Keeping Peace in the Camp During COVID 19

In the midst of stay-at-home orders throughout our county there is a growing concern regarding how COVID 19 will affect us spiritually, physically, and psychologically.

Spiritually, we have had to find new ways to practice our faith. The discipline of corporate celebration and worship has been limited greatly. One of the things I miss most about not gathering as a local church is altar time. I love when people come together at the altar seeking a closer walk with the Lord. It is refreshing to me as I have learned to cast my cares upon the Lord at the altar each week, seek forgiveness, and become filled with the presence of the Holy Spirit. It is a tangible place for repentance, refueling, refreshing, and renewal. Today, my altar time and corporate worship have been replaced with the disciplines of personal Bible study, meditation, and reflection. One thing we do know is that God is sovereign and He will be with us as we navigate the days ahead.

Physically, people are postponing their routine physical exams and their scheduled medical appointments including surgeries. I was scheduled for a sleep study and knee surgery and both have been postponed with no firm date set. There are far more serious conditions that will not get the attention needed as people are fearful that something worse might happen should they seek medical assistance. People are not able to go to health clubs, swimming pools, and other places they would normally frequent for exercise and to stay physically fit.

Psychologically, everyone has had to adjust almost every facet of their lives which can affect one’s mental health. Many have lost their jobs while others are working from home. Most colleges have transitioned to offering only online courses. Public and private schools have closed for the remainder of the school year. Working parents are challenged without childcare availability. Many children are going without meals that were provided during school hours. Homeschooling has become a priority in order to keep children from falling behind. The probability for stress, tension, and anger within the home is high. Discouragement and depression can bring about other major health concerns.

It is understandable that during this season of forced change and uncertainty people are more susceptible to anger. It is what one does when he or she is angry that determines its psychological effect. Anger that is not dealt with in a healthy manner can result in significant and long-term problems.

The Bible offers us help in dealing with anger. The following is an often quoted verse:  “Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath” (Ephesians 4:26). It is not a sin to become angry but it can quickly lead to sin if not handled according to the Bible. The subject of anger is all too familiar for most of us.  We see anger in our businesses, schools, political parties, civic organizations, social media, and in our homes. It appears that people do not even try to restrain their anger anymore. According to Webster’s dictionary anger is, “That feeling of displeasure and hostility resulting from injury, mistreatment, or opposition.”  This is a problem that we all deal with from the cradle to the grave. God intended that we learn to overcome anger as we grow older, and not become hostile when injured, mistreated, or opposed.

One of the hardest lessons is to not speak when angry. James wrote the following: “So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:19-20 NKJV). It is good to hold one’s tongue until wisdom surfaces. Maybe announce that you need to take a walk alone or go to another room. It is amazing what just a few minutes can do for one’s perspective. Often I realize that the problem of my anger is not someone else but me. Also, that time alone can reveal what triggered our anger. Sometimes I find myself guilty of not speaking and sometimes I get called out on it. I can report progress as one who would rather be guilty of not speaking rather than one who says the wrong thing, especially if it is out of anger. 

It is worth noting that anger did not make Paul’s list when he shared: “…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23 NKJV). He went further and taught that we should get rid of our anger. Paul wrote: Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:31-32 (NKJV). 

How do we do this? Well, I think we need to first ask “what do people do with their anger?” I have observed that people generally deal with anger in at least the four following ways (These are not exclusive, meaning there are other ways not mentioned and not all of these are healthy.):

First, suppressing anger. Some people try to keep anger bottled up inside until they reach a point when they can’t take it anymore and then they explode. Have you ever noticed the pressure relief valve on a water heater tank? If the water becomes too hot the pressure builds on the inside of the tank. If there were no pressure relief valve the tank would explode. If we do not release our anger it can build up and the result can be harmful to others and to us. Sadly, when this happens many people seem to get hurt by harsh words and actions that do not adequately reflect the angry person’s true feelings. The healthy way is to find a path in order to release anger before resentments take root. It could be going for a prayer walk alone, hitting a golf ball, casting a fishing rod, or some other outdoor activity. It could be talking with a pastor, counselor, mentor, or trusted friend who can keep what is share in confidence. The main thing is to not suppress anger because it will only get worse with time and can leave one bitter.

Second, verbally expressing anger without consideration of how it might hurt others. I am amazed at how some people express their anger by speaking harshly to the ones closest to them. I think some people even take pride in their ability to verbally release their anger. Have you ever heard the saying: “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt?” That is untrue. Words do hurt and cannot be taken back. My dad used to say: “You can’t un-ring the bell.” Some may get angry at school, work, or some other place and suppress it until they get home just to let their anger out on their spouse or children. When this happens it is really damaging to the family unit.

Third, expressing anger through physical abuse. This is unacceptable and should not be tolerated. If you are a in a relationship and this is happening please get away from the one hurting you. Unless, the one who is hurting you gets professional help this will most likely not get better. Many times after one has expressed his or her anger by hurting someone else he or she feels a great sense of remorse. Unfortunately, remorse alone is not a cure for this behavior. Remorse is often followed by empty promises that lead to repeated physical abuse. There must be the recognition of the problem, repentance with a clear mental and spiritual path for the abusive person to follow. If you are one that gets angry and physically abuses others please seek out a professional Christian counselor and get help.

Fourth, confess anger to the Lord and to those who might be affected. I believe this is ideal and most beneficial. The Bible says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).  I don’t know about you but whenever I discover that I am angry, most times I have simultaneously discovered that sin has crept in. Whereas people and situations can lead us to anger it is our choice how we respond. I have found that confession is a good way to say good night to the Lord. It also might help us live longer and happier lives!

Instead of letting anger control us we can control it by recognizing our anger and what triggers it, talking with someone about how to manage our anger, confessing and releasing our anger in healthy ways. Let’s strive to cultivate the fruit of the Spirit in our lives by prayer, Bible study, and practicing love. Yes, love is a verb and it is a decision of the will. When we make the choice to love even those that trigger our anger we become more like Jesus. That is exactly what He does. He loves us unconditionally! I have found that my acceptance level of other’s behavior is contingent on my love for them. When we love others especially those closest to us we can release them to be who God created them to be.  We can celebrate our uniqueness and yes, even our quirks.

May the Holy Spirit continually bless you and your family by providing peace in your camp during COVID 19!



Aslan is on the Move

Aslan 1

My family and I love spring and summer more than any other time of the year. We are outdoor people! For me, it is the time of year when nature speaks of new life. The flowers are blooming and the trees are producing new leaves. The warm air really makes me feel refreshed and alive. With spring the long, long winter has ended and now warmer days are in sight.

In C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, we are told about Narnia being a place where it is “always winter but never Christmas.” Narnia was under a curse and the white witch which metaphorically represented Satan had dominion. That is until Aslan arrived in Narnia! If you remember, Edmund, Peter, Susan, and Lucy discovered Narnia by stepping through the professor’s wardrobe. They encountered a world full of surprises. While trying to find Mr. Tumnus, Lucy’s new friend (a faun), they found hospitality at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Beaver. It was there that Mr. Beaver told them about Aslan.

Lucy inquired, “Isn’t He safe?” Mr. Beaver replied, “Of course He isn’t safe but He is good.” We know in Lewis’s Narnia Aslan represents Jesus. Aslan is the King of the wood and came to fulfill prophecy. Jesus is King of Kings and He came to fulfill Biblical prophecy. Mr. Beaver stated, “Aslan is on the move!” Likewise, I sense the roar of a dangerous Lion who is on the move!

Where did we get the idea that living as a Christian would be safe? On the contrary we are told that we would face trouble. Jesus said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 NIV).

The local church has always prayed for safety but those prayers for safety mainly focused on those traveling or for those in harm’s way (i.e., missionaries, military, travelers, first responders, and those playing contact sports). Times have changed and it seems now we are living in a time of even greater uncertainty. For the last few years we have witnessed the necessity for local churches to have safety policies and procedures. It has been proven that having trained safety (security) teams in place saves lives. Now, with the coronavirus quickly spreading throughout the world we see that safety measures are no longer a choice but a governmental mandate.

