Church Attendance and Membership

Would you agree or disagree with the statement that it is a SIN to stay home from the corporate assembly of the church of your membership?

Obviously there are numerous legitimate reasons to miss church—sickness, work etc.—but what about absence when there isn't a legitimate reason?

Hebrews 10:24-25 And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.

Notice the middle phrase "not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is"

The Bible is clear here. We are not to forsake assembling together as a church. We are not to miss church. We are not to be absent. We are to attend. We are to come church.

Wouldn't you say that weekly attendance is a reasonable expectation? The Sabbath occurs every seven days—that is weekly. I would submit to you that weekly assembly is the bare minimum.

Why do we call it the Lord's day? Is Sunday our day or God's day?

Is your theology man centered or God centered? A man centered theology resents any effort to impose a standard of practice upon man. The moment the preacher begins preaching on standards of behavior, conduct, biblical expectations—the legalism flags begin being waved back and forth by the crowd that resents biblical expectations.

Pastor, "I want to be absent from church without a valid reason for long periods of time and don't bother me during my absence." Is this an acceptable? Is this reasonable?

Not according to Hebrews 10. We are to provoke one another to good works. Provoke—like provoke a fight. Only the provocation is toward something good. Certainly corporate worship is a good thing.

Pastor, don't bother me—I love Jesus—but not so much His church. And why is that? Well, you know the preacher doesn't………

I want everything. I want salvation but don't want to deny myself and take up my cross—now that is the American gospel.

The gospel of the 21st century is simply—what Christ expected men to do 2000 years ago—REPENT and all that stuff. He longer expects. Now what He satisfied with is the articulation of a prayer and the return to a life like the world. God forbid. I believe these are the lukewarm Christians that will be spit out of the mouth of Jesus, because they are NOT Christians.

You can't have your church membership if you don't come to church without a valid reason—you are deployed, you are ill, you are shut-in but there is a valid reason why you are absent.

I don't feel like coming is just NOT an acceptable excuse. And as I read Hebrews it is my job to provoke every wayward member to get back in church.

God is NOT glorified in American when 80% say they believe is God and only 10% get up on Sundays and go worship him somewhere.

God is mocked in America by the conduct of so called Christians. Football games are more important than corporate worship services—don't you understand pastor. You preach every week. But the Giants are only going to play the Cowboys once this year.

What's this blog posting all about—provocation. It's about provocation. Its purpose on the eve of 2008 is to say let's get serious about God and His Church in America.

Berean is going to get more serious in 2008 than it was in 2007 concerning the biblical expectation to be faithful in corporate worship and bible study. Why are we doing that? We were focused on membership last year, can't we just give people a break this year and slack off a bit.

No—not according to the Bible, as the day approaches closer to the return of Christ we are to be more committed to corporate assembly.

Hebrews 10:25b says "and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching." The day is approaching.

Since the day is approaching I must give heed to the words "and so much the more."

Now if that isn't enough of a reason let me close with another reason and observation from Hebrews 13.17:

Hebrews 13:17 Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.

Pastors are the "them" of this verse. (If you are in doubt about this let me encourage you to do a study on this verse and see what you come up with.) Pastors are the ones who will give an account. I will give an account for the degree to which I provoked the members of BBC toward good works. You will give an account to God for the degree to which you obeyed.

When we work together it is a joy to be a pastor and the accounting to God is joyful—when we are at odds with pastors it is unprofitable for the rebellious Christian.

In the 21st century a blog is another way to "provoke one another to good works" but it isn't the only way. Those who refuse admonishment from non-confrontational means like this must be confronted with their sin of ignoring the church and repent or be subject to church discipline.

If all this sounds harsh and not very loving I want to encourage you to reread the words and works of Jesus in the gospels.

Should I be more concerned with your soul or your feelings as your pastor? Am I in doubt? No—I know beyond a doubt what God has placed in my heart for Berean.

I know that as the day approaches for the return of Christ we need to wake-up and get serious about this thing we call the gospel!




How Christians Vote

Since the death of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, presidential candidate Mike Huckabee has taken some heat concerning his inability to quickly articulate a response from a foreign policy perspective.

Questions are being asked if Christians will change their support of this candidate based on his lack of foreign policy experience.

This leads to a great question: If God is Sovereign and rules (as the Bible teaches) in the kingdom of man, how concerned should a Christian be with foreign policy experience in contrast to where the man stands in relationship to God and more specifically our Savior Jesus.

The same can be asked with regard to the economy. How important should the economy be to a Christian? Should a Christian vote for the person he believes will best impact the economy in positive way without regard to how the candidate stands on morale issues like abortion and homosexuality.

Certainly the way the Christian votes will be a clear indication of where they are at spiritually and to what degree they have a biblical worldview.

Presumably, most Christians will vote with their wallet which is probably why we, the church, are having such little impact on our society and will continue to limit our impact as long as we vote the way the unbeliever votes.

Your thoughts?


Luther—the Motion Picture

Having just finished watching the motion picture Luther by MGM again, I want to encourage every follower of Christ to watch this great movie.

This 2 hour documentary should be watched and watched again. Martin Luther is one of the most significant leaders of the Reformation and the movie has so much great dialog that you can't get it all in on a single viewing.

In the movie, Christ is exalted beyond measure and the importance of the Word of God in a language the common people can understand is an overwhelmingly clear theme.

The viewer gets to see Luther's salvation; we see him struggling with God's Justice and Mercy; we see him rebuke the Roman Catholic Church over and over again.

Spiritual Warfare is seen as we watch Luther battle with demons in his mind and extreme depression, yet God is victorious and Luther, by God's grace, prevails.

The scenes where Luther answers for his writings are incredible; he states he will not recant unless someone can take the Word of God and in plain language convince him of his error. I am not a Lutheran and I don't agree with all that Luther wrote but I agree that the Word of God in plain language must be the authority for the Christian. Luther speaks of refusing to go against his conscious and Scripture. What more is there?

The movie helps the 21st century Christian appreciate the degree to which the "Church" had departed from God in 15 centuries. Certainly we can say Luther did not go far enough, but he did something, 1000s upon 1000s before him did not do because of their love for money, power, or their "own souls" more than the truth.

We are reminded of Pontius Pilate's question, "What is truth?" Luther is fully convinced that truth is Christ as revealed in the New Testament. 500 years later we must still contend for truth! The exclusivity of Christ is being challenged perhaps now more than any other time in this post-modern world where truth is relative and most Christians denial any absolute truth.

Today and tomorrow and for every day God permits us to live we must follow Jude's clear instruction to earnestly contend for the faith once delivered to the saints. The faith; not a faith; not the faith of each person's choice; Jude wrote "the faith." The one and only faith, there is but one faith to contend for and an absolute fundamental of that faith is the deity of Christ.

We must contend for what was articulated very clearly in the Nicene Creed 1100 years ago.

We believe in one God the Father Almighty, Creator of all things visible and invisible; and in the one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, only begotten of the Father, that is of the substance of the Father, God of God, Light of Lights, very God of very God; begotten, not made, of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made in heaven and earth; who for us men and our salvation came down from heaven, was incarnate, was made man, suffered, rose again the third day, ascended into heaven, and He will come again to judge the living and the dead.

That which the "church" (or cult) of one of the Republican presidential candidates believes to be true about our Lord Jesus Christ must be rejected as absolute heresy. Jesus Christ is not a created being and Satan is NOT his brother.

The Apostle Paul told the Christians in Rome to mark those who teach anything contrary to sound doctrine. Certainly, Paul would admonish us not to vote for one that he would mark in the 21st century.

Signing the Covenant

Let me clarify my thoughts with regard to signing the covenant. I understand for many the idea of signing something is too much for you. I can appreciate your struggle with that and will not expect you to violate your conscience.

