October 28, 2010
Christian living demands fullness of consecration to God (Rom. 12:1-2). Striving for excellence is an important part of the Christian life. We must never lower the standard of righteousness to fit our weaknesses and transgressions. Instead, we must constantly endeavor to overcome these shortcomings and attain the quality of life that is worthy of our calling. Christlikeness demands striving for excellence. Can you think of a nobler life than that of Jesus Christ? Peter declares, “Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously” (I Pet. 2:21-23). Peter wrote these words immediately after instructing his readers to follow the example of Jesus. The word example (hupogrammos) means “an under-writing…hence a writing-copy, an example” (Vine, Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, II, 54). The example Jesus left us is perfect in all aspects. To dedicate one’s life to follow Christ, is a commitment to excellence!
Why is this so important? I recently read why 99.9% isn’t good enough. Consider the following facts which illustrate what it would be like if things were done right 99.9% of the time.
-1 hour of unsafe drinking water every month
-2 unsafe plane landings per day at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago
-16,000 pieces of mail lost by the U. S. Postal Service every hour
-20,000 incorrect drug prescriptions per year
-500 incorrect surgical operatons each week
-50 newborn babies dropped at birth by doctors every day
-22,000 checks deducted from the wrong bank accounts each hour
-32,000 missed heartbeats per person per year
-315 entries in Webster’s Dictionary would be misspelled
-103,260 income tax returns would be processed incorrectly during the year
-5.5 million cases of soft drinks produced would be flat
A small amount of imperfection can produce a large amount of undesirable results! Perhaps we should consider the consequences of one sin. “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guiltyof all” (James 2:10). He is condemned by all of the law when he violates any portion of it. One sin condemns. One sin necessitates forgiveness from God.
Our imperfection is only made perfect through the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. The spiritual consequences of sin can only be remedied through the atonement secured through the death of Jesus on the cross. “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed” (I Peter 2:24). Forgiveness for our sin perfects us in God’s sight. We are spiritually healed and strive for the excellence of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Yes, we strive to imitate our perfect example–Jesus Christ.
October 21, 2010
A recent Columbus Dispatch article titled, Chasing A Myth, addressed the dream many student athletes have of getting a scholarship or playing in professional sports (Columbus Dispatch, September 1, 2010). A Dispatch survey of more than 1,000 area high-school students last fall showed that earning a college scholarship was among the top two motivating forces for playing youth sports outside of school. These students are competing for nearly $2 billion dollars in scholarship money for men’s and women’s collegiate athletics. But, most will never see any of it . The NCAA says that less than 4 percent of the 7.5 million participants in high-school sports in the U.S. will receive full or partial scholarships (p. 1).
What are some of the odds that a high-school senior will end up playing their sport in college and the professional leagues?
Sports Odds/College Odds/Pros
Baseball 3 in 50 1 in 200
Men’s Ice Hockey 11 in 100 2 in 300
Men’s soccer 3 in 50 1 in 1,250
Women’s basketball 3 in 100 1 in 5,000
Football 1 in 17 8 in 10,000
Men’s Basketball 1 in 35 3 in 10,000
Sandy Baum, economics professor at Skidmore College in Saratoga, N.Y., an expert in financial aid, said “It’s like buying a lottery ticket.” While most parents and their children dream of big scholarships and large salaries in professional sports, the odds are against them. What else should student athletes be focused on? The answer is obvious–their education.
There is another aspect to the “sports craze” in American culture that needs addressed. Many churches are seeing a decline in attendance at Bible study and worship assemblies due to over scheduling of sports activities. What is a parent to do when a sports activity (practice or a game) interferes with Bible study or worship of God? Here are some things to consider.
First, set your priorities according to biblical principles. Matt. 6:33, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” Parents and student athletes must put God first. Jesus warned about the “cares of this world” choking out the Word of God in the Parable of the Sower (Matt. 13:22). Don’t make this mistake.
Second, the value of your child’s soul is worth more than the money he or she might acquire through sports. Jesus said, “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matt. 16:26). Parents are involved in a soul-winning function in their homes. The decisions made in the home should guide a child to develop the fruits of righteousness which lead to eternal life.