With an invisible enemy like the coronavirus safety teams are ineffective. Safety has become a priority to our society and among the local church. This is not a bad thing. We should do all that we can to remain safe and to protect others. However, as Christians let us not forget that we have an enemy that desires to destroy us. Living the Christian life is not always safe but it is good. The enemy might come as a betrayer, a terrorist, or an illness. The world is not a safe place. It never has been. It is the age old battle between good and evil.

Jesus said, “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (John 15:18-19 NKJV). If we are living for Jesus we can expect the world to hate us. We should pray to the Lord for safety but more than praying for safety we should pray for courage. As we walk “in His steps” we will find ourselves in dangerous territory.

Yes, Aslan is on the move and the world will fight against Him. The world will fight against us because we belong to Jesus. I am not advocating fear but reminding us that we follow a Lion that is “not safe but He is good.” He is not safe in that as we follow Him we will face danger. We will be hated by those that hate the Lion. We must not fret though because our Lion is Jesus, our true Shepherd and He looks after us, His sheep!

First, He looks after us in His Person. We have a place of refuge in God. He promised never to leave us nor forsake us (Joshua 1:9, Deuteronomy 31:6, Hebrews 13:5). He is our Emmanuel, God with us (Matthew 1:23). We can find a shelter and safety under His wings (Psalm 91).

Second, He looks after us in His Provision. The Apostle Paul teaches us to “Put on the Whole Armor of God” (Ephesians 6:11-18). When we pray we access a spiritual armament that no evil can penetrate. Each piece of the armor is vital and is activated as we live, move, and have our being in Christ (Acts 17:28).

Third, He looks after us in His Power. It is not in our might that we overcome but by His Spirit (Zechariah 4:6). He has equipped us with the Holy Spirit so that we can witness for Christ (Acts 1:8). 2 Timothy 1:7 reads, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”

Fourth, He looks after us in His Purpose. Nothing shall happen to us unless God allows it to happen. He is in control. Romans 8:28 is still in the Bible! “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”

Perhaps, you are thinking, “Well this guy is just sermonizing and making light of the problem our world has encountered with the coronavirus.” On the contrary my heart is very burdened as a pastor that is ministering by internet and telephone instead of in person. Furthermore, as a husband and father my priority is the safety of my family. We are practicing social distancing, wearing protective mask when in crowds, and abiding with the stay-at-home order. We must use common sense and use the means available to us so we can remain healthy. My point is simple. Be ready. At any moment things could shift in any direction and we must be “strong and very courageous!” Why? Because Aslan is on the move!

Practicing Our Faith Without Buildings

Faith Without Buildings 2

A few days ago I noticed a photo of a church marquee sign on Facebook that really caught my attention. It was meant as a joke but the longer I pondered the words my heart became burdened. The sign read, “Prophecy Class Cancelled Due to Unforeseen Circumstances.” We cannot afford to cancel the teaching of Biblical Prophecy under any circumstance! We must continue letting the world know that Jesus is coming!

During the last several weeks I have been teaching on the Book of Revelation. The tri-fold genre of the Book of Revelation is: a letter, prophecy, and Jewish apocalyptic literature. Chapters 6 through 19 outline a series of judgments during a future time described as the Tribulation Period. Many evangelical scholars ascribe to the Pre-Tribulation Rapture theory. Personally, I hold to this theory and believe that the Church will be caught up in the air to meet Jesus prior to the Tribulation Period.

With all that is happening in the world today it should open our eyes to Biblical prophesies concerning the Rapture, Tribulation Period, and the Second Coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! If there ever was a time for the local church to share the Good News it is NOW! There is no time for spiritual complacency or slumber. We must wake up and make sure our lamps are filled with oil because our Bridegroom could come at any moment (Matthew 25:1-10). That means we must continue practicing our faith without buildings.

The local church today does not look like it did just a month ago. Yesterday (March 30, 2020), the governor of Virginia, Ralph Northam, followed other governors in issuing a “stay-at-home” order. That means our local church will not gather as usual for our Palm Sunday Worship Service, Holy Week activities, or our Easter Sunday Worship Service. Even the churches that were meeting in parking lots are now told that is prohibited. The local church will not gather as usual. However, we shall gather in spirit, through social media, telephone, and any other means we can. Why? Because the local church is determined to move forward and overcome any obstacle.

Is there any hope for the local church in her public gatherings? Absolutely! Remember, during Israel’s history they were held captive in Babylon but they returned to their homeland. The Temple was rebuilt, worship was restored, and the LORD received the glory!

I believe the coronavirus is a terrible global enemy that has destroyed life and continues to bring heartache to the families it attacks. I don’t believe it is something God has sent as judgment. However, I do believe He is using this as a means to deploy the local church and to turn her mission focus outward. We must reach the lost and we must encourage one another during this time in ways other than seeing each other at a worship gathering. We must be proactive and utilize this time as the local church’s greatest opportunity.

In John 2:1-10 we read about the first public miracle of Jesus. He turned water into wine at a wedding in Cana of Galilee. It was a potential embarrassing moment as the wine was running out during the wedding feast. Jesus’ mother, Mary, told Him that the wine had ran out and He told her that it was not His time. Perhaps, this was not the time that He wanted to begin His public ministry but the circumstance and need was present. Mary told the servants to do whatever Jesus said to do. He instructed them to fill the water pots with water and then pour some out and take it to the master of the feast. When the master of the feast tasted the water that was turned into wine he was shocked. Normally, the best wine is served first and after everyone is full and don’t care, the less expensive wine brands are brought out. The master of the feast stated, “You have kept the best for the last!” God seems to do this often… saving the best for last. I believe we are on the brink of a tremendous revival that will far exceed anything we have ever experienced.

Where will this revival take place? I am not sure but it would not surprise me if we are being setup by the Holy Spirit to experience a revival in our homes! Haggai 2:9 says, “The glory of this latter temple shall be greater that the former,’ says the LORD of hosts. ‘And in this place I will give peace,’ says the LORD of hosts.” Glory! There will be greater demonstrations of the goodness of God as people receive from Him. Throughout this world the Good News is reaching homes through social media and other platforms of ministry. It is no longer (at least for this season) just the church building where God is ministering. As ministry goes forward there will be more love expressed, peace embraced, hearts encountered, and redemption experienced.

In closing, the local church is not about buildings although we have many and they are costly. We have debt because of these buildings. I am not saying that we shouldn’t have buildings. What I am saying is the true Church is not nor has it ever been defined by buildings. The true Church is about relationships. The foundation is our saving relationship with Jesus Christ and through Him we have relationships with one another. We are the Body of Christ! We are His dwelling place! Therefore, we do not cancel the local church. On the contrary, we REACH FORWARD TOGETHER!


Laity on Lockdown

Laity on Lockdown 1

With many areas of our lives placed on pause it may seem like things will fall apart because we cannot “do” all the things we are accustomed. I would like to remind you that God still has the whole world in His hands. For many people, their days usually begin with a list of things “to do” and perhaps a time of prayer, “Lord, what would you like for me ‘to do’ for You today?” With the coronavirus “to do” lists have been reduced significantly for many churchgoers. Social distancing now has a new meaning and “stay-at-home” has affected schools, businesses, hospitals, nursing homes, health clubs, and local churches. It is as if the laity of the local church have been placed in “lockdown” or at least been “paused” in so many areas of service (Sunday School teachers, greeters, ushers, hospitality teams, nursery workers, choirs, praise teams/bands, musicians, audio/visual technicians, children’s church workers, youth leaders, and the list goes on and on!). We have been able “to do” so much in the local church because the lay people have such passion and love for serving! Now, the laity are having to stay home in order to abide with the regulations and requests of our governmental officials.

Today, I was on a conference call with some other pastors and it confirmed what I already was sensing in my spirit. All of the pastors on the conference call are “doing” Livestream services and some are “doing” parking lot church. What was confirmed is that nobody on the conference call has any idea about tomorrow. As the sun comes up tomorrow things could be better or worse for the local church. The Church could experience the Rapture or it may continue “doing” ministry in new ways. However, God knows and He will continue “doing” something that He has been “doing” since Jesus was walking the earth with His disciples. Jesus will build His Church “and the gates of hell will not prevail against it” nor will the coronavirus! (Matthew 16:18)

We live in a performance measured society. If we perform well then we are rewarded. Performance is something we “do.” With all the chaos, confusion, anxiety, and depression let’s not forget that God is more concerned about us “being” than “doing!” You might ask, “What about our works?” Yes, we are supposed to work for the Lord. We are His servants and servants “do” for their Master. However, our “doing” must be in Him or it will be of no avail. Jesus said to remain in Him and that apart from Him we can “do” nothing (John 15:5).