However, I do believe that it is a reasonable expectation for a leader, teacher, director, supervisor, pastor, deacon, church officer and/or employee of the ministry to sign a document agreeing to adhere to the covenant, the articles of faith, the constitution, and basic standards of conduct. I certainly hope each of you can appreciate the idea that, as your pastor, I would expect you to be willing to live to a higher standard to serve in a leadership position for YOUR LORD and Savior is His Church.

Additionally, what I have said in the past is that I believe it would be a great thing to have an enlarged covenant with as many members' signatures as possible. I shared with the deacons Sunday that I think the adoption of a new covenant should be seen as a special time in the life of the church, and a historical record of that event would be special for years to come.

Presently, I am drafting what I think the new covenant should be. I have received much input from many members and am now soliciting input from pastors and will then present it to the deacons for their thoughts. Once we have agreement and unity, I will present it to you for your careful review and feedback. I plan to meet with each BFH class with copies of the old and new and answer questions and take notes of your thoughts and suggestions.

The goal is a short simple document that is clear and concise; our Articles of Faith will then serve to articulate and clarify what we believe and our constitution will govern the way we do business.


We are now webcasting on the under the media tab. Two sermons are up and the media team is working to make this possible consistently. Soon we hope for you to be able to watch the Sunday morning sermon shortly after it is delivered.

Deacon’s Meeting

Last night the deacons met to discuss the covenant; I asked Rob Coker to give a summary report of the meeting for the church.


Dear Church Family,

Your deacons meet at least once each month to discuss current issues and to plan future events. Last night Pastor Sean met with the deacons to discuss an important topic: our church covenant. As you've read in previous blogs, Pastor is focused on ensuring our covenant is accurate, relevant, and a document that will forge unity among the members of our church. I'd like to share with you the highlights of our discussion.

The chairman of the deacons, Jeff Woosley, opened the meeting with prayer. Then Pastor introduced the main topic of the meeting, the church covenant. He explained his vision for the covenant and his desire to ensure it is a relevant document that reflects the church of the 21st century. More importantly, he'd like to see each tenet of the covenant backed with specific scripture. He then asked for feedback and wanted to hear each deacon's thoughts concerning the covenant.

It's awesome that so many brothers-in-Christ can share openly with one another! A tremendous amount of wisdom was shared. A couple of the deacons, who have been with the church for many years, explained the history of our church covenant and constitution. Others mentioned the impacts that a covenant can have on a church body. Some felt strong connections to the covenant, others not so strong. The comments were diverse, but one thing was certain: we all agree that the covenant can be better!

Our next step is to produce this better covenant. It will no longer be a document that many of us have never seen. It will be taught during First Class and Bible Fellowship Hour. It will achieve the purpose that a covenant is intended to achieve. Much like a marriage covenant binds two people together, so our church covenant will bind our local church body together. We are one in the bond of love!

A Great Example of a Covenant

As I continue to pray and seek God's guidance concerning the church covenant, I thought I would share one with you from a church in GA. This covenant has many excellent features and will not have to be changed as society changes. The phrase below that I have highlighted in bold is excellent and focuses on why we abstain. A fully devoted follower of Christ is very concerned about being a stumbling block—he or she will not use their Christian liberty to create a stumbling block for any Christian or potential Christian.

Each of us must ask everyday: "Is what I am doing bringing reproach upon the cause of Christ?"

Bible Baptist Church

Hampton, Georgia


As a bond of unity among us this church accepts for its member the following covenant:

Having been lead by the Holy Spirit to receive the Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior and on profession of our faith in Him, having been baptized in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, we do now most solemnly and joyfully enter into covenant with one another as one body in Christ.

We promise that we will watch over and counsel one another in the spirit of brotherly love, that we will remember one another in our prayers, and that we will aid each other in sickness and distress.

We further agree, by the aid of the Holy Spirit, to walk together in Christian love; to strive for the advancement of this church in knowledge, holiness, love, and comfort; to promote its prosperity and spirituality; to sustain its worship, ordinances, discipline, and doctrines; to give it a sacred preeminence over an institutions of human origin; and to contribute cheerfully and regularly to the support of the ministry, the expenses of the church, relief of the poor, and the spread of the Gospel through all nations.

We further covenant to maintain family and secret devotion; to religiously educate our children; to seek the salvation of our kindred and acquaintances; to live carefully in this present world; to be just in our dealings, faithful in our engagements, and exemplary in our deportment; to avoid all tattling, back-biting and excessive anger;

to abstain from everything that will cause our brother to stumble or that will bring reproach upon the cause of Christ; and to strive to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, that amidst evil and good report we will humbly and earnestly seek to live to the honor and glory of Him who loved us and gave Himself for us.

We moreover engage that when we remove from this place we will, as soon as possible, unite with some other church where we can carry out the spirit of this covenant and the principles of God's Word.

A John 17.21 School

Last year Ron Bishop came to BBC and preached a message asking us if we were an Acts 1.8 church. Do we witness of Jesus in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and unto the uttermost part of the earth? That is a great question and the answer is "yes, we are striving to be that kind of church."

Can we be a church of more than one verse? Of course, and we want to be a church of all the verses in the Bible. How about the verses in John 17? Have we considered to what degree we are a John 17.21 church?

John 17:20 Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word;

Vs. 21: That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.

In just 50 minutes I will be speaking to the boys and girls in chapel. I am going to teach/preach in the elementary chapel and take questions in the High school chapel.

In the elementary chapel I am going to ask if we are a John 17.21 school. Are we one? Four times in the Lord 's Prayer (the actual Lord's prayer) Jesus prays that His disciples are one. In vs. 11 he prays for his current followers to be one. Then a few verses later He specifically identifies future disciples. And three more times he prays "that they may be one."

One—One is the number that denotes unity. One is the word that communicates agreement. One is used of a basketball team where everyone plays together exceptionally well. Husband and wives are supposed to be one. That means that they get along, love each, care for each, work through differences and in the end are unified.

A John 17.21 school would be a school where there is a focus on our love one for another and an absence of division among the students and faculty. In a John 17.21 school there is a focus on what unites the staff, faculty and students.

In a John 17.21 school the students get along one with another and it is visible.

It must be visible! It must be visible because Jesus prayed that because of the unity or oneness of His followers "the world"—those who are outside of Christ—would see the unity and believe that Jesus was not just another Jewish rabbi or carpenter but the Son of God sent from the God of Heaven

In a John 17.21 school a new student can tell that there is something different about the 4th grade at BBA. Because in the 4th grade in BBA the vast majority of the students profess to be followers of Jesus and in doing so they are striving to be one.

Therefore, when the new "unsaved" student arrives into this community of believers she sees something different. Days go by and then weeks and she can tell that this new school isn't like her old school.

In her old school, there were factions, cliques, in groups and out groups. In her old school, students talked about each other and it wasn't nice.

She notices in this very special 4th grade classroom boys and girls who love each other like Christ loves them. They accept each other's problems and difficulties and forgive each other when there is a fight. Our new student Susie notices that two boys that had a fight the day before have now forgiven each other and are eating lunch together.

So Susie begins to wonder what makes this school so different and eventually asks, "Why is this school different?" Her teacher then has an incredible opportunity to tell her about the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Her teacher tells her that it is Jesus which unites us and gives us the help (grace) to be loving, kind, compassionate, understanding, tender-hearted, and forgiving. And soon—by the grace of God—Susie wants to have a relationship with this Jesus who helps people be different.

Now imagine if you will that we are not talking about a school but a church and instead of 4th grade it is a particular adult Bible fellowship class.

Instead of calling them students we call them members but the expectation is the same and the goal is the same.

Our hope is that BBC would be so unified in all that is does that it could be described as ONE and in being one God would be most glorified—especially when an unbeliever comes to Christ because of the visible unity of the church.

Christ's prayer for this communicates how much we need His help to achieve this.


To covenant or not to covenant, that is the question?