Third, remember your commitment to God is 100%. Paul writes, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Rom. 12:1-2). God demands full consecration to Him. Ye cannot serve two masters! (Matt. 6:24). Parents must not allow their children to over-commit and thereby schedule God out of their lives. Whenever there is a conflict between Bible study and sports, why can’t God win! A decision to put God first cannot be the wrong one.
October 13, 2010
Church of Christ
Are there any advantages to being a small church? Bigger is better, right? According to the Hartford Institute for Religion Research, there are 177,000 churches in America with fewer than 100 weekly worshipers and another 105,000 churches between 100 and 500 in attendance each week. On the other hand, there are only 19,000 churches–or 6 percent of the total–with more than 500 attendees. That means that if there were 100 churches in your town, 94 of them would have 500 or fewer attendees, and only 6 would have more than 500. Mega-churches (regular attendance over 2,000) make up less than one half of one percent of churches in America. “We have allowed the ministry experience of 6 percent of pastors to become the standard by which the remaining 94 percent of us judge ourselves” (Brandon J. O’Brien, The Strategically Small Church, p. 25).
Sociologist Rodney Stark estimates that at the end of the first century there may have been only twenty-five thousand Christians in the entire known world. By the fourth century, before the Roman Emperor Constantine legalized the practice of Christianity, there may have been as many as 20 million (O’Brien, p. 30). This growth occurred primarily through the combined efforts of small churches.
Many of the megachurches have swelled in size due to transfer growth (members from other denominations) rather than conversions (new converts to Christianity). The flagship church of the evangelical movement during the late 1980′s and early 1990′s was the Evangelical Free Church of Fullerton, California. Over five thousand people made their way to the worship service each Sunday. Chuck Swindoll was the preacher. They had become a church growth success story. However, Swindoll admitted that 80 to 85 percent of attendees were from other churches (William Chadwick, Steeling Sheep, pp. 70-71). Megachurches often have a crippling effect upon small churches much like a Walmart store does to a mom and pop grocery store in a small town.
Are there any advantages to small churches? Since small churches make up the majority of churches among churches of Christ, this question seems pertinent to us. Here are some things to consider.
1. Small churches are better at building intimacy. In a small congregation, individuals come to know one another more intimately. Megachurches are forced to find ways to break down into smaller groups. In effect, they attempt to copy the intimacy and fellowship present in small churches by doing this. In a smaller church, all of the members get to know the preacher serving them. In a megachurch, most members only see the preacher on a big screen! The level of fellowship and intimacy in small churches can provide strength through a sense of connectedness and unity. Small churches are better at meeting relational needs.
2. Small churches are better at allowing ministry opportunities. Most megachurches are run by staffers. In a small church, the various gifts/talents of the members are put to more significant use. This leads to a sense of real meaning and purpose in serving the Lord and others.
3. Small churches are better at financial efficiency and consequently are better stewards of God’s money. Smaller churches are generally more frugal with the money given into the church treasury. They look for ways to cut costs and get the most value for every dollar spent in the Lord’s work. Larger churches have more overhead, administrative costs, and tend to splurge to give the appearance of success. After all, success is what attracts people to them in the first place.
4. Small churches are better at evangelism. There is a greater evangelistic energy on the part of the individual member. In large churches, evangelism is left up to the experts. In small churches, more individual members become involved in evangelism through the outreach of the church. Members are involved in visitation programs, advertising church events, and inviting friends and neighbors to worship assemblies.
The size of a church does not necessarily mean that it is or is not more faithful to the truth of God’s Word. Bigger doesn’t mean “more faithful.” Sometimes “bigger” means less faithful as church leaders attempt to compromise the truth in order to have more people in attendance on Sunday morning. Smaller churches may not be as appealing to the masses as they attempt to hold to the moral and doctrinal distinctiveness of the New Testament church. Faithfulness to God should be the real measure of success in the work of the kingdom. Jesus described two different “ways” in the Sermon on the Mount. A “broad way” that leads to destruction and a “narrow way” that leads to life. Many are on the broad way. Few are on the narrow way (Matthew 7:13-14). We must give diligence to be found on the “narrow way” that leads to life.