Okay, you are probably noticing at this point our dilemma. If we “do” ministry and He is not included then we are really just wasting precious time. We have a solution to our dilemma and it is found throughout Scripture as it relates to our intimate relationship with Jesus. Instead of running around trying to fix things we can embrace the time of “pause” that has been given us and “be still and know that He is God” (Psalm 46:10). If we do this we can discover “being” or “resting” in Him is not time wasted but time well spent! It is actually a vital key to victorious Christian living.

Since we are in “lockdown” and not able to gather together and serve together why don’t we make the best use of our time? We can accept that we have been placed on pause or “lockdown” and seek a more intimate relationship with Jesus. Reading the Scripture a little more, praying a little more, and just enjoying “being” in God’s presence. It could be that the Lord wants us to REST in Him that He can prepare us for a tremendous revival! Whenever we do come back together as local churches all over this world wouldn’t it be amazing that we are ready! You might be asking, “Ready for what?” Ready to serve with a fresh anointing! Ready to serve with a new appreciation for corporate worship! Ready to serve in excellence! Ready to serve even the least of these! Laity in “lockdown” could very well be a time that God has set aside for His Church to become empowered by the Holy Spirit “to do” greater works!


The Gospel & Facebook Live!


Eleven O’clock AM on March 22, 2020 may go down in history as one of the greatest hours of the 21st Century Church! Many pastors like myself were most likely taken by surprise by the sudden shift in ministry from a traditional setting to a Livestream, Facebook, and/or Instagram setting. The ability to reach far beyond a Sunday morning worship attendance was evident as the views on our church’s Facebook Live broadcast. It was amazing to see that our little online Facebook Live broadcast reached over 800 people! Our online giving has increased and people are sharing post from various other churches and ministries. The bottom line is the Gospel is being proclaimed!

Time will tell regarding the fruitfulness of this new method of ministry.  Which really is not new at all! The difference between this Sunday and previous ones is this Sunday the world was held captive for the most part by the Coronavirus (Covid 19). Gatherings have been limited to 10 or less.

Earlier in the week I noticed a post that someone had placed on their Facebook feed. It was a picture of Tom Hanks as Forrest Gump. The caption was so eyeopening! “And just like that every pastor became a televangelist!” Certainly, that is not my desire. My goal is to serve the Lord Jesus faithfully as a pastor-teacher. The thought of preaching before a camera has no appeal for me. I have been in pastoral ministry over 20 years and for 5 to 6 years I have ministered in worship services that have been Livestreamed. This day was different as the focus and expectation of most church members was that every local church would either Livestream or hold parking lot church services.


I was so blessed to have two members of our pastoral staff ministering with me. Pastor Tyler Osborne and Pastor Kayla Osborne serve as our worship leaders and youth pastors. Just before going live on Facebook we prayed together and I sensed the Lord manifesting in our vacant Freedom Worship Center. The Holy Spirit was present just as if the building was filled to seating capacity. One of my former mentors who has now passed heavenward would often say that the anointing makes all the difference. Whether the service be in a building or only Live Stream my prayer is that we continue ministering with the anointing.


It was very edifying to see just how many of my pastor friends took to Facebook live this day! Wouldn’t it be wonderful if this day of ministry sparked a global revival and evangelistic thrust with many accepting Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord? My wife, Teresa had much to say to me about this and sparked my mind to pondering just how much this could be a game changer for the church! Her excitement is so encouraging and this is the mentality that we should exhibit. Let’s not be down but let’s rise up for the challenge!

Two cautionary statements I would like to offer in closing my remarks. First, let’s not forget that many have not made the leap to the internet and do not know about Livestream, Facebook, or Instagram. Some state that Facebook is of the devil and that there is no good that can come from it. We must love all people and respect their beliefs. We should accept that this new method is not for everyone and seek ways to continue ministering to everyone we can. Second, many of our local churches rely upon tithes and offerings. Whereas the numbers on our Facebook post may be impressive they do not pay the bills. We must provide ways for people to worship the Lord in their giving. Our church has online giving available that is safe and secure. Again, not everyone will use this means of giving as it is dependent upon internet use. Delivering CDs of the worship service with tithing envelopes is one of the ways we are trying to assist our shut-in members during this time. We are also sharing our postal mail address with our members so they can mail in their gifts. Furthermore, we are utilizing email, postal mail, and our “One Call” phone tree to communicate to our members.

Please remember that our methods may change but our message remains the same. Jesus Christ died for sinners and all who call upon the Lord shall be saved!  Let’s continue spreading the Good News! Reach out to a shut-in today and let them know that they are loved and appreciated!  Let’s “BE” the church!




Coronavirus and the Local Church

Coronavirus 1While Scripture alone must be our sole source of faith and practice, it appears that we are in the midst of a pandemic identified as coronavirus (COVID-19) and it is affecting our places of worship. Many denominational leaders, pastors, and lay leaders are currently making statements and this is good. The local church should not remain silent. It is a time of concern but it should not be a time of fear. The Bible teaches that we should not fear but be strong and courageous during such times (Joshua 1:9).

In my opinion, we are witnessing a frenzy fueled by the media and political hype that if left unchecked will lead many into a “doomsday” mentality. Is the pandemic real? Absolutely. Should we be concerned? Absolutely. However, concern should not equate being anxious or living in fear (Philippians 4:6-7 and 2 Timothy 1:7).

Most every pastor is rethinking how to hold worship services, ministries, and fellowship gatherings. Many churches are known for their friendliness and loving congregations. To many the thought of no more “passing of the peace” or “meet and greet” is very alarming. What about Holy Communion? Do we refrain from certain practices that we rely upon as “means of grace” that are so essential to our faith? These are real struggles and there are no easy answers. However, we can enter the dialog, take proactive steps to protect our congregations, and at the same time continue engaging our communities with the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Below are some steps our local church and Christian daycare are taking at this stage of the US outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19):

  1. We are trusting God as the sovereign Creator, Redeemer, and Healer of human life;
  2. We are praying for those affected to be healed, wisdom for our President, Coronavirus Task Force, CDC officials, doctors, medical staff, and researchers;
  3. We are staying informed though our denominational leadership and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website;
  4. We are informing our congregation of the steps being taken during this season;
  5. We are making use of social media for shut-ins and those unable to attend worship services during this time including online giving tutorials;
  6. We are sanitizing our facilities including all surfaces and making alcohol based hand sanitizer more readily available;
  7. We are not (at this time) forsaking the assembling of ourselves. We are continuing our times of ministry, worship, and daycare hours of operation;
  8. We are moving toward friendly waves instead of hugs, handshakes, and fist bumps;
  9. We are offering the following practical suggestions to help stop the spread of germs:
  • Avoid close contact with sick people.
  • Limit contact with others if you are sick.
  • Cover nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing. Use a tissue or napkin, if possible, and throw it away. Help prevent the spread of germs by avoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds.

Instead of staying home we are encouraging everyone to “lean in” toward the fellowship of believers and continue our corporate worship of Jesus!

Our Sunday School classes are continuing to meet at 10 AM, our main celebration/worship service is meeting Sundays at 11 AM in the Freedom Worship Center, on Sunday evenings at 6 PM in the old sanctuary we are studying the Book of Daniel, and on Wednesdays at 7 PM we are studying the Book of Revelation in the fellowship hall. During this season we are seeking what the Bible has to say about the “End Times” and applying God’s Word to daily living.

Our youth ministries, outreach ministries, men’s fellowship, and Christian daycare are all following their normal schedule at this time and we are encouraging staying healthy and active in the local church!

In addition, we are seeking ways to minister to our community with an intentional outward focus to share the love of Jesus Christ. This is an opportunity for us to rise up as the Body of Christ and show the world that we care.  May the Lord bless you and keep you healthy!