From Jackie Farmer:


Recently Pastor Sean sent an email basically asking everyone to think on this question. As a member of the pastoral team I have had a little heads up in being able to think about this subject. I came to Berean almost six years ago and in the last few months I have learned that Berean has a covenant already in place. I knew it was there, I have read the constitution, but I did not really think about it as something that needed to be enforced. I find this strange since I have seen so much emphasis be placed upon the constitution. Here is a section of the constitution that is largely ignored. I mostly ignored it because I already practice it in my personal life; this is probably true of most of us. Therefore, when Pastor approached the subject of enforcing it I thought "no problem." I even went as far in my thoughts to say awesome this should put more of us on the same page and accomplish unity on a whole new level. However, this has not been the case, much to the sadness of Christ who prayed that we would be one.

So here are my thoughts on the covenant of Berean Baptist Church and covenants I have lived by in my life.

I have no problem making a pledge to live my life by a standard described in a document. As a member of the US Army I did this everyday for many years. I obeyed Ronald Reagan, George Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush as my commander-in-chiefs. I obeyed the officers appointed over me. I gave up some of my personal constitutional rights to defend others ability to live their life in full freedom of those same rights I gave up. I did this because I loved my country, I denied the GI Bill. I do not understand the big deal then about saying to my fellow Berean's I am with you all the way. I will do my best in Christ's power to live my life beside you in a way that is helpful to you and honors God. I am even willing to sacrifice some of my personal preferences in order to show you I love you.


I believe that a covenant is great. I have entered into a verbal covenant with Angela. That verbal covenant is our wedding vows. Whether I perform a wedding or attend a wedding I am reminded of my vows to Angela. If we are attending a wedding we hold hands and as the bride and groom exchange vows we touch each other's rings as a reminder of our covenant. Thus our rings are a reminder that we live in a covenant relationship with God and each other. So what is wrong with pulling out a document and reminding each other this is what we have promised to do unto one another?


Should a covenant be flexible? Sure. Think about the wedding vows again. I promised to love Angela till death do us part but those vows did not define the method of conveying that love. Sometimes I wash the dishes to convey that love. Sometimes I do the laundry to convey that love. Sometimes I take her on a date to convey my love. Sometimes I buy her flowers to convey that love. Sometimes I skip watching the hockey game on TV to show her that love. So what is wrong with saying we will leave some decisions of life up to God and our fellow Berean?

Should a covenant possess hard stances? Sure. Think about the wedding vow to keep myself to Angela and only her till death do we part. This means mentally, emotionally, and physically as I am made in the image of God. This means all of my being is reserved for her alone. No other woman is to have my mind, my heart, my attention, my anything as long as Angela lives. So what is wrong with saying to my fellow Berean's I promise you I will not or I will... whatever?


Pastor Sean is right we need to revive the idea of living by what we promise in our lives and in our church. If our current covenant is too rigid then let wise men and women rise up and declare the wisdom of God that they possess and give input into a covenant that honors God by allowing the body here to grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ. If it is what it should be, then let us begin to live and be accountable to it. If we believe that we can live without making those promises to one another then so be it. I do however, doubt that the last course of action would benefit or honor God's work here in this church. I mean without my marriage vows being what they are I could easily twist the lives of men like David in the Bible to justify having more than one wife and who could hold me accountable otherwise? The current state of Christianity is adrift and we need to declare what we will live by, document that, and be accountable to it.

To all my fellow Berean's and pastors, I am with you and I pledge to contribute to forming a covenant that we can live with and by, and then allowing you to hold me accountable to that promise for as long as I am a member of Berean.

Covenant III—Who Signs?

The covenant discussions that are happening at Berean are such a good thing. People are digging in the word of God and reading and rereading passages. They are studying. They are looking for themselves and asking questions.

It is reminiscent of the people of Berea in Acts. This is a good thing. Anytime people are studying the Bible the end result will be a stronger church. Mature Spirit-filled people can read the Bible, discuss things and come to reasonable conclusions.

Some are saying we want a covenant that is only Biblical; others are saying we need only the Bible. These two groups can come together very easily if the covenant contains only those things that are Biblical. Then both sides should not have a problem. If the Bible-only person can see Biblical phrases, thoughts, and concepts throughout the covenant, then he or she will be able to support it because it is in fact a compilation of scriptures.

Some are asking: "why do we have to sign it?" You don't! What must happen is: It must be taught, presented, explained, followed, adhered to, lived by, displayed and understood. The point is not the signature; the point is that every member knows the covenant and is striving to live by it because it is Biblical and as a Spirit-filled, follower of Christ our goal is to live by the Bible. It is good for instruction, doctrine, correction and reproof.

I believe that people in leadership positions in the church should have no problems signing a covenant; the signature communicates that you as a director, supervisor, leader, teacher, deacon, pastor understand what is expected and will strive by the Grace of God to meet those expectations. Those expectations may be both Biblical and constitutional.

For example, it is expected that pastors preach with a tie around their necks on Sundays—that is not Biblical just a reasonable cultural expectation—nothing more.

More important expectations that are not defined in the Bible are articulated in the church constitution.

Covenant III

Meetings and personal discussions are great things. It is good to meet with people and get things out in the open. Questions should always be directed to the person who made a conflicting or confusing statement. I love meeting with people.

Seeking understanding from someone else is normally very unproductive and leads to a greater degree of confusion in most cases.

Somehow there may be someone who thinks I wrote the church covenant. This is simply not the case. I did not write the current covenant; the author is anonymous.

You can find the framework of our Baptist covenant as far back as the 1600s. The BBC covenant that I posted on the blog is the covenant that was in existence when I became the pastor.

My point in initiating this dialog is to make the membership aware of the fact that we have a covenant in our constitution and our constitution says that our membership follows the covenant. I thought as a member of the church you would want to know this. It certainly would have been easier on me to simply continue to turn a blind eye and pretend we didn't have one. But I can't do that. That simply isn't in my make-up.

The covenant is a church covenant; not a pastor covenant. The church needs to write the covenant. It is the church, the membership, covenanting one with another.

The church, as a self-governing, autonomous body has the freedom change its covenant as often as it sees fit, provided the majority agree that there needs to be change.

The first thing the church needs to decide is:

1. Do we need a covenant? I believe the answer is yes.

2. If we do does it need to be revised? I believe the answer is yes.

But the decision isn't mine is it OURS!

Taking Church Membership Seriously

Taking Church Membership Seriously
Why it's time to raise the bar.
An interview with Ken Sande

Membership is not all that important at our church, about a third of respondents to a recent Leadership Weekly poll said. While 38 percent said attenders were frequently urged to join, and 34 percent said the membership appeal was occasionally given, the remainder said their church placed little or no emphasis on membership. That trend, according to many experts, is a mistake, the costly result of a casual, come-as-you-are attitude.

The church should be less like a cruise ship and more like a battleship, says Ken Sande of Peacemaker Ministries. Rather than emphasizing their casual atmosphere and fun activities, Sande says it's time for churches to raise the bar, to focus on a serious mission, and ensure that every person aboard serves a vital function. To make the shift, Sande says we must recapture the importance and meaning of church membership. If nothing else, emphasizing membership can protect the church from the growing threat of lawsuits.

Can you give an example of how deemphasizing membership can be perilous for a church?
I counseled a church where an attender used his relationships within the church to persuade people to invest over $2 million with him. The money was never returned to the investors. The church leadership struggled to respond because the man was not a member. If they said something publicly and warned the congregation about his actions, they risked a lawsuit for slander and defamation of character.

The church leaders finally asked the man to leave, but said nothing to the congregation. As a result he continued to scam people in the church for another year. When the victimized members discovered that church leaders knew about the man's actions but failed to publicly warn the congregation, they in turn threatened to sue the church for failing to protect them.

Several courts have ruled that churches may not discipline people who have not specifically consented to discipline. In this case, church leaders could not publicly warn the congregation about the man's actions without threat of a lawsuit because he was not a member, and had not consented to discipline. By not emphasizing membership, the leaders were prevented from fulfilling one of their most important biblical tasks—protecting the flock.

