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Monthly Archives: April 2016

When Did Television Become So Amoral?

When did television become so amoral? At first blush, you naturally assume I mistyped my question and meant to say “immoral” rather than “amoral.” But no, it is not a typing error. I meant to say amoral.

To call something “immoral” means that there is a recognized standard of right and wrong and people willingly choose to do what is wrong. “Amoral” means that there is not a recognized standard of right and wrong, but people act according to their own personal standards of right and wrong.

Based on that definition, we are living according to the description found in the final verse in the book of Judges in the Old Testament. “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25).

In the past week, I have been struck by how amoral television has become. Here are three examples from the few TV shows I happened to watch recently.

The Catch (ABC) – A splashy, sexy show introduced last month about a female private detective cheated by a con man, and the chase is on. In the first episode, the female private detective admits to sleeping with random strangers. In the third episode, she works inside or outside the law depending on the situation, and has a stolen painting in her bedroom. In the fourth episode, she helps the con man escape an FBI agent. Meanwhile, the con man’s female partner murders one “mark” and sleeps with both men and women.

Once Upon A Time (ABC) – Now in its fifth season, the show adds a new twist to every fairy tale you’ve ever read. In the most recent episode, the writers added an LGBT element by having Ruby kiss Dorothy, offering “true loves’ kiss” to rescue Dorothy from a sleeping curse. In the opening episode of their spring season, OUAT introduced the idea that you can work your way out of hell by settling your “unfinished business” in a positive manner.

Blue Bloods (CBS) – Over the course of the sixth season, Danny Reagan, a seasoned NYPD detective, has been chasing a serial killer. In the most recent episode, he shot and killed the man, even though he was unarmed. When Danny’s sister, Erin, an Assistant District Attorney, asked if he shot in self-defense, Danny responded, “It was justified.” Over the course of six seasons, every member of the family, save Danny, has slept with someone they weren’t married to.

If you said that these were exceptions to the rule of wholesome entertainment, you would be deluding yourself. You can find a multitude of other examples of amoral behavior just by watching the previews of different programs.

The writers and producers of television and movies seemingly have the agenda to demonstrate that any and every form of behavior is perfectly acceptable. It is up to each one’s individual standards of morality as to whether it is right or wrong. And if you disagree or find it objectionable, then you need to be tolerant because others may hold to a different standard.

Judges 21:25 certainly describes Television and America in 2016. We are doing what is right in our own eyes. What we fail to realize is that the book of Judges also describes the chaos that descended on the nation of Israel because they chose to follow their own standards rather than God’s laws. We delude ourselves if we believe we will find utopia by following our own rules. Doing what is right in our own eyes is not a recipe for freedom and happiness. Amorality and tolerance will only lead to disaster and judgment.

Watching television today requires a heightened sense of discernment and vigilance. You cannot shut your brain off and “veg out.” You will unknowingly adopt values which are unbiblical and ungodly. After every episode, show, movie, ad, and commercial, you have to ask yourself, “What does Scripture say about this?”

 
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Posted by on April 23, 2016 in Culture, Scripture

 

Touching the sheep

A shepherd touches his sheep every day. This point was made by a good friend in a sermon on Psalm 23. In the same way, a good pastor or church leader should maintain contact with the members of his flock, the local church.

On the one hand, I agree with the statement. Ministry is a contact sport. Personal contact communicates care and compassion. The members of a local church need to know that their pastor, elders, and leaders are concerned about them and know their needs.

On the other hand, I struggle with how to live up to this standard. I wrestle with self-doubt already, feeling like I’m never doing enough to lead, feed, guard, and care for the congregation of my church. Add to it the expectation that I need to have personal contact with everyone every day, and …

I also struggle with the idea because if a pastor like myself takes this burden on himself, it will ultimately limit the size of the church. Somewhere along the line, I read that the average person can know and remember about 200 names. If that’s true, no church can grow beyond 200 people.

For a church to grow, the pastor has to change his mind about three key areas of ministry. One change is to realize there is more than one way to touch a person. The pastor touches the congregation through his preaching. Everything from sermon preparation to preaching itself to posting the audio or video of the sermon helps the pastor touch the congregation. If he writes a blog or a newsletter or a book, he is touching people. The pastor can touch individuals through cards, notes, email, phone calls, conversation in the hallways, dinners in his home, having coffee, or a myriad of other ways. Perhaps the most important way to touch people is by praying for them by name. The pastor can also touch his leaders by training them, sharing the load of ministry, and debriefing them after their task.

In my church, I touch everyone when I preach on Sunday mornings. I touch a smaller group in the adult SS class I teach. Over the past two years, I have touched a group of men on Tuesday evenings in our Men’s Fraternity meetings. I touch the kids by teaching periodically in our Awana ministry. I touch our leaders in our elder and wives’ monthly Bible study and by participating in various board meetings. I invest in pastors and leaders in Russia when I go once a year to teach them.

For the church to grow, the pastor also needs to change his mind about the nature of his task. Rather than taking on the burden and doing all the work himself, the pastor’s primary task is to equip others for ministry (Ephesians 4:12) so that the body builds itself up in love (Ephesians 4:16). The pastor needs to enlist others in the task of shepherding, train them to do it well, and then step out of the way and let them care for others.

While I agree that the sheep need to be touched every day, one person cannot shoulder all the responsibility. In our church, we have enlisted our Sunday School teachers and small group leaders as the primary shepherds of the congregation. Their task is to make sure the people in their classes and small groups feel cared for. Since not everyone is in a class or small group, we have enlisted our Deacons and Deaconesses as part of a safety net to make sure no one slips through the cracks.