The Gospel of John – Part Eight “Seventh Sign” Raising of Lazarus (John 11:1-45)

INTRODUCTION: This seventh sign/miracle shows the fulfillment of our Lord’s promise to all who believe in His name, as He called Lazarus out of the grave and restored him from death to life. This passage shows that even though Jesus knew Lazarus was sick He actually waited until Lazarus was dead and buried before He responded to his sisters’ request for help. He did this so He could bring Lazarus back to life. It is an unmistakable model of the resurrection power of God!

I. The Request (11:3). Mary and Martha were the sisters of Lazarus. They sent word to Jesus that his friend was sick. It is interesting that included in the request and recorded in John’s Gospel is the phrase “he whom You love is sick.” John refers to Himself as the disciple whom Jesus loved. It is almost as if John notices the importance of the friendship and doesn’t omit this detail.

II. The Reluctance (11:6). I would think that hearing the news that Lazarus whom was one that Jesus loved was sick that Jesus would sprint to the place where he lay. Not so. Jesus tarried and didn’t depart for two days. We know that the Holy Spirit was guiding Jesus and that there was a divine reason for the delay. It is true in our lives as well. Sometimes we get angry because of the delay but God is always on time! “He’s an on-time God… yes, He is!”

III. The Reassurance (11:40). By the time Jesus arrived Lazarus had been in dead four days. Mary and Martha had given up hope. Aaron Wilburn wrote the following: “Lord if you had been here You could have healed him; he’d still be alive. But You’re four days late and all hope is gone. Lord we don’t understand why You’ve waited so long. O, but His way is God’s way; not yours or mine. And isn’t it great that when He’s four days late He’s still on time.” The body of Lazarus was stinking and they had left him in the tomb. They had given up. All hope was gone as far as they were concerned. They did not realize that with Jesus hope is never gone! He wanted to know where the grave was. He wanted to know the place where they gave up? It is never a pretty. The Lord wants to know where we gave up. He wants us to show him where our efforts were not sufficient. He wants to see the place where our faith ran weak. In essence, He wants to know where the dead things in our lives have been placed (i.e. relationships, marriage, employment, education, family, etc.).

IV. The Resurrection (11:43-44). Mary and Martha believed in the resurrection and that their brother would be raised to life in the Last Day. What they failed to realize is that Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life!” The answer to their problem was Jesus. He is the answer to every problem. They just needed help in redirecting their faith to the present. “Now, faith is the….” It is a NOW thing! Do you want to see life now?

V. The Release (11:44). I have heard many preachers comment that if Jesus had not called the name of Lazarus then every dead person would have come forth. When Lazarus came out of the tomb the grave clothes had him bound. When Jesus brings things back to life we can expect that some people will want to keep the grave cloths on. We have to be willing to release the things that Jesus has brought back from the dead. They now have life! “Live and Let Live.”

CONCLUSION: It is fitting for this sign/miracle to be last as it symbolizes Jesus being raised from the dead. In this miracle, Jesus shows Himself as the Resurrection and the Life, and shows His power over death even before His own resurrection. There are similarities in the two resurrections (i.e. tomb, stone rolled away). The same power that raised Lazarus and Jesus from the dead will also raise those who believe in Jesus.

Eternal Security vs. Eternal Insecurity: Can One Lose His or Her Salvation?

First, we must understand this is a very controversial subject among believers.  We are called not to dis-unty but to be united as one body of believers “in Christ.”  When we arrive in heaven we will not see denominatinal camps spread abroad.  With this being said the aproach I take in this discussion is one of respect for all Bible believing Christians.  I do not post this in an attemp to solicit a doctrinal argument.  We can get nowhere by arguing our doctrinal beliefs but there are no boundaries as we agree in love that we do not all understand or interpret the Scriptures the same.  In this blog, I am going to present my personal understanding of Salvation.  In doing so, I am in no way stating that I do not appreciate other positions.  I write primarily in response to someone who asked me what I believe on this subject.  Included are my thoughts and notes which are not meant to be an exhaustive study on the subject.

What I have discovered along my journey is that there are basically two extremes.  First, some believe it is impossible for one to ever lose his or her salvation after truly being saved.  When someone is in apparent sin and refuses to be reconciled with God those of this extreme usually are quick to say, “the person must have never truly accepted Christ as Lord and Savior.”  That is a very easy position to take and in my opinion puts to much responsibility on the person who seeks to be saved.  Also, it seems to throw the unrepentant sinner “under the bus.”  Second, there are those who believe the extreme that if the person who has been saved does not live a “holy” life he or she can lose his or her salvation by any sin.  This seems to promote fear instead of faith.  One final comment on these two extremes before we move on to a more positive thread of thought.  I do not believe in eternal security, nor do I believe in eternal insecurity.

The Bible teaches that salvation, being born again, is necessary for a person to see the Kingdom of God, receive eternal life, forgiveness of sins, and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and to become a child of God, and joint heir with Christ.  It is also clear that salvation is to be received by faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ for the atonement of the individual sins, including a turning from sin and the self-centered life (repentance) and turning over the Lordship of one’s life to Jesus Christ.  Salvation is also totally by God’s grace.  He elects, predestines, calls, justifies, sanctifies, and glorifies every true believer (John 3:3 and 3:23, Romans 8:29 and 10:13, Ephesians 2:8-9, 1 John 1:9 and 1:12).

Yes, one can lose his or her salvation.  This is not God’s desire.  He is not willing that any would perish but all come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).  The subject of losing one’s salvation is often referred to as “backsliding” or “falling from grace.”  Backsliding is when a believer turns back to sin and ignors the conviction of the Holy Spirit.  In doing so he or she is reversing the repentance and turning his or her back toward God.  Backsliding is closely aligned with carnality in that one’s desires and devices are acted out as oppossed to God’s will (1 Corinthians 3:3, Proverbs 14:14).  There is often much deception from the adversary (devil) to the point where the backslider may actually believe he of she is in right standing with God.  The outward actions of someone who is in a backsliden state are just symptoms of a heart problem where he or she has alienated himself or herself from God.  God never abandons a believer.  However, a believer can abandon God (Isaiah 55:7, Hosea 14:4, Luke 15:17-18, 1 John 1:9, Revelation 2:4-5).  God does not condemn us; our own wickedness and backsliding do that (Jeremiah 2:19).  Neither did Jesus come to condemn us as He came to save that which was lost and give life abundantly (Luke 19:10, John 10:10).

Personally, I have experieced grace beyond measure.  The Lord has never walked away or has ever cast me away.  Time after time, I have experienced the love of Jesus as the Holy Spirit has drawn me closer during seasons I have strayed.  How do we keep from being decieved and backsliding.  The answer for me is prayer.  Paul taught that we are to pray at all times.  I don’t believe that means we are to be knelt down on 24-hours a day as religious fanatics but I do think it means being in the presence of Christ at all times with an attitude of prayer.  It is an ongoing conversation of which our lives are dependent.  One of my favorite studies is the Old Testament Tabernacle.  Those who have sat under my teaching of the Tabernacle realize the importance I place on being inside the Tabenacle.  There is no substitute for being “in Christ.”  I choose to continue abiding in Him (Luke 15:6).  Therefore, I believe one can lose his or her salvation but it is a matter of his or her choice and not the will of God.

My hope is for you to allow the Holy Spirit to guide you and teach you.  Here are a few  Scriptures for consideration:

2 Chronicles 30:9 – Grace assured at repentance
Psalm 32:1 and 145:14 – Blessed and upheld in the Lord
Isaiah 43:18-19 and 44:22 – Old things are gone the new redeems
Matthew 3:1-2 and 10:32-33 – By repentance and confession
John 3:17 – No condemnation in Jesus
Romans 6:23 – gift
Ephesians 2:8-9 – gift
2 Timothy 1:9 – gift

Marriage is a Biblical Institution not a Supreme Court Institution

WeddingRingsMarriage was instituted by God at creation.  It should be noted that the family is God’s plan for humanity and it is a creation ordinance.  Unlike, Mosaic ordinances or other redemptive ordinances, creation ordinances apply to every individual.  That being said, there is therefore no distinguishing between a biblical marriage and a non-biblical marriage.  Marriage is a biblical institution and not a U.S. Supreme Court institution.  I join with many who are disappointed with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision.  It is with this premise that I speak on the subject of marriage.  From the beginning marriage was a relationship between one man and one woman that brought mutual companionship, procreation, and pleasure.  Yes, I said pleasure.  God created marriage and it is meant to be a holy estate which brings glory to God.  Sadly, there appears to be much self-seeking, vainglory concerning marriage today.  This is evidenced by the recent action taken by the U.S. Supreme Court.  Please do not misunderstand me…  I love my country, all the people in it, respect our leaders, and I believe it is still the best country in the world.  I am proud to be an American!  It is as a God-fearing American I speak.