Why are more churches no longer emphasizing the importance of membership?
First, we've given in to our culture's antagonism toward commitment and accountability. Like parents who are afraid to discipline their teenagers, church leaders are afraid they will be unpopular for emphasizing commitment and accountability.

Secondly, there is a concern that if we create a barrier at the front door to the church, not as many people will enter, and the pressure leaders feel to grow the church is enormous today. But what we don't realize is that by not emphasizing membership we may have a wide-open front door, but we also have a wide-open back door. Numerical growth is really not helped by deemphasizing membership.

Many see membership in the church as similar to membership in other community organizations. How do we help people see it differently?
It requires very good teaching, and we need to use the terminology found in the Bible rather than our culture. The Bible speaks of the church as a family, or the household of God. If we emphasize this family language it will help people see that church membership is not like joining a country club, it is about joining an organic family.

The concept of the Body is also very helpful. The church is called the Body of Christ in the New Testament, and you don't just casually amputate a thumb. In fact, if the thumb is hurting the whole body goes to its aid. This metaphor shows the commitment, the accountability, and the interdependence of the church. Church leaders need to draw these concepts from scripture and clearly teach them.

How can leaders ensure that they have protected the church legally through a membership process?
You must achieve what lawyers call "informed consent." If you can show your people know what your church's disciplinary practices are, and that they have consented to them, that is a virtually ironclad defense against lawsuits.

You can achieve informed consent in a few ways. First, maintaining an attendance for the membership class so you can prove who has received the teaching. Second, a higher level of proof is to have new members stand before the church and actually verbalize membership vows and commitments. A third level, which gives you the best protection, is a signed membership covenant.

What should be included in a membership covenant?
The covenant itself can be kept fairly simple. A statement as basic as, "I have received a copy of the church's policies of redemptive discipline, and I consent to be bound by them" is sufficient. The church needs to have their disciplinary policies outlined somewhere and accessible to members, but the covenant only needs to refer to this other document to secure informed consent.

Apart from securing legal protection, what else is vital to include in a membership process?
At my church we have a twelve-week membership course, and our first priority is making sure a person has a credible profession of faith and understands the gospel. We also cover the theology of the church, our polity, our vision, how we handle conflicts, and an understanding of church discipline. Finally, it is helpful to discuss expectations for members regarding giving, respecting leadership, and serving in the community.

The membership process will be different in every church, but it is important to treat it as a significant event. When we treat it casually it sends the message that membership is casual. We highlight membership by having a special service, a membership Sunday. It is a serious ceremony that communicates the importance of membership.

What about retrofitting? How do churches with loose membership expectations, or none at all, begin to change and achieve informed consent?
Retrofitting requires a process that may take one to three years of educating the church to think more biblically about membership. I recommend preaching from Deuteronomy where there is a restatement of the Law.

Our church did this. We said to the congregation, "Times have changed from years ago when you could have a loose relationship with the church. Our society and our laws have changed. It's time for us to renew and tighten up the covenant."

Our people were very responsive to that because we took the time to educate them. We held a congregational meeting where revised bylaws and policies were presented, along with new procedures for accountability and conflict resolution. We met in small groups to talk personally, and over several months there was a lot of dialogue. That culminated in a church meeting where the new policies and bylaws were accepted. At that time we handed out a new membership covenant to be signed.

The last thing we did, to make sure we had informed consent, was send out a letter to everyone who did not sign the covenant. It said, even though we have not received a written covenant from you, we will interpret your continued attendance at our church, beyond a specified date, as your affirmation and consent to these policies. We didn't have a single family leave the church.

An attorney and engineer, Ken Sande is founder of Peacemaker ministries, a mediation and counseling service for churches and couples.

Do you have a question for Ken? Write to us at

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Copyright © 2005 by the author or Christianity Today International/Leadership Journal.
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April 18, 2005

Covenant II

What does a church do that has a covenant and is ignoring it? I am looking for some insight from Spirit-filled wise men and women. Send me an email.

There are several courses of action:

1. Ignore the covenant and continue to act like it isn't there.

2. Go with the current covenant and begin presenting it and using it.

3. Revise the present covenant such that it doesn't have unique and individual statements that address gray areas of Christianity. Develop a covenant that any fully devoted follower of Christ would be happy to say is their own. (For example, some would say it is a sin to drink a glass of wine. Others would say," no it is a sin to be drunk." What should a church covenant address? I would say "drunkedness." I would think there would be a little doubt over whether getting drunk is a sin; therefore, asking members to commit to refraining from being drunk is a reasonable request. Certainly, the liberty in Christ does not permit that kind of freedom.

4. Vote to eliminate the covenant and go with the Bible only.

According to our church constitution it is every member's duty do follow the covenant: See the below paragraphs from the constitution:

2. DUTIES OF A MEMBER: On becoming a member of BBC, in addition to the Church Covenant, each one further covenants to love, honor, and esteem the Pastors, to pray for them and to recognize their authority in the spiritual affairs of the church;2 to cherish a brotherly love for all members of the Church; to support the Church in prayer, tithes, offerings and with other financial support as the Lord enables; and, in accordance with Biblical commands, to support through a life-style affirming the beliefs and practices of the Church.

(A) As necessary, the Pastor shall form a Disciplinary Committee consisting of himself and the Board of Deacons. These men shall have sole authority in determining heretical deviations from the Statement of Faith and violations of the Church Covenant. If the Pastor or a deacon is the subject of a disciplinary matter, he shall not be a member of the Discipline Committee.

And I have already posted the current covenant that we present in our constitution as the current covenant, what would you change?

Anything? Nothing?

This is a matter for the church to decide. It is a church covenant. We are a congregationally governed body. Every member gets a vote on critical matters.

My intent is NOT to railroad anything forward—I want to hear from you.

I don't believe for me that "IGNORE" is an option and I am wondering what a DELAYING action will do; certainly, I want to have lots of time to pray and consider that matter—months. I am not in a hurry.

The pastoral staff is going to develop a covenant for the shepherds of the congregation and when that is finished I will post it for your review. Certainly leaders should be held to a higher standard.

Let your voice be heard and your thoughts and input recognized; send me a note.

My primary purpose in sending you this note is to ensure you recognize I am not coming up with this stuff it is already in our constitution. The church has already approved it.

I am just trying to determine how it is supposed to be followed.

Sunday’s Challenge to Christians 100 Years Ago

Have you ever read a biography about Billy Sunday? I have thoroughly enjoyed a great book about Sunday's life. God used Sunday in incredible ways. The campaigns and revivals that America experienced in the 1st decade of the 20th Century were awesome.

The numbers were staggering.

Sunday was quite the preacher. Anything I could write would not give justice to Sunday's entire life. Every Christian needs to read at least one biography on Rev. William A. Sunday's life.

In the Philadelphia Campaign of 1915, 400 churches worked together to promote and participate in the city-wide tabernacle meetings. 400 churches working together—amazing—literally amazing and serves as a clear testimony to the unity Christ can create among born-again believers.

But this paragraph got my attention last night: Lee Thomas writes:

"Many times Billy would challenge the Christians with 'How can we expect the unsaved to come flocking into the kingdom over old, apathetic, critical church members?'"

What a challenge. What a statement. How can we expect the unsaved to come flocking to the house of God—a local church—when it is filled with apathetic, critical church members?

Merriam-Webster's online dictionary defines apathetic as: Having no interest, concern, emotion or feelings.

Sunday was concerned that the church rolls were filled with people who were apathetic. Are you apathetic toward the things of God? Are you concerned about your church? Are you interested in the people in the church? Are you doing anything to welcome our newest members and make our guests feel welcome? Are you concerned about building the kingdom of God? If Berean never grew beyond its current size, would that bother you?

Then Sunday said that the church has "critical" members. Critical members are negative and seldom satisfied with anything. These are the members that have a reputation of bringing all the problems to a pastor's attention. If a decision is made, they will be opposed. Very infrequently will you hear an encouraging word from these member's mouths.