In one sense, the pastor shepherds the leaders who in turn shepherd the people, and all are cared for. In this way, we strive to practice the “one another” commands of the New Testament.

One other change the pastor needs to employ is to remember that he is called to please the Chief Shepherd, not the people.

Galatians 1:10 – For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? It I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.

Some expect the pastor to do all the work. Some don’t value a hospital visit from an elder or a deacon. Some expect the pastor to show up at every activity and board meeting. Some will never buy into this approach of the body ministering to the body. But the pastor has to decide if he is going to focus on pleasing people and burning out, or pleasing God by obeying his commands and changing how he does ministry.

1 Peter 5:1–4 – 1So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.

 

Choosing a New Name for First Central – revised list of top 12 names

Here’s a revised list of the 12 names we are going to consider during the next phase of choosing a new name for First Central Baptist Church. (We discovered that two of our previous finalists, Cornerstone Bible Church and Crossroads Bible Church, are too similar to other churches in our area. They have been removed from consideration to avoid confusion.)

  • Chicopee Bible Church                                                                         
  • Christ Centered Church                                                                      
  • Christ First Central                                                                              
  • Church of Faith and Grace                                                                   
  • Faith Bible Church                                                                               
  • First Central                                                                                       
  • First Central Bible Church
  • First Central Church
  • First Central Community Church
  • First Central Fellowship Church
  • First Central Gospel Church
  • Grace Bible Church                                                                             

As we narrow the list, we have to wrestle with many questions:

  • Who is the name for?
  • Who are we trying to attract?
  • Are we trying to preserve the past?
  • Are we trying to reach the lost?
  • What is the right length? Two words? Three words? Four words? Is the name too long? Too short?
  • What do the words “First Central” communicate to the community?
  • Which of these names will best position us to accomplish our purpose of “Building a Community to Change the World”?
  • Will these names promote growth? Hinder growth?

Considering that seven of the twelve names contain “First Central”, I wonder if we are overly enamored with the name. I wonder if our emotional attachment to our old name is hindering us from thinking objectively about the future. I’ve heard a few people voice this opinion, but I’m sure that others will disagree as well.

My hope and prayer is that we will prayerfully consider the issues and options, and that we will listen to God as he directs us in unity to the name he has picked for us.

 
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Posted by on April 20, 2016 in First Central Bible Church

 

Pray big prayers

“Make no small plans, for they have not the power to stir the souls of men.” Anonymous

“Now to him who is able to do abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us.” (Ephesians 3:20)

 
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Posted by on April 20, 2016 in Leadership, Prayer, Scripture

 

A Matter of Perspective

GODISNOWHERE

Does this mean, “God is nowhere”, or “God is now here”? The answer depends entirely on what you are focusing on.

In the past week, I’ve heard concerned folks comment that people are leaving our church. I’ve also seen 13 people go through our membership class. One person left the church because “the Spirit of God is not moving.” Five people wanting to be baptized might indicate otherwise.

What you look at determines whether you see a problem or an opportunity. What you focus on reveals whether God is absent or present.

2 Kings 6:8-23 presents a powerful example of the importance of perspective. The Syrian army is at war with Israel (8). They send horses and chariots to the city of Dothan in an attempt to capture the prophet Elisha (14). Elisha’s servant launches into panic mode one morning when he wakes to the startling sight that the city was surrounded (15). “Alas, what shall we do?” is his plaintive cry.

Rather than seeing a problem, however, Elisha is confident that God is at work (16). He prays that his servant will have the same insight (17). God answered Elisha’s prayer and revealed the angelic SWAT team protecting Elisha.

“So the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.”

If we act like Elisha’s servant and focus our attention on our problems and complaints, we will conclude that God is nowhere. But if we respond like Elisha and ask God to open our eyes and give us his perspective, we will see that he is now here, and at work all around us.

What are you focusing on?

 
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Posted by on April 19, 2016 in Personal growth, Scripture, Theology

 

Granville State Forest

This afternoon, Carol and I went for a walk in the woods at Granville State Forest. It was a beautiful day for a walk along the Hubbard River.

 
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Posted by on April 18, 2016 in Massachusetts, Photos

 

Choosing A New Name for First Central – next round

At our annual meeting, the congregation of First Central Baptist Church approved the proposal to change the name of the church (76% approval). (If you want to know more about why we’re making the change, read one of the previous blogs on the subject.) After discussing how to move forward, the elders recommended the following stages in the process:

  • 72 names were submitted during February and March.
    • During April & May, we will use a series of polls to narrow the list to two finalists. Both members and regular attenders will be allowed to participate in the polls. We will use a bulletin insert which people will be asked to fill out on the Sunday of the poll.
    • On April 17, we narrowed the list to 13 names.
    • On May 8, we will ask you to help us narrow the list to the top 6 names we should consider.
    • On June 5, we will ask you to narrow the list down to two finalists.
  • On June 15, we will vote on a new name for First Central during our Semi-Annual business meeting. Only members will be allowed to vote on the final name.

Top 13 Suggested Names

  • Christ Centered Church
  • Christ First Central
  • Church of Faith and Grace
  • Cornerstone Bible Church
  • Crossroads Bible Church
  • Faith Bible Church
  • First Central
  • First Central Bible Church
  • First Central Church
  • First Central Community Church
  • First Central Fellowship Church
  • First Central Gospel Church
  • Grace Bible Church

Please prayerfully consider what God would have us to be called as we seek to fulfill our purpose of Building a Community to Change the World.

 
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Posted by on April 18, 2016 in First Central Bible Church