How did marriage come about?  After God created man, all the other created beings were brought before the man, Adam. He named each of them.  After a survey of all the created beings Adam found none that were after his kind.  No suitable help meet was found.  God had created man uniquely “in His image.”[1]  So, God caused Adam to sleep and from his side God took a rib and made woman.  This was the very first marriage which was God’s gift to humanity and originally meant to bring glory to God.  Because of sin marriage has been tarnished and it is recognizable that not everyone that enters into marriage is in right relationship with God.  For our theological understanding it is imperative that one understands the centrality of Christ in the marriage.  Christ is essential!  The essentials of a healthy marriage are a relationship with Christ, communication and commitment.

Genesis records the following: “And Adam said: ‘This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.’ Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:23-24).  Man took one wife and they became one flesh.  Adam was given a companion after his own kind.  Thus we see, marriage is an institution that was created by God that was primarily meant to provide companionship.  This companionship would grow and be the means by which God meant to reproduce humanity through procreation.

After God created Adam and made Eve from his rib and the dust of the ground He gave them a commandment to procreate, have children.  “Then God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Genesis 1:28).  This dominion mandate was given to the man and the woman.  One of the joys of the marital relationship is the fulfillment of this mandate.

When the marriage is consummated through intercourse the bond between husband and wife takes on a new and exciting aspect as sexual emotions have been allowed to manifest within the will of God and the boundary of holy matrimony.  God’s gift of human sexuality should not become an idol and risk diverting one’s affection from the gift-giver to the gift.  God’s desire is for the husband and wife to have pleasure and to recognize that it is God’s blessing upon their union.  It should be noted that God created sex and therefore it is good.  To withhold sexual relations with one’s spouse is unbiblical unless it meets certain criteria as Paul addressed the Corinthians:

“Now concerning the things of which you wrote to me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman.  Nevertheless, because of sexual immorality, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband.  Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband.  The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.  Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.  But I say this as a concession, not as a commandment” (1 Corinthians 7:1-6).

When a person’s God given sex drive is given over to sinful living the ramifications can far exceed one’s control.  Marriage should be the safeguard for an individual to utilize his or her sex drive in a godly manner within the bound of marriage.  If physical intimacy is withheld the temptation for adultery will soon appear and apart from the grace of God, the marriage covenant can become tarnished by impure thoughts.  Such impure thoughts are the seedbed of which adultery may spring up and its bad fruit may destroy the marriage.  When adultery takes place it is a violation of the marriage covenant made between husband and wife and God.  Certainly, the gift of sex has been tarnished through sinful humanity’s abuse.  And as a result there are often emotional and psychological challenges that couple face.  However, procreation is a vital purpose of marriage and sexual intercourse is essential in a healthy marriage.  Even if the couple is not able to have children the roles of husband and wife are actualized through sexual intimacy and given opportunity to manifest God’s love from the heart.

Communication is essential when it comes to marriage.  Lack of communication gives room for problems.  There should be mutual respect between the husband and wife.  The husband is the functional head of the home but he may not be more spiritual.  The woman brings to the marriage certain qualities just as the man brings to the marriage certain qualities.  Good communication enables the couple to meet each other’s needs and desires.  If there are problems within the marriage good communication is the means by which problems are addressed and resolutions discussed.  Paul taught the following concerning marriage:

“Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.  For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body.  Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.  Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.  So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself.  For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church.  For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones.  “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”  This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.  Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband” (Ephesians 5:22-33).

In conclusion, everything a Christian does needs to be bathed in prayer, especially the consideration of marriage.  As Scripture teaches, “Unless the LORD builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; unless the LORD guards the city, the watchman stays awake in vain” (Psalm 127:1).  Marriage is a covenant between one man, one woman and God.  Vows are made not only to each other but also to God.  As is often mentioned at weddings, Jesus blessed marriage Himself with His presence and performing His first public miracle of turning the water into wine at the wedding in Cana of Galilee (John 2:1-11).  Physical intimacy is only biblically acceptable when it is within the bounds of the marriage covenant.  Marriage is a holy estate, instituted by God at creation.  It is meant to be a life-long covenant between one man, one woman and God.  Its purpose is to provide companionship, procreation and pleasure to the husband and wife as they seek to glorify God through the holy estate of matrimony.

As a licensed and ordained minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ within the NC Conference International Pentecostal Holiness Church I will not change nor accept any other definition of marriage than that which is recorded in God’s Holy Word, the Bible.  I am grateful for the leadership of the IPHC and especially our presiding Bishop Dr. A. D. Beacham, Jr. who states the following:

“I join with millions of Americans in expressing my disappointment in the U.S. Supreme Court decision. They have made law something that is contrary to God’s will. The IPHC position on marriage is clear and we will not abandon revealed truth in God’s Word. As our society experiences the increasing problems that will unfold in our rapidly decaying moral foundation, it is our opportunity as followers of Jesus to be His light and salt in our society. We will not respond to this in fear, but in holy boldness to re-consecrate our lives to Christ, showing His love to all and manifesting the blessings of His righteousness to all.”

For more information regarding the IPHC position on the recent U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on marriage please visit:

[1] (Hebrew: צֶלֶם אֱלֹהִים‎‎; tzelem elohim or Latin:  imago dei).

Tragedy in Charleston


This week has been very troubling to my wife, Teresa, and I as we heard the news of nine worshipers of Jesus being killed in cold blood at Emanuel African American Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC.  My wife heard the news first and told me.  Then she said, “I remember when we went to that church and were amazed at its history.”  Among those killed was the beloved pastor Rev. Clementa Pinckney who was dedicated to reaching ones such as his assassin with the love of Christ.  Sadly, a new page has been added to the church’s history and it is a very tragic one.  It is my hope churches will pause this Sunday morning and pray for the families grieving and for healing of the wounds caused by this and countless other hate crimes which have occurred in this great nation.  It has been said that time has a way of healing many wounds.  Perhaps there is some truth to that way of thinking.  However, if the massacre at Charleston teaches us anything it is the healing that is needed in regard to the wounds created by the travesty of American Slavery amidst the African Americans cannot be expected to happen just with the passing of time.  True, as generations come and go, we are being further removed from the horrors of our past.  However, the scars are still visible and the pain continues to linger.  Just ask one of the family members who lost their loved one due to a racial hate crime.  All Americans are not racist!  However, racism still exists in America and we must acknowledge there is much work to be done.  I do not write to outline an answer to this dilemma.  Nor, do I claim to know the extent of the pain associated with American slavery and its ongoing effects on African Americans.  However, I cannot remain silent on an issue that I feel so strongly about.  I have many friends who are African American and the thought of one being targeted in such a cowardly act of violence like that which occurred at Emmanuel AME Church because the color of his or her skin is very upsetting.  Over the years, I have heard African Americans labeled, referred to as, and called by many different derogatory names.  Some of the names might appear to be appropriate and accepted in society as politically correct.  However, many names for African Americans have been used in a derogatory fashion or in an outright demonstration of hate.  Jesus taught against such hate and discord.  Let’s recall His instruction, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and strength and love your neighbor as yourself.”  The question arises…  “Who is my neighbor?”  Is an African American the neighbor of an Anglo?  Is the African American the neighbor of the Hispanic?  Is the African American the neighbor of the Oriental?  The answer is, absolutely!  We live in a day that celebrates our differences and yet many are still being affected by racism.  One cannot deny that America is a multi-cultural and multi-racial society.  My hope and prayer is we will see one man’s dream lived out in every American neighborhood!