If some members are apathetic and other members are critical, this is a killer combination that will surely quench the Spirit's work in a church. This must be why Lee Thomas writes "many times Billy would challenge the Christians." Sunday had to challenge Christians in every city to change.

Sunday knew that no matter how great the revival was in any city, if the church did not change, these new converts would not stand a chance against the world. They needed to be welcomed into a church packed with Spirit-filled believers who were positive and concerned about the Kingdom of God through teaching and growing new believers grounded in the faith.

If Sunday were alive today, would he say the same thing? If Sunday came to Berean, would he be concerned that our rolls are filled with critical, apathetic members who call themselves Christians?






Saying Good Bye

Today a very good friend of mine and a brother in Christ boarded a plane to depart to another duty assignment. I will miss him greatly. Friends are precious.

It is hard to imagine that we will not be running together again on his 4-day weekends. I look forward to the day God brings him back.

But I know that in spite of 1000s of miles of distance today's modern communication devices will allow us to stay in touch and our common love for our King will bind our hearts together in service in to His Kingdom.

He has served our Lord well and His church exceptionally well. He will be missed by all those to whom he taught so very faithfully every week.

I pray our Lord will guide him to his next duty assignment in the kingdom and he will bless another preacher as much as he blessed me.

Reasoner, be faithful and serve our King will all you have and He will reward you beyond your wildest dreams and expectations.



Covenant Discussion II

I want to encourage everyone to give serious consideration to this matter of covenants within the church.

Please don't feel the need to post.

I agree wholeheartedly with the Bible as being our guide, standard and rule by which we apply all things. Therefore, if you have a covenant shouldn't everything in the covenant be easily substantiated from the Bible?

Should we just say I pledge to live by the Bible? The Bible is a large book with much information in it. Some of which isn't very applicable to today—have you read Leviticus lately?

There must a reason why godly preachers of the past and elders of the church drafted and articulated the most important things into paragraphs that could be easily digested and comprehended.

Some of the godliest men in the world have written and pledged to live within the framework of a covenant.

I don't sense any leadership from the Lord just to continue to keep our covenant buried in a pdf file. Pray for me.

Greg Wills writes,

When persons joined a Baptist church, they subscribed to its covenant, which summarized Christ's commission to the churches. In it they declared that they intended together to be church of Christ: "We do voluntarily and jointly separate ourselves from the world, and give ourselves unto the Lord, hold ourselves henceforth his, and no longer our own. We do also voluntarily and mutually give ourselves one to another; and receive one another in the Lord, meaning hereby to become one body, joint to exist and act by bonds and rules of the gospel, each esteeming himself henceforth a member of a spiritual body, accountable to it, subject to its control" (Polity: A Collection of Historic Baptist Documents p. 23).

Why should I assume that in the 18th century it was important but isn't important in the 21st century?

Fundamentalist of the past must have thought it was important.





Covenant Discussion

A covenant is an agreement between two or more parties. It is a formal and binding agreement. If a church has a covenant isn't it reasonable to assume that the party that it applies to is its membership?

If the covenant applies to its membership then the covenant must contain only those things that the church would exclude someone from being a member.

The issue becomes defining these things. This requires a huge degree of spiritual maturity. Obviously, repentance toward God and faith in Jesus Christ would be absolutely essential. Baptism by immersion after salvation would be another non-negotiable.

Other areas are just as clear. Drunkenness is clearly prohibited in Scripture and a strong case can be made that any consumption of alcohol is a slippery slope; therefore, I choose not to drink and have chosen not to for 20 plus years.

But the difficult issue is do you prohibit alcohol consumption or drunkenness in the covenant?

Which can you most readily identify as completely unacceptable behavior for a Christian? Certainly pastors, deacons, teachers, staff and anyone associated with leadership in a church must be held to a higher standard than the membership, but what are the core expectations of church members.

I submit to you that the reason church covenants are not in practice and have been hidden away in the archives of church libraries and filing cabinets is because of these tough emotional issues.

Would you prohibit someone from becoming a church member because they listened to secular music?

Certainly sexual immorality must be present in a covenant. A man or woman who goes into sexual immorality would not expect to be able to remain a member in good standing with his or her church.

I think that only those areas in which a church (the people) would be willing to raise their hand high and vote someone out of the church would be included in the covenant.

Faithful attendance seems like a reasonable expectation. I met someone in a restaurant who claimed to be a member of Berean and openly stated she had not been in attendance in well over six months—the reality is 6 months was gracious. I remember when this young couple united with Berean and it was well over a year. You don't know them because they never attended church after they united. They have since been voted out of the membership because of their lack of commitment to the church.

I believe there isn't any wrong with having members pledge to be faithful to the church that they are uniting with. Do you?

Why would a church have a covenant if it wasn't going to use it?










BBC Covenant

Having been led, as we believe, by the Spirit of God, to receive the Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior,

and on profession of our faith, having been baptized in the name of our Father, and of the Son, and of the

Holy Ghost, we do now, in the presence of God, and this assembly, most solemnly and joyfully enter into

covenant with one another as one body in Christ.

We engage, therefore, by the aid of the Holy Spirit, to walk together in Christian love; to strive

for the advancement of this Church in knowledge, holiness, and comfort; to promote its prosperity and

spirituality; to sustain its worship, ordinances, discipline, and doctrines; to give it a sacred preeminence

over all institutions of human origin, and to contribute cheerfully and regularly to the support of the

ministry, the expenses of the Church, the relief of the poor, and he spread of the Gospel through all


We also engage to maintain family and private devotions; to religiously educate our children;

to seek the salvation of our kindred, acquaintances, and all others; to walk circumspectly in the world;

to be just in our dealings, faithful to our engagements, and Berean Baptist Church's Constitution;to be

exemplary in our deportment; to avoid all tattling, backbiting, and excessive anger; to abstain from worldly

amusements such as gambling, rock music, and the modern dance; to be free from all oath-bound secret

societies and partnerships with unbelievers; to abstain from the sale or use of tobacco in any form, narcotic

drugs, or intoxicating drink as a beverage; and to be zealous in our efforts to advance the kingdom of our


We further engage to watch over one another in brotherly love; to remember each other in prayer;

to aid each other in sickness and distress; to cultivate Christian sympathy in feeling and courtesy of speech;

to be slow to take offense, but always ready for reconciliation and mindful of the rules of our Savior; to

secure reconciliation without delay.

We moreover engage that, when we remove from this place, we will as soon as possible, unite with

some other Church where we can carry out the spirit of this covenant and the principles of God's Word.

Pastoral Accountability

Have you seen the headlines?

CBS News has learned Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa, the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, is investigating six prominent televangelist ministries for possible financial misconduct. The six ministries identified as being under investigation by the committee are led by: Paula White, Joyce Meyer, Creflo Dollar, Eddie Long, Kenneth Copeland and Benny Hinn. Three of the six - Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland and Creflo Dollar - also sit on the Board of Regents for the Oral Roberts University.

This brings up a very reasonable question:

To whom is the pastor of BBC accountable?

First and foremost, a pastor must fear God and be accountable to Him. When a congregation feels a pastor no longer fears God, he should be voted out of his office.

Second, a pastor must be accountable to his wife if he is married. If a pastor is keeping secrets (other than a surprise birthday party) from his wife, that should be a serious warning sign to the church. No one knows a pastor better than his wife, and she has a responsibility before God and the church to aid her husband in becoming more like Christ day by day in love and respect for him.

Third, as the pastor of Berean, I place myself in a position of accountability to the other pastors in the church. If you are looking for this in the NT—look in Acts and look at the plurality of leadership. Paul told Titus to ordain elders in every city. The pastors of Berean Baptist have demonstrated that they are willing to risk their jobs and do the right thing. They believe that you as a congregation will support them as long as they are following the Bible. A pastor who would knowingly let another pastor remain in the ministry when he is biblically disqualified should lose his ordination as well as the pastor in sin.

