be between a man and woman who carry out God-given roles to reflect a greater reality. Bottom line: biblical marriage is a major storyline reflecting THE MAJOR STORYLINE of the Bible.
3. Babies being born matter BIG TIME biblically.
Have you ever wondered why Satan hates babies and why he has been so successful at having them killed in their mother’s womb? Because in Genesis 3:15 after Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden, God told the serpent (Satan) that a baby would come from Eve’s offspring that would crush him. We know it to be Jesus. As a result of that promise, Satan didn’t want to see ANY baby be born. He didn’t then and doesn’t now. Babies coming out of a mother’s womb haunts Satan; it reminds him of what has happened as well as his coming doom.
The Bible may not mention the word ‘abortion’ but it is very much concerned with babies being born. For followers of Jesus, it is constant reminder of LIFE [Every life in a mother’s womb is sacred (Genesis 1:26-27)]. For the evil one – a reminder of his certain doom. Bottom line: babies being born and babies being killed are major story lines that reflect THE MAJOR STORYLINE of the Bible – baby Jesus comes for mankind to destroy the works of the enemy.
4. The other issues mentioned do matter.
Nobody is saying that they don’t matter. They do. In fact, I agree with the author that evangelicals should spend MORE time talking about these things. However, based on a brief sketch of what I believe the Bible teaches from start to finish about marriage and the sanctity of life, I believe it is right and biblical to be so preoccupied with these issues.
5. Christians really do need to be careful not to make the Bible say what they want it to say.
I agree with the author in the fact that evangelicals are notorious ‘Bible spinners’ (my phrase, not his). We are really ‘good’ at making it say what we want it to say. We must be careful never to take our agenda to the Bible. The Bible must set the agenda for us. Not the other way around. I encourage all followers of Jesus to have positions that would be the same if the convictions of the Parties were reversed. If Democrats are more ‘pro-life’ in 12 years – would you still hold to the same biblical premise? I hope so. If Republicans embraced same-sex marriage – would you still believe like you do?
The author has a strong point: “we ought to get the Bible straight.” I agree.
“In a Weird Way, Son, I am Excited”
This was how I responded to my 7 year old this morning when he asked me who won last night. Of course, he knew who I voted for and what I was praying would happen in this year’s election. He knew that the candidate who won was not who I was hoping would win. He obviously was surprised by my words.
To tell you the truth, I am a bit surprised by my response to him.
But here’s the thing: when Luke asked me, I had just finished reading Revelation 1-5. If that doesn’t put things in perspective, I don’t know what will. The results of yesterday’s election give the Church an unprecedented opportunity to be authentic.
Consider. . .
1. Authentic Trust.
How many evangelical Christians do you think cried out to the Lord over recent days for His will to be done on November 6th? Yeah . . . a bunch. Do you think for a second that God did not hear His people’s prayers? No way. He gives us the same attention He gives His Son – we are ‘in Christ.’ God’s will was done yesterday. Today the church has an incredible opportunity to demonstrate that we really do trust the God who answers prayer according to His will.
2. Authentic Affection.
When I read the New Testament (and a majority of the Old!) I never read of there being a ‘godly’ leader in office. I never read of there being a king or ruler or magistrate holding to traditional Christian values and morals. You know what I do read, however? Authentic followers of Jesus advancing the kingdom in the power of the Spirit in the midst of evil regimes. The church in Acts exploded during perilous times with wicked leaders in office. We church leaders (myself included!) have been preaching for years and years and years for our churches to be like the church in Acts. Well, here you go. Did we mean that? Now is the opportunity to love Jesus passionately and love others compassionately with the Gospel that will shine brighter in the midst of where it looks like we are heading as a country.
3. Authentic Hope.
If I understand my Bible correctly, times are going to get worse before Jesus returns. If that is the case, bring it on. I want to see Jesus! Don’t you? Yesterday’s results are really and truly a God-given opportunity for the Church of our Lord Jesus to show the world where we put our hope. It can demonstrate to the world that this is not our home and we are awaiting another.
So, yes. In a weird way – I am excited! The church has been talking and praying big for years. Now, more than ever, God has laid before us an opportunity to be exactly who He has placed us here to be.
Last time I checked, authentic light shines brightest in the darkest places.
Reasons a God-Centered Worldview Demands a Pro-Life Position
From the sermon this morning. . .
1. God puts and creates every child in every womb.
Job 10:8-12; Psalm 139:13-16; Malachi 2:10
2. God can work (spiritually!) – even in the lives of unborn babies.
Genesis 25:22; Hosea 12:3; Luke 1:41, 44 (Luke 1:16)
3. God says murder is wrong and abortion, at any pregnancy stage, is murder.
Exodus 20:13; Leviticus 18:21, 20:1-5; Deuteronomy 12:31
4. God works evil circumstances together for good.
Romans 8:28; Genesis 29 and 38; Matthew 1:5
5. God expects His people to defend the rights of the helpless.
Psalms 82:3-4; Proverbs 24:11-12, 31:8-9
6. God will grant supernatural wisdom when horrific decisions demand it.
1 Kings 3; Proverbs 2:1-7; James 1:5-8
7. God LOVES adoption.
Romans 8:15, 23; Galatians 4:4-7; Ephesians 1:3-10; James 1:27
8. God LOVES babies.
Genesis 1:26-27; Genesis 3:15; Exodus 1:15-22; Luke 18:15-17
9. God LOVES women.
Genesis 3:15; Luke 1:26-56, 8:1-4; 1 Timothy 2:15
Jeremiah 7:30-34; Ezekiel 16:20-21, 36-38, 20:31
10. God sent Jesus for LIFE.
John 3:16, 10:10