Online Learning vs. Traditional Classroom

The traditional classroom has been a sacred environment for many students.  It is understandable that many students might not welcome online learning especially if he or she has never experienced online learning.  I write to shed light on the subject of online learning in hope that those engaged in online learning might excel.  When there is understanding and order online learning can be as systematic as in the traditional classroom.  Within the traditional classroom there is interaction among classmates as well as useful dialog between student and professor.  Both the group discussion and open dialog is helpful on a collaborative level as well as individually.  The traditional classroom provides a tactile environment where the participants can jump into and actually experience in the physical the synergy of group involvement.  The inner-action with others is vital.  We are relational beings and online learning does not remove our need to interact with others.  On the contrary, online learning releases us as Christians to share with more people the gospel and to be used to bring glory to God.  If we as learners do not engage others online we will miss one of the greatest opportunities to advance the Kingdom of God.  One’s concept of learning might be simplistic and limited to a structure that people meet weekly for a lecture, encouragement, fellowship, etc.  However, in our post-modern culture the concept many have accepted is the church is constantly evolving and the internet is vital for promotion.  If the church is evolving and accepting the opportunities online then church leaders must embrace the change head-on.  One of the ways this is possible is through online learning.  We can find comfort in that God does not change but humanity continues to advance technologically and socially.  As a result we must not only accept the challenges ahead but fully embrace the opportunity to engage in online learning.  One of the ways colleges ask students to engage online learning is through what is called “Blackboard.”  “Blackboard” is the name of a portal of learning made available to students enrolled in a specific course.  This online experience allows the student to work according to a professor’s timeline or if allowed at one’s on pace.  Today, a combination of “Blackboard” and modular week classroom time is made available to many masters and doctoral students.  This combination allows the student to gain the benefits of online learning without abandoning the formal classroom experience completely.  The modular week classroom experience is essential not only for the transfer of information gained through lecture but because relationships are solidified to the point of a more personal level of online sharing.

Thoughts on Prayer: Hearing God’s Voice

It is vital that we pray for our ministries and those in leadership especially those serving on the mission field.  It has been said that prayer is when we talk to God and meditation is when he speaks to us.  I suppose that makes sense to a point.  I would like to suggest prayer is dialog between God and his own.  If so, then we could say the conversation we have with God is our relationship with him.  Some skeptics might question whether or not we can actually hear the voice of God (either audibly or inaudibly).  The Bible teaches we can hear the voice of God.  When the Jews were trying to get Jesus to prove that he was the Messiah he responded, “…How long dost thou make us to doubt?  If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly.  Jesus answered them, I told you, and ye believed not: the works that I do in my Father’s name, they bear witness of me.  But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you.  My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.  My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.  I and my Father are one” (John 10:24-30 KJV).  If we are his sheep we can hear the voice of our Good Shepherd!  To go a step further for our consideration of prayer we can examine how this actually takes place.  If we are “born again” we have the Spirit of God living within us and therefore we are his.   As Paul teaches, “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you.  Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.  And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.  But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you” (Romans 8:9-11 KJV).  If the Holy Spirit resides within the regenerated believer (and he does) then it makes sense that the voice of God would come from within and not externally.  However, God could speak internally or externally because he is God!  God speaking to us does not necessarily have to be heard from our outer ear and travel inward.  We can hear the voice of God from within.  The key is to be able to discern his voice.  As sheep we should be able to recognize his voice.  Here is a hint…  It is the voice of love, grace, and forgiveness.  I do believe it is essential to apply Paul’s teaching on prayer in Ephesians 6 to our lives and pray on “The Whole Armor of God.”  Jesus is everything we need and without him we are doomed.

Take-Away Notes from Dr. Joseph Umidi’s “Confirming the Pastoral Call: A Guide to Matching Candidates and Congregations”

Introduction: The Whirlwind Romance

Pastor Steve had resigned his church of sixty-five members.  After months of praying and seeking a new pastorate hope came in an invitation to preach in a country church.  The church had experienced a sudden loss as the pastor accepted a mega church position.  The church attendance was weekly declining.  The former pastor had helped the church grow from 80 to 320 almost overnight.  However, the attendance had now dropped to 120.  When Pastor Steve received the invite he was elated.  He went and preached two anointed sermons, one on Sunday morning and another that evening.  The board met that night and voted unanimously to extend the call for Pastor Steve to come as pastor.  Pastor Steve was energized the next morning and like “a bucket of ice water on a summer beach” Dr. Umidi brought to his attention an important truth.  “… long term relationships are not built on infatuation.  The relationship between a pastor and a church is built upon the bonding of common values” (Umidi, 7).  It takes patience but it is necessary to wait for God to confirm the call.  The call from a church is only an invitation.  It is essential that a pastor has experienced a “divine call.”  Without a “divine call” from God the pastor will not be able to withstand the demands involved in kingdom advancement.  One cannot be self called or others called.  Sometimes it is assumed that the associate pastor will step into the role of a vacated pastor.  This can sometimes be a “serious mismatch.”

The pastoral candidate needs confirmation before accepting any new role.  Umidi states, “… an honest look at how your experience, personality, abilities, and expectations fit a particular organization and role it the most fundamental step you can take to protect yourself and your family from being ‘eaten alive.’  State in a more positive way, a deliberate and thoughtful consideration of your ‘fit’ within an organization and position increases your chances of finding a church where your gifts and vision can soar”  (Umidi, 9).  Confirming the call takes effort, time, and patience.

Part 1:  A Time for Relationship Renewal

Chapter 1 – Matches Not Made in Heaven

One is six Protestant ministers quit each year.  This equates to the number of men that attended the historic 1996 Promise Keepers Conference in Atlanta, Ga. (approximately 50,000).  Umidi makes the case in this book the reason for many short-term pastors is because of “mismatching” pastors and congregations.  There are both toxic churches and toxic pastors.  Some churches are unhealthy and have conflict issues that are unresolved.  When a new pastor arrives at such a church he or she may find difficult days ahead because conflict is already present.  Some pastors are poor leaders and bring to the church problems.

Chapter 2 – Leaving and Cleaving

When a pastor unexpectedly resigns it can be very difficult and emotional for the congregation.  Before a search for a new pastor can begin in a healthy way there needs to be a healthy closure to the former pastor’s leadership.  One of the ways this can be done is through an exit interview.  This is a meeting between the outgoing pastor and lay leaders.  Prayer, praise, and scripture reading are essential for this meeting and it helps sets a positive tome.  When the pastor is gone it is important that the lay leaders lead in regular times of corporate prayer and that the congregation is informed of the search for a new pastor.  This can provide assurance to the congregation that the church is one the right track.

Part 2:  Models and Methods for the Church

Chapter 3 – Search Committees: Choosing the Right People

Questions for Selecting a Search Committee:

1)  Who in the church has a worthy track record in recruiting the right workers, lay leaders, or staff members?

2)  Who in the church has experience in hiring, managing personnel, or consulting in the business or educational community?

3)  Who in the church has experience counseling or mentoring clergy and their spouses?  4)  Who understands the unique pressures and dynamics in a minister’s family?

5)  Who in the church has demonstrated spiritual sensitivity and giftedness in prayer or discernment?

6)  Who in the church is gifted in setting priorities, managing time, and attending to details in the collection and preparation of information?  These skills will be important for collecting and evaluating reports from denominational leaders, other church search committees, past church references on candidates, and other sources of important data in the committee’s search.

7)  Who in the church understands the need and methodology for developing a church profile that articulates the church’s core values and expectations?

Having a seasoned interim pastor is beneficial but there should be a clear understanding between the church and the interim pastor in regard to this position.  Normally, the interim pastor is not considered as a candidate.

Chapter 4 – Your Church Profile: Clarifying Core Values

Core values answer the question what are we doing?  Pastors often spend more time marketing that defining the church’s core values.  Some pastors do not take the necessary time to discover and define the core values.  It is hard work that is sometimes replaced with church planting.  In church plant the leader can define the core values in the beginning.

Chapter 5 – Heart Issues:  Determining Your Church’s Readiness for Change

There is often resistance to change and when a new pastor comes to a church that is a major change.  As a new pastor in a church it is important to find out how new proposals are generally handled.  We cannot pour new wine into old wineskins.  Only new wineskins will be able to hold new wine.  Understanding who the key influencers are is essential because they are the ones who folks will follow until the new leader becomes influential.  Conducting a truthful self-study will enable the pulpit search committee to look for the right person.  This is a foundational point that should not be overlooked.