Fourth, I am answerable to every member of Berean. Every member of this church has a responsibility to approach me individually when they have a concern, issue, or a belief that I am not in compliance with the Word of God or the Church Constitution. Matthew 18.15, could be written, "Moreover if your pastor sins against you, go and tell him his fault." Read the rest of the chapter for more guidance from our King.

Fifth, I am accountable to the annual budget. The budget is approved by the congregation and provides the parameters within to operate. A need to adjust the budget must be approved by the congregation. The duly elected church treasurer has access to all financial information at his discretion. The church also provides quarterly briefing and reports on the financial condition of the entire ministry.

Sixth, I am responsible to follow the Articles of Faith, the Covenant and Church Constitution.

When a pastor falls into sin, he needs to be quickly disciplined according to the biblical criteria of 1st Timothy 5:19-21.





One Example of a Church Covenant

In my study of church covenants this week I found this covenant:

What do you think of it? Would you sign it?

I believe it is time for me to teach on church covenants.

My thought is simple: Why have a covenant if it is not affirmed by all the members of the church?


Having, as we trust, been brought by Divine Grace to repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and to give up ourselves to Him, and having been baptized upon our profession of faith, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, we do now, relying on His gracious aid, solemnly and joyfully renew our covenant with each other.

We will work and pray for the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

We will walk together in brotherly love, as becomes the members of a Christian Church; exercise an affectionate care and watchfulness over each other and faithfully admonish and entreat one another as occasion may require.

We will not forsake the assembling of ourselves together, nor neglect to pray for ourselves and others.

We will endeavor to bring up such as may at any time be under our care, in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, and by a pure and loving example to seek the salvation of our family and friends.

We will rejoice at each other's happiness and endeavor with tenderness and sympathy to bear each other's burdens and sorrows.

We will seek, by Divine aid, to live carefully in the world, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, and remembering that, as we have been voluntarily buried by baptism and raised again from the symbolic grave, so there is on us a special obligation now to lead a new and holy life.

We will work together for the continuance of a faithful evangelical ministry in this church, as we sustain its worship, ordinances, discipline, and doctrines. We will contribute cheerfully and regularly to the support of the ministry, the expenses of the church, the relief of the poor, and the spread of the Gospel through all nations.

We will, when we move from this place, as soon as possible unite with some other church where we can carry out the spirit of this covenant and the principles of God's Word.

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all. Amen.



I certainly appreciate the emphasis upon God's help and grace in this covenant. It also will serve for years to come regardless of the wicked imaginations of man—a holy life describes a prohibition against all that man may devise in the years to come.

What do you think?


Last Sunday morning we began our first Sunday in Nehemiah. The preaching series on Nehemiah is going to prove to be a very important series for Berean. The application to today for us will be tremendous. The lessons that we will be able to extract and apply will be overwhelming at times. We will get to know Nehemiah and his passion for the God's glory in a new or fresh way. We will learn to love a man who is passionate about accomplishing his purpose in life.

What is your purpose? Why were you created? What is the purpose of the church? From the OT book of Nehemiah, we are going to see this for ourselves in the 21st Century.

Let me encourage you to, first—read the entire book several times. Second be faithful. If you can't attend the service for whatever reason get the DVD/CD and make a point of listening to the sermon sometime during the week. How many of you will be able to say I listened to the entire series?

In the OT, God's covenant community were the followers of Jehovah normally descendents of Abraham. In the NT, God's covenant community is the church. In the OT, Jerusalem was the primary place where God was worshipped in unique and special way.

God has now seen fit to permit believers in His Son to assemble all over the world and worship Him in places we call churches.

The degree to which these churches accomplish what Jerusalem and Israel were intended to accomplish—namely bringing glory and honor to the One True God—is based upon how much the church is a Christ-centered community of passionate, fully committed followers of God.

In the same manner, Nehemiah was committed to returning Jerusalem to a city for God's GLORY; we must be just as passionate about making Berean Baptist a city within the city.

This Sunday, I want to focus on this idea of a city within the city for God's Glory!

Will you be present?


Upward Soccer 2007

Last night, we concluded Berean Baptist's first Upward Soccer season with a pep-rally of sorts in celebration of our Lord and the boys and girls that participated. The pastoral staff came together to plan and execute this event and did a very good job! It seemed that nearly everyone present had a very good time. Prizes were won, songs were song, and every boy and girl received a trophy and size 2 soccer ball (I didn't know there was such a size). Many thanks should go out to Jeff Woosley, Lisa Harvey and Darren Hawk for their combined effort throughout the season. Additionally, all this would not have been possible without the coaches and referees. Many teenagers did an awesome job unselfishly contributing hours of their precious Saturdays for our sons and daughters. Over 200 boys and girls participated and we look forward to an even greater participation next year.

I have heard some comments about the size of the field for the older boys and girls and we are examining how we can have a bigger field and goals for the oldest grouping. We also are looking at how we can start all the games at the same time so that everyone can pause for devotions throughout the day of competition.

The mission of Upward Sports is to reach boys and girls with the good news of Jesus Christ—this is done first and foremost through the coaches who are fully devoted followers of Christ. The coach is charged with the responsibility to impart the teachings of Christ into soccer (and basketball). He or she does this during practices and games and the manner in which they conduct themselves both on and off the field.

We are considering starting the season a bit later into the year—I am sure you recall the blistering heat during several of the first Saturdays. I am also reviewing the purpose and focus of the closing ceremony.

I would love to hear from every coach, referee and players parent if you have praise for someone or a productive suggestion that we should consider as we retool for next year. Please go easy on us but we are open on ways to improve. Berean wants to provide Fayetteville with a great alternative to recreation league that may not be focused on Christ first and foremost, but we also want to teach boys and girls the fundamentals of soccer and good sportsmanship. Please post your comment on the blog or send me an email at and put "Upward Soccer 2007" in the subject line.

If our Lord should delay His glorious coming, I look forward to seeing some returning veterans turn up the heat on our fields next year.

Once again thanks….Pastor Sean



Prepare the Horse for Battle

Do you read a chapter of Proverbs every day? There are thirty-one chapters so it works out nicely even on months with 31 days. Today is Sunday, October 21, 2007 and the last verse in this chapter is one of my favorites and in many ways describes how I want to live my life.

The horse is prepared against [for] the day of battle,

but safety belongs to the Lord.


This verse combines God's Sovereignty and what God expects of humans incredibly well in a very practical sense. What God expects of humans is called human responsibility. Sometimes you may hear God's Sovereignty and free will—but a disciple of Christ isn't focused upon free will. I want to know what my responsibilities are in this kingdom whose King is Jesus Christ—what does He expect of me? What are my human responsibilities? I see clearly in the Bible that He is Sovereign in all aspects of life and in the universe.

Even the opening verse in this chapter, Proverbs 21.1, reminds me of this fact:

The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water:

he turneth it whithersoever he will.


This verse compares the manner in which Our Sovereign Lord turns the heart of the king to the manner in which HHHhH e turns rivers—He can redirect a river as He sees fit anytime He chooses. Consider any flood and you know the manner in which a river is no longer contained in its normal path. We seem to understand well how God works in all of creation—but within the heart of man we limit God—why is that?

The Bible doesn't!

If a king has a choice in any matter, it is because God permits him that choice and our God gives us many of choices. But I don't want to focus on that. As a Spirit-filled follower of Christ, my focus in life should not be upon what choices I have—it should be on just the opposite! What my Lord expects of me should be my focus. What are my responsibilities? In this verse, He tells me to prepare the horse for battle. The horse isn't going to prepare itself for battle. The owner of the horse prepares for battle with the horse.

Many men and women in Berean go to battle. They literally go to places all over the globe where the rifle range is two-way, and people shoot back. These men and women need to prepare for battle—they must train hard. Jesus taught that the foolish king goes to battle without counting the cost and determining if he can win (Luke 14.31). Yes, "safety" is of the Lord. Or "victory" in the ESV is of the Lord. Safety and victory is of the Lord! But the horse must be prepared for battle. God gives man a brain to use and to prepare for the battle or the storms of life. This can be applied to personal finances—we must prepare the horse for battle. We call this an emergency fund. Most Christians simply do not have enough money in the bank; hopefully, they are not flippantly saying deliverance is from God—God will provide. The horse is
prepared for battle. Man prepares the horse for battle.

