Author Archives: wheelsms

How can a dying church become healthy again?

challies-sidebarOn October 20, Tim Challies had a post from Thom Rainer entitled, “7 Reasons Some Churches Experience Revitalization (While Others Don’t).” In the post, Rainer says,

I recently categorized those reasons some churches experience revitalization. I then compared them to churches that have not been revitalized. I found seven differences between the two sets of churches. These are the seven traits unique to the revitalized churches:

  1. The leaders and members faced reality. One of the reasons most churches don’t experience revitalization is their unwillingness to “look in the mirror.” Denial leads to decline which leads to death.
  2. Many in the church began explicitly praying for God to revitalize the church. I know of a leadership group in one church that prayed every week for over two years. The church is now in true revitalization.
  3. The churches had an explicit and clear focus on the gospel. Preaching became clearly gospel-centered. Ministries became gospel-centered. And many members began intentionally sharing the gospel, which brings me to the next reason.
  4. Members did not just talk evangelism; they did evangelism. I did not see a specific approach or methodology to share the gospel in these congregations. It was clear, however, that there was a more focused intentionality on sharing Christ than in many previous years.
  5. Many members in these churches began focusing on serving Christ through the church rather than seeking their own preferences. Another way of stating it is that these members became other-focused rather than self-focused. This attitude seemed to be directly connected to their prayers for revitalization.
  6. These churches raised the bar of expectations. Thus membership in these congregations became meaningful. Members moved from spectators to participants.
  7. The churches developed a clear process of discipleship. The members became more immersed in the Word. There was a clear and cogent plan to help members grow in their walk with Christ.

I found Rainer’s list interesting because I recently read his book, Autopsy of a Deceased Church: 12 Ways to Keep Yours Alive. The book portrays 12 negative characteristics of a dying church while his list gives 7 characteristics of how a church can become healthy.

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Posted by on October 22, 2014 in Books, Church, Tim Challies


The Shifting Currents of Culture

I’m working my way through a thought provoking book by James Emery White, The Rise of the Nones: Understanding and Reaching the Religiously Unaffiliated. In chapter 4, “A Post‑Christian World,” the author explores the impact of culture on Christianity. He identifies and explains “Three Moving Cultural Currents”:

  • Secularization: The church is losing its influence as a shaper of life and thought in the wider social order, and Christianity is losing its place as the dominant worldview.
  • Privatization: A chasm is created between the public and the private spheres of life, and spiritual things are increasingly placed with the private arena.
  • Pluralization: Individuals are confronted with a staggering number of ideologies and faith options competing for their attention.

Regarding secularization, I found the following illustration particularly insightful.

In his Guide for the Perplexed, author E. F. Schumacher relates his experience of getting lost during a sightseeing trip to Moscow during the Stalinist era. Trying to get his bearings, he found himself standing with several large churches within his line of sight. Yet none of these churches were found on his map. An interpreter came to assist him and explained, “We don’t show churches on our maps.”

Schumacher contradicted the interpreter by quickly pointing out a church that was clearly on his map.

“That is a museum,” the interpreter said, “not what we call a ‘living church.’ It is only the ‘living churches’ we don’t show.”

That, Schumacher goes on to conclude, was the cultural point. Those things that mankind has most believed in are no longer on the map of reality, or if they are, they are relegated to a museum. In reflecting on Schumacher’s story, Huston Smith notes that our world “has erased transcendence from our reality map.” Or as C. S. Lewis observes, “Almost all our modern philosophies have been devised to convince us that the good of man is to be found on this earth.”

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Posted by on October 21, 2014 in Books, Church, Culture, Quotes


Global Outreach Sunday

This weekend at First Central Baptist Church, we focused our attention on global outreach, taking the gospel to the ends of the world. Our guest speaker was Woody Wooldridge with Bridging the World. We also heard from Sue Ann & Janet about their ministry in Ghana. It was an encouraging, challenging, and motivating day.

Woody Wooldridge

Sue Ann & Janet

Matthew 28:17–20     17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”


A journey of faith

Book Review: Abraham: One Nomad’s Amazing Journey of Faith, by Charles R. Swindoll

abraham-bookI have long appreciated Chuck Swindoll’s ministry of preaching and writing. I admire people who can teach the word of God clearly and balance explanation with application. He makes the Scriptures come alive and you walk away knowing how to put the principles in practice in daily life. Pastor Chuck’s latest book, Abraham: One Nomad’s Amazing Journey of Faith, follows in the same pattern and does not disappoint.

In the book, the author traces the story of Abraham from Genesis 12-24. Rather than provide a whitewashed version of an unblemished hero, he paints him as the Scriptures reveal do, a man with a mixture of strengths and weaknesses, high points and failures, beauty and warts, and everything.

As Swindoll points out, the story of Abraham is a story of real life, showing a real person going through real experiences in a real world. He is a man that all of us can relate to. Abraham walked with God and yet stumbled on occasion. But he always got up and started walking again. By the end of his life, Abraham was known as the friend of God. The book portrays the growth of Abraham’s faith from his initial call to follow God to his final breath.

Swindoll blends biblical teaching with practical application. He weaves in personal stories, historical examples, and contemporary illustrations. The book is insightful and encouraging, filled with humor, sobering truth, and thought provoking principles. My only regret is that I didn’t have it when I preached through Abraham’s life last year.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Tyndale Blog Network book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

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Posted by on October 18, 2014 in Abraham, Books, Scripture


What’s in your heart?

Calvin & Hobbes - actions reveal our heart

“For as he thinks in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7a)

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Posted by on October 17, 2014 in Calvin and Hobbes, Scripture


Man Up!

Man up

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Posted by on October 16, 2014 in Men, Photos, Quotes


Curious trends

City of Houston demands pastors turn over sermons – “The city of Houston has issued subpoenas demanding a group of pastors turn over any sermons dealing with homosexuality, gender identity or Annise Parker, the city’s first openly lesbian mayor. And those ministers who fail to comply could be held in contempt of court.”

Synod14 – Eleventh General Assembly: “Relatio post disceptationem” of the General Rapporteur, Card. Péter Erdő, 13.10.2014 - A recent press release from the Vatican states that there is a call for priests to note the benefits of cohabitation of unmarried couples, and a rhetorical (?) question asking if the church can accept and value the sexual orientation of homosexuals without violating church teaching. In neither case is either acts condemned but they seem to lean more toward arguing for each.

In “Burning Bridges,” (Season 5, Episode 3) of the CBS drama, Blue Bloods, NYPD Commissioner Frank Regan, played by Tom Selleck, makes a passing comment to the press that the Catholic Church is behind the times on its stance on homosexuality. This, despite the fact that his character is a staunch Catholic.


Followers of Christ are once again faced with the question – Who sets the standards for faith and practice–culture, the Christian community, or the commandments of God? Do we follow society, saints, or the Scriptures?

It may become increasingly lonely to be an evangelical and to hold fast to what Scripture teaches.


John 15:18–19 – “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.

Luke 18:8 – I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

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Posted by on October 15, 2014 in Church, Culture, News stories, Scripture


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