Chapter 6 – Integrity: Confirming the Candidates Character

Key Issues That Every Church Must Examine in a Potential Leader:

1) Look for Character Signs That Reveal the Issues of the Heart

Character Signs that Reveal a Leaders Heart:

  • Family
  • Speech Patterns
  • Money
  • Suffering
  • Time

2)  Assess the Candidate’s Vitality in Key Areas of Spiritual Health

  • Worship
  • Prayer
  • Word of God

3)  Check References Thoroughly

According to Umidi, “Glossing over the reference process can be a disastrous mistake.”   Robert W. Dingman suggests several reasons why we fall into this trap:

  1. Christians are inclined to believe the best about other people – especially
    spiritual leaders.
  2. The search committee and the candidate both put their best foot forward
    and tend to conceal their flaws and limitations.
  3. Good reference checking takes time, courage, and some skill.
  4. Search committee members often place too much confidence in their ability to ‘read people’ or to get spiritual ‘impressions’ about the candidates (Umidi, 57).

Further Elaboration Concerning Reference Checking Points from Dingman:

  • We have produced a culture of gullibility within the church.
  • Someone must initiate transparency and vulnerability so we can ‘get everything on the table.’
  • Recruit someone on your committee who will have the courage to ask probing questions, and who has the time and skill to follow up on all references.
  • Committee members should avoid ‘Thus saith the Lord’ proclamations to one another.

Chapter 7 – Relationships: Identifying the Candidate’s People Skills

The pastoral search committee should inquire about the candidate’s people skills.  Conflict is inevitable in church leadership.  How does the candidate handle conflict?  How important is mentorship in the candidate’s life?  What are some of the specific benefits the candidate can expound upon regarding his or her relationship with a mentor?  Finishing well is a challenge for many leaders.  What are some the ways that the candidate has finished well in the past?

Part 3:  Models and Methods for the Candidate

Chapter 8 – Dangerous Dating Delusions

It is important that the pastor and the search committee keep realistic expectations in mind.  The temptation is for the pastor to be impressed with the first glimpse of a church like “Cinderella.”  Likewise, the church can easily be swayed by the pastor as he or she appeals to them like a “Prince Charming.”  The temptation might be for the pastor to seek ways to impress the church because he needs the job.  Likewise, the church may want to impress the pastor in the attempt to lure him or her into the position.  It is vital for the pastor and the search committee be devoted to prayer and that each remain open to the leading of the Spirit.  Otherwise, it maybe infatuation or lust which drives their decisions.

Chapter 9 – Know Thyself: Lust or Love?

Whenever a pastor is considered for a church he or she should “bring his or her life before the Lord – as His servant.  And pray, pray, pray!”  It is important that one know his or her temperament, personality type, and skills.  The pastoral search committee will most likely want to know about these and they will be key to a successful match.

Chapter 10 – Interviewing: Getting Past the Mating Rituals

Some churches would reject the most qualified leaders because they are not willing to be realistic.  Umidi humorously brings this to light when he mentions a pastoral search committee that rejected leaders in the Bible from Noah to Jesus.  Some search committees will not even consider candidates who are not currently in a position.  Having a resume’ is essential.  Having one’s experience and skills listed will help the committee see what the candidate has been doing up to the present.

Chapter 11 – Leadership Matching for the Twenty-First Century

There are many qualified and gifted pastors/leaders.  However, there also exist some who are not qualified applying for and being interviewed as pastoral candidates.  With all the resources available there are still some unqualified pastors that make it through the “cracks.”  Umidi states, “As we step into the new millennium in ministry, we propose five structural solutions to help the body of Christ increase its number of successful, healthy church leadership/ministry partnerships.  These will require shifting the standard training paradigms and empowering the pioneers who are willing to explore unchartered territory” (Umidi, 101).

Five Structural Solutions:

  • Start Ministry Before Ministry training.
  • Link Emerging Leaders with School and Church Partnerships During Training and Matching.
  • Link Matched Leaders with Area Wide Co-Mentors During the First Year.
  • New Strategies for Churches to Raise Up Their Own Leadership.
  • The Case for “Arranged Marriages.”

Easter Reflections

Two weeks before Easter, on Sunday, April 14, 1991, I felt the Holy Spirit’s invitation for me to repent and accept Jesus Christ, the risen Son of God as my personal Lord and Savior.  A year later I began experiencing the call to preach God’s Word.  Surrendering to that call was not easy.  For over a year I struggled.  I knew nothing about the Bible and was not raised in church.  That was my argument and it was totally focused on my works and not God’s power.  In 1993, I did surrender, accepted the call to preach and began my studies at Emmanuel College in Franklin Springs, Georgia.  Since 1993, I have come to know the One that I call Savior better each day as I have follow Him through the pages of the Bible.  During my studies at Emmanuel I ran across a small paperback book written by the late Bishop Joseph A. Synan.  Each year around Easter I pull Synan’s book from my bookshelf and reread a section that helps keep my focus on Him.  I hope that you will be blessed as I have been by these words:

I trust that all of us have had experiences similar to what I am going to speak of briefly, and I’m sure that we have.  I have followed Him from His manger in Bethlehem to His cross on Calvary, and to the tomb in the garden, and to the morning of resurrection, and to the tomb in the garden, and to the morning of ascension, and have loved and admired and appreciated Him all the way.  I have seen Him seized by lawless men after having been betrayed by a friend.  I have seen Him spit upon, blindfolded and smitten by slaves.  I have seen Him scourged with cruel thongs until His back was a maze of bruises and stripes and blood.  I’ve seen Him crowned with thorns and mocked by the soldiers.  I’ve seen Him driven along the cobble-stone streets of Jerusalem, out through the gray stone gate and up the hill of Calvary.  I’ve seen Him lifted up on the cross, and mocked and jeered by the passing throng.  I’ve seen Him when the sun was draped in darkness and the mountain trembled and the graves were opened, and the veil in the temple was rent in twain from top to bottom.  I’ve seen Him forsaken of men and outcast by the world, and I’ve heard His lonely agonizing cry in the dark: “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”’

And as I’ve seen Him, the embodiment of absolute purity, innocence, holiness and goodness, thus treated by men, I have felt in my heart drawn in an affinity of love and loyalty that made me feel as I followed Him through all those scenes of suffering that I wanted to love Him and be loyal to Him forever.  And I reached this conclusion that, if this life were all, if the grave marked the end of Jesus of Nazareth, and if it should mark the end of me, I would still rather be indentified with a man like Him than anybody else that I have ever met or read or heard or known of in this world.

But I’m thankful that the grave didn’t mark the end for Him, and that it will not be the end for us; but that He has gone through and come out on the side of immortal glory, and that He will lead us through and bring us out into worlds of life and strength.  And that, in the meantime, having been here and gone away, He is just as truly our friend and our Savior yonder in glory as when He was here, and He will be coming back again.  We can’t preach anything greater; we can’t preach anything more fascinating, anything more winning, than to preach Jesus Christ, the Son of God and the Savior of the world.

Synan, Bishop Joseph A. The Good Minister of Jesus Christ, (The Publishing House Pentecostal Holiness Church: Franklin Springs, Georgia), 1950, 49-50.


Dr. Denning’s biblical teaching and pastoral ministry spans twenty years. He is licensed and ordained through the NC Conference International Pentecostal Holiness Church. Currently, he serves as a full-time lead pastor within the NC Conference. He is a clinic-certified teacher/trainer through Evangelism Explosion International, certified teacher through the Evangelical Training Association, and certified coach through Lifeforming Leadership Coaching. He holds two undergraduate degrees from Emmanuel College, a Master of Divinity degree from Erskine Theological Seminary, and a Doctor of Ministry degree from Regent University. He is a member of The Society of Pentecostal Studies, The Society of Pastoral Theology, American Academy of Religion, and Bikers for Christ Motorcycle Ministry. He and his wife, Teresa, currently reside in Greenville, NC.