The out of shape soldier who can't shoot; follow instructions; and perform his warrior tasks in battle can't claim half the Bible verse for himself. He is instructed by King Solomon to prepare himself and his horse—his equipment—for battle. The student who hasn't prepared for the examination doesn't say victory is of the Lord.

The born-again believer who gets advanced notice that a tropical storm is coming doesn't declare God is Sovereign—safety belongs to the Lord—without preparing for the storm.

He prepares and prepares and prepares.

He stock piles potable water; buys extra food; covers windows and brings in that which he doesn't want blown away from outside; he does all he can to prepare for the storm and then bows the knee to the Sovereign God of the Universe and says, "safety belongs to the Lord."

As a disciple of Christ, that's how I want to live my life. How about you? Do you understand that our emphasis in life doesn't need to be on free will—it needs to be upon my responsibilities before my King!

Don't get me wrong, I love free will—

I love the choice to drink sweet or un-sweet iced tea.

I love the choice to buy a blue or brown suit.

I love the choice to drive a truck or a car,

But let's be real what will all that matter in eternity.


I don't have a choice in serving the King. The Sovereign God of the Universe has called me into his Kingdom to be a foot soldier for the Captain of my Salvation and I will obey.

I have but one life to live for the King of Kings and Lord of Lords—I will surely not live it to its fullest for Him if my heart is focused upon my free will.

By God's grace, I want to focus upon my Lord and Savior. My prayer is that He will show my everyday how to better prepare my horse for battle and I will do it—by His Grace!

Pastor Sean

Berean Baptist Men's Retreat

These four men exceeded the weight limit for the tube, but not the boat.

Team Captain Rudy did an incrediable job with the boys and youth. I think these smiles accurately reflect how much everyone enjoyed themselves.

Music was a major part of the retreat; our worship sessions were the best.

A father and son enjoy some time together by the lake; some dads were able to spend more time with there sons during this weekend than they have previously for weeks. Getting away just seems to create moments like this.

We used the our new tour busses to get to Camp Anchorage. The trip was about 90 minutes long and provided for our first chance to fellowship.

This activity provided hours of enjoyment.

Do those men look like they are having fun? I pity the poor fellow on the red team.

Big House


Last night, I joined the Senior High Youth for their Wednesday youth meeting after Pam and I visited with wonderful new family in Berean. Pastor Steve Rahn gave an excellent short message on prayer and I really appreciated it; therefore, I have asked him to articulate his thoughts in writing for my blog. Thanks Steve for your love for our Lord Jesus and youth.


Matthew 6: 5-13 And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him. After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.


Sometimes I think that prayer is one of the most frustrating parts about being a Christ follower.


Can someone please explain to me how prayer works? Can you give me a legitimate explanation for why God answers the prayers he answers? And then explain to me why he shuts other people down?

Just this week, I have seen relatively trivial prayers answered, and I have also seen earnest prayers of daunting importance seemingly ignored.

What is up with that?

Is it because some people have more faith than others? Not according to Jesus. He says if you can gather up faith the size of a mustard seed, God will move mountains for you. So it's not about the size of our faith.

Is it because some people have a more religious vocabulary than others? Nope. Jesus basically tells us to cut out the fancy words and the vain repetitions. He says the heathen think that they will be heard because of "their much speaking." They're wrong. And the directive from our Lord is "don't be like them."

So it's not about the length or breadth of our vocabulary, nor is about the length or breadth of our faith. So what is it about? How does it work? How can we get the results from prayer that we desire?

Well for starters, shut your door.

Jesus said, "when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret;"

So you go into your room and you close your door behind you. And to get the full 21st century effect of this 1st century command, you'll also have to turn off your cell phone, your pc, your ipod, your TV, and any other noise that floats in and out of your day. Jesus is asking that you commune with God, and God alone.

And Jesus promises that "thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly."

Ch-ching! So that's the key to getting the results I desire from my prayer time! Excellent!


Jesus says our Father will reward us openly. He doesn't say that our Father will grant our every wish. God is not our vending machine. And many times His rewards are not the ones for which we have asked. We get so caught up in our own personal requests that we squander what could be incredible prayer time with God. In verse 8, Jesus reminds us that our "Father knoweth what things we have need of, before we ask him." God knows what we need, and he is taking care of us.

So when we are spending the majority of our prayer time asking for needs to be met, we are missing the point of prayer!

I wonder how many of us struggle just like I do with the idea that prayer is not about me. I have, so often, prayed prayers to God that were almost totally focused around me and what I wanted from God. I throw in a few "God bless my family" prayers, and a few "God help John Whoever to get feeling better" prayers. But essentially my prayer life is centered on me.

And I have it backwards.

God tells us that He already knows what we need. So let's get past that.

Have you ever been to a huge house? Like a celebrity style mansion? Where you think you've seen every room, and then you discover another whole wing that you haven't even stepped foot in yet. Imagine rooms and rooms and rooms, beautiful pools, libraries and studies, recreation and workout rooms, magnificent dining rooms with tables full of perfect looking food.

Imagine you visit an estate like that, and you ring the doorbell, and the butler lets you in. He takes your coat and announces your arrival to your host. The butler takes you into a small, comfortable lobby with a large screen plasma TV on the wall and a stack of magazines in a rack at your feet. He invites you to relax on a plush leather couch until your host arrives.

Now imagine that you never leave that room.

Your host comes in and asks if you'd like to join him in the rec room, perhaps play some pool or some video games.

Nah, you say.

How about a meal? You can have any kind of food your heart, or should I say, stomach desires?

No, you respond. I'm fine. I'll stay here.

And you never leave. It's the smallest room in the house. They are so many wonderful experiences that you are forgoing. And your host is more than willing to take you to any room you want. And you decline.

That's kind of where we are with prayer. The only room we've visited is the vending machine room.

"God, I need this. God, I want that. In Jesus' name, amen." And we never leave that room.

Listen to Jesus' model prayer:

God, you are holy. You are perfect.

Have your will in my life.

Please meet my needs today.

Please forgive me of my sins.

Please deliver me from temptation.

Only twenty percent of this prayer was devoted to asking for needs to be met.

The first essential part of this prayer was acknowledging that God is perfect and holy, and worshiping him as such. Begin there in your intimate time with God. Spend quality time telling God what you love about Him.

The second part is begging for His will to be done in our lives. Honestly ask God that He do His will, then see how that changes your "grocery list" of needs to be met.

Then Jesus says to ask God to meet our daily needs. After we worship Him, after we beg for His will to be done. And not before.

The fourth part is a sincere plea for forgiveness. And if you are like me, spending honest time with God always reveals sins in my heart, mind and life.

The final part of this model prayer is a plea for deliverance from temptation and future sin. Just uttering a dependence upon God will alter how you deal with evil thoughts and actions for the rest of the day.

So, perhaps you're like me, and you are occasionally or perpetually frustrated with your prayer life. Or perhaps you struggle with boredom or apathy. Why don't you try Jesus' suggestions on the matter?

Get in your room, shut your door, and shut out any other noises.

Spend much less time on your own personal needs.

Spend much more time on worshiping your Creator, begging for His will to be done in your life, asking Him to forgive you of your sins, and praying for strength to glorify Him.

And see if God opens up rooms to His house that you never knew existed.

Statement on Tony Denton

The purpose of this email is to inform you that a former employee of the church, Tony Denton, has been arrested for sexually molesting three teenagers 30 years ago. Presently, he is in Jacksonville, FL until he is extradited to Fayetteville.

Obviously this in no way affects the present day situation in as much as Mr. Denton has not been employed by the church in over 25 years.

Please refer anyone from the media to Dr. Steve Wilson as our single point of contact.

We have policies and procedures in place in order to guard and protect our children and teenagers.

Presently, the victims are not members of the church and we pray for these ladies and their families.


Praying in Jesus’ Name

On Tuesday, of last week, Jonathan and I went to the Fayetteville Police Department to provide a devotional/mini-sermon during the Christian Law Enforcement Officers (CLEO) monthly lunch. In order to show our appreciation of Christian law officers Berean provided lunch (subs, chips, cookies and soft drinks).

This is the 2nd time I have spoken to CLEO and have really enjoyed my time with this fine group on both occasions.

During my last time with them, I learned that the Fayetteville city was circulating a final draft policy letter prohibiting employees of the city from praying in Jesus' name—Christ—or any other deity.

My understanding is that the city is attempting to protect itself from potential lawsuits from the ACLU.

What was left to be determined was what the consequences of violating the policy would be. Additionally, CLEO was considering asking the city manager or lawyer or leadership to meet with them to provide clarifying instructions.

Berean Baptist Renovates

This is the inside of the new chapel. The chapel will be used for our Spanish ministry, Wednesday night prayer meetings, BBA chapel on Tuesdays and Fridays, small weddings, men's meetings, preacher conferences and on and on. Part of the renovation also includes the hall going into the chapel which is being completely redone with another welcome center. The spanish pastor's office will office be located there and we gain a large storage room. The entire HVAC has been replaced and the roof has been completely repaired to prevent any water damage.

Here is a current picture of the future Berean Baptist coffee shop bookstore combination. The back corner is where the coffee bar area will be. The left and right walls will have bookcases and cabinets. The floor will have a combination of tile and carpet. The oak is going to be used for the trim work.

BBA 2008 Senior High Graduation

Dear parents of BBA's class 2008,

I have decided to reverse my decision with regard to the graduation ceremony being held on a Sunday versus a Friday. It will now be held on Friday, June 6th. With that in mind, the church will not fund the reception. My goal previously was to have church-wide Sunday night fellowship in honor of the graduates. Insomuch as we are returning to the old way of doing things, part of that old way is that parents of the graduates provide the reception for their graduates. All the parents of the graduates must work together to make this happen.

This decision was based on a request that more notice be given of such a significant change, and a request that more deference be given to those who are an active part of the Academy; however, are not a part of the Berean Baptist Church.

For those of you who have more than one child in the Academy, please understand that I am still weighing all my options with regard to a Friday verses Sunday graduation and may still change graduation to a Sunday in the future but with more notice. Furthermore, the K5 graduation will remain on Sunday night.

As I explained in our Tuesday night meeting, the importance of connecting the church and the academy together in all matters cannot be overstated.

BBA is a ministry of the church; it is not a separate entity created to give students a private education. First and foremost, our mission is to educate your sons and daughters in an environment in which Jesus Christ is exalted as the Lord of Lords and King of Kings and to do everything possible to ensure our graduates leave the Academy with a Biblical Worldview. This is not possible without the full and complete support of the entire church. Furthermore, it is not possible if our graduates are not active members of a Christ exalting, Bible believing church whose doctrine is sound and whose emphasis is right.

Please understand that with the change in pastoral leadership of the church, changes in the Academy will continue to occur. The significance of BBA as a ministry of the church requires my involvement and leadership in its purpose, objectives, philosophy, goals and future. As such, by God's grace, I am committed to providing that Spiritual influence.

I am also committed to being the premier conservative Baptist Academy in Fayetteville and the surrounding areas all to the glory of God.

Your faithful support has made so much of what has been done possible, and as long as our Lord delays His return for the saints, I believe the best and brightest days for BBA are yet to be seen.

I appreciate your exemplary conduct at last night's meeting, your patience and understanding as we work through change, and I am depending upon your continued prayers and support.

Pastor Sean

A Phone Call from Iraq that started a Year Ago

Yesterday at lunch I received a very encouraging phone call from Iraq. Pastor Jackie and I were talking about FAITH teams, evangelism and follow up when Dawn buzzed in an asked me to take a phone call from Iraq from a name I did not recognize. (I don't get calls from Iraq often—the men deployed call their wives most often and seldom me, as it should be).

But not this call; it was from a paratrooper in Iraq who asked if I got his email and then he proceeded to introduce himself. He was saved as a child and grew up in a Baptist home and got away from the Lord when he went into the Army. (Oh to God we ask, "How many more are like this paratrooper out there in the 82nd and Fort Bragg that we must reach?")

He said that he was at another base for a day or so and was complaining to another Soldier about the lack of chapel services when the Soldier gave him a DVD from BBC. This was five days ago and he said he immediately watched it and God brought him under great conviction concerning the way God had been watching over him during combat in spite of the fact that he haven't been living for God. Isn't the mercy and grace of our God often just overwhelming?

When I asked him, "what service it was that he watched?" He replied that it was from Sunday September 17, 2006. Yesterday was September 17th, 2007—a year after I preached a sermon it was still preaching in Iraq because of the dedicated effort of a team of volunteers who make our DVD ministry work.

This young man committed to rededicating his life to the Lord in Iraq and described being in contact with 7 IEDs and 21 engagements with a battlefield injury. This future Sergeant in the 2d BDE combat team of the 82d Airborne Division asked about being put on our DVD mailing list and if it would be ok for him to give to the church until he came back and became a member. I sent him a copy of Tender Warrior and Dawn added him to our mailing list and I ask that you pray for Brown.

Finally, pray that more men and women will pass on the DVDs to reach as many of the 200,000 men and women in Iraq and Afghanistan for His Glory and for His Name's Sake!


Turn their ears to the Sound of the Shepherd

John 10:25-28 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. 26 But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you. 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: 28 And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.


In John 10, Jesus describes those who do not believe the truth of the glorious gospel because they are not sheep. Jesus, God Himself, is able to identify all who are sheep and all who will be sheep and has been able to do this from eternity past.


This then means that even before I believed, God saw me and knew me as sheep—one of His very own! The Bible calls these the elect. From a human perspective, I do not become a sheep by believing, but perhaps a better articulation of this would be: I discover that I am a sheep when I believe in the truth that Jesus Christ, the sinless Lamb slain before the foundation of the world died on a bloody cross for the redemption of my soul so that my sins could be forgiven and I might be granted eternal life with God forever and ever.


This helps me understand Jesus' words in,


Luke 15:4 What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?


Today, even as I am typing away at my laptop, all around the world the Chief Shepherd is using men and women to look for the lost sheep, and the Bible says He looks until He finds it. What a promise to the disciple of Christ committed to the great commission God has sheep out there who are lost and don't even know they are sheep. We must share the truth with them that the Chief Shepherd loves them and is calling them by name.


And according to John 10, they know His voice and will hear Him calling and come home. My brother and sister in Christ, you are not out their hopelessly looking for someone you don't even know is out there. No! It is just the opposite Jesus said,

"And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd" (John 10.16).

This is precisely the promise that we must grab a hold of and live by—Jesus said in your place of work and in your neighborhood there is one lost out there that must be found and brought home. He or she is a sheep and doesn't even know it. Go tell them. The Chief Shepherd bids us to go in His Name and for His Name's sake we call out for the Shepherd, and He promises that they will hear His voice and come home.

John 15:16 Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.

He tells us that His Word will not return void so we must share His Word.

Isaiah 55:11 So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.

Do you know how to show a sheep how to come home using the Bible? If you don't, BBC offers classes every Wednesday night at 7.45pm so that you can learn to go in His name and call for the Shepherd:

"Come home, come home, You who are weary, come home."
Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling, calling, "O sinner, come home!"

Pray to the Lord of the Harvest that He will send us more laborers who are willing to be chosen vessels sent forth by the Master to bring forth fruit. As we labor in His vineyard for such a time as this. May we be about our Master's business looking for the sheep that is lost and harvesting the fruit that is ripe.