Christian Leadership: Quantity vs. Quality

We can dream and set goals but do not know what the future holds.  One of my goals is to pass on to others what I have learned in life and in ministry.  Through contemplative reflection I have arrived at a fallacy which at times I stumble as if I were its prey.  I was saved April 14th, 1991 at age twenty-six.  I answered the call to preach God’s Word in 1993.  I graduated from Emmanuel College in Franklin Springs, GA with an Associate of Arts and a Bachelor of Arts, I graduated from Erskine Theological Seminary in Due West, SC with a Master of Divinity, and now I am completing my Doctor of Ministry at Regent University.  The fallacy is twofold.  First, “I” had little to do with any of those accomplishments.  If it were not for the grace and power of God none of these things would have taken place.  Second, a person’s age and academic accomplishments may equate quantity but they do not equate quality.

Each time I enter a new season of learning my heart is full of gratitude and my mind is full of fear.  The passage that comes to mind is the Kenosis passage in Philippians.  After presenting to us the example of Jesus, Paul writes, “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed — not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence — continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose” (Philippians 2:12-13 NIV).  As we embark on new phases of the journey…  I think it is accurate to say that we are now taking steps down a “road less traveled.”  For me, the work continues with fear and trembling.

Christian leadership is not achieved by through academia alone.  This week I have been reflecting on Nouwen.  He discovered the meaning of Christian leadership in his movement from Harvard to L’Arche.  There he learned that his many years of experience meant little or nothing.  What really mattered was his love for God demonstrated actively as he ministered to those at the Daybreak community.  Nouwen was working out his own salvation with reverence, respect, and humility.  As he partnered with a man named Bill he learned the power of discipleship as the Holy Spirit guides.

Friends, the studies we pursue will most likely be used to bless people that will be counting on us.  We can put our nose to the grinding wheel and succeed with high marks but if we lose the simplicity of the gospel message we will have utterly failed.  As we journey together to know the heart of Jesus, we must always keep before us His question, “Do you love me?”  The temptation may be great to take the road which leads to being relevant, spectacular, or powerful but the higher road of humility will take us closer to God’s heart.

Book Review – Alan Hirsch’s “The Forgotten Ways: Reactivating the Missional Church”

This is a great book and one which I will be revisiting as I work on my dissertation.  Hirsch has helped my perspective of the church as an organism and reintroduced the organizational and/or organism structure which will definitely help me as a doctor of the church.  The church grew from 25,000 Christians in AD 100 to 20 million in AD 310 just before the time of Constantine.  Hirsch presents this thought and question, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single question… How did they do that?  The purpose of the book is to answer this question in such a way as to provide a solution to the struggle between the modern church and the postmodern church.  According to Hirsch the solution is in what he termed “Apostolic Genius.”  The Apostolic Genius is the unique energy and force which has influenced historic Jesus movements.  According to Hirsch God has imparted six elements to every church which makes up its missional DNA (mDNA) as a living organism.  Five elements (missional incarnation impulse, apostolic environment, discipleship making, organic systems, and communitas) are viewed with the Christocentric theology that Jesus is Lord in the center and the elements growing out from Him (See page 275 for diagram).  Each element has an effect on the others and activates the “Apostolic Genius.”  As a pastor it is easy for me to follow the pattern or structure of other local churches or other pastors.  As a future doctor of the church and from what I have learned from Hirsch’s book I have a fresh understanding that the church is an organism with and how it grows does not necessary meet our preconceived structures.  This is exciting because the church is alive as a movement and growing in such ways to be the Body of Christ that is needed for this day.

Local Church Problem Solving: Deductive Method vs. Inductive Method

Sure seems like there is much thinking going on in the Christian academic world these days.  I believe Christian scholars, have been challenged to pick up a “new pair of glasses” and gain a fresh perspective at research.  On the surface it appears the deductive method is not as plausible as the inductive method.  If one takes the deductive approach then he or she has to come to the project with a preset theory to prove correct or incorrect.  On the other hand, if he or she takes the inductive method then there will be the gathering and analyzing of data which will aid in the formulation of a theory.  The latter approach is the one I like best but I do believe it will be more difficult to put into practice.  Who among us has already come up with a theory regarding a problematic issue within the church?  I am guilty.  I have some preconceived ideas and theories when it comes to how to bring about revitalization to the local church.  The trouble is every local congregation is unique and has its own “DNA.”  Therefore, there must be some aspects of deductive research involved in order to gain insight of a local church.  Again, it is a matter of blending the two or at least employing the two.

I recently thought of a Bible which I purchased several years ago which was titled, “The International Inductive Study Bible.”  What fascinated me most at first glance was the study aids included.  The editors had gone to great lengths to demonstrate how the inductive approach to Bible study works.  It involved much observation and then it challenged the reader to come up with the themes, headings, topics, etc.  After purchasing the Bible, I went home and pulled out my colored pencils and I was very excited as I dove in to the inductive world of study.  It was not long before I realized this involved much hard work!  I wish I could report how much I learned from my time of inductive studying the Bible.  What I can say is it made me appreciate more the topical headings in our English Bibles! Someone did the hard work for us.  When it comes to the inductive method being employed in our research, it, too, will mean hard work.  There will be observation, studying, and prescribing the right “pill” to solve problems in the local church.  However, it will be worth the effort when the theory surfaces in the end and we have a solution.  And this is the goal, to have solutions for church problems.  If we come to a problem with the answer in hand we are not really advancing our cause as far as research goes.  We will be able to confirm we have an answer which worked.  This is not bad and it will help the church.  Our challenge is to demonstrate we are capable of research and to this end the inductive method, in my opinion, is the best method.  At this point, all options are still open including the famous “blend.”

Book Review – William D, Romanowski’s “Eyes Wide Open: Looking for God in Popular Culture”

Romanowski uses the term “Hollywood” to reference to all secular popular arts and Christian (even though it is a broad term) in reference to the arts which reflect Christian values.  The observation of Romanowski is many Christians fail to appreciate the popular arts unless it has the Christian stamp of approval upon it.  However, there are some popular arts which seem to trump this standard if “everyone else is partaking.”  The postmodern culture in America is reflected in the popular arts and if we do not critically engage in the popular arts we risk not reaching the unbelievers with the Gospel.  Engaging in the popular arts provides the opportunity to appreciate all the arts and to break down the barriers between the secular and the sacred.  If we do not engage in popular arts then we will limit telling the Gospel from our perspective.  If we do engage in the popular arts then we can speak from what is known as a platform to share what is unknown which is Jesus.  When Christians engage in the production of popular arts we can better glorify God through the arts.  What I have gained from this reading is the motivation to engage the popular arts with a renewed passion.  I must understand the culture in order to help people and ultimately share the Gospel.  Like it has been said, “We cannot redeem that which we reject.”  If I reject every popular art which is not Christian then I risk alienating myself from the culture and thus alienating myself from the people I am called to reach.

Ministry Interventions for Local Church Revitalization

As a whole, local churches are experiencing growth in numbers and folks seem to be growing spiritually.  As a pastor, I would rather have a good core group of folks who are spiritually mature and walking upright with the Lord over a large number of people who are spiritually immature.  Can I get an Amen?  That is not to say I would not like a large number of people because numbers represent souls!  It is my hope to see congregations revitalized.  Some folks say we need to pray for revival.  I agree.  It is my view at this point in my journey that revival is taking place right this moment.  The Lord is bringing about hope, healing, and restoration and my desire is to focus in and facilitate revitalization.  The goal is local church revitalization.  This is problematic because not all churches are the same (i.e., different DNA, demographics, rural, urban, etc.).  What may be described as revitalization at one church might not be considered such at a church fifteen or thirty miles away.  Revitalization cannot be measured in totality by looking at other churches in comparison.  However, there are some common factors which contribute to revitalization of the local church.  We must look at numbers and raw data but we must also look at how lives have been changed as a result of our ministry interventions.  Studying a local congregation from the past is essential in order to best determine how to administer the proper intervention (i.e., the “pill”).  And after the “pill” is digested there has to be a measure of its productivity (paradigms) and the overall spiritual health of the congregation.  Therefore, most successful methods will most likely be those of a hybrid nature.  Hopefully, congregations will experience growth in numbers and in spiritual maturity of its individual members.  Of this result, I am a believer!

Website Built with

Up ↑