What are you serving for?

cropped-blog-logo-final-1280-x-426-pixels.pngI’ve been on this diet for two weeks now, and it’s been the worst two, grilled cheeseless (except for one, because of my lack of discipline) weeks of my life. I started a diet, because I thought I may be able to magically lose 15 pounds by this week since I’m going to the beach. I’m not dieting to be healthy. In all honesty, I couldn’t care less about that right now. I’m dieting so I can lose weight and have that instant self-gratification.  That’s a good motive, right? No wonder I cannot stick to a diet, when it is all about the results for me.

I look at that and can relate all too well in my spiritual life. How can I relate dieting with my spiritual life and the way I serve God? That seems like a stretch. I know. But, I have to look at the why’s behind the things I’m doing in my spiritual walk. Because if I don’t and I’m not careful, my motives, just like my dieting motives, may be to have that same self-gratification. It seems, that if not kept in check, all of my motives, all of my desires turn back to focus on myself.

Sometimes, I find myself serving for good reasons, or what the world would see as good reasons. I’ll serve because I know that someone is depending on me, and I don’t want to let them down. Or I’ll serve because I love the kids. And don’t get me wrong, you should love the kids or the youth or singing in the choir or whatever area you’re serving in, but our motive behind it all should be to serve the living God, because He is God. Because He deserves it. Our motive should always be to glorify Him in what we are doing. Even if our motive seems “good”, is it really?

Last week, I listened to a sermon called “Ten Shekels and a Shirt” by Paris Reidhead. In it, he asked a tough question. “Is God a mean or an end for you?” Sometimes, I have found myself serving God for his benefits. I know if I do what I’m supposed to do, read my bible, pray, serve Him, he will bless me. And by saying God will bless me, I haven’t always been thinking about monetary blessing or blessing of more possessions or more friends or more status or whatever else. Sometimes what I have had in mind would be considered noble. For instance, God will bless me with His peace, His wisdom, His love for people, self-control, patience, etc. — which are all Godly gifts of the spirit and unattainable without God, but in those times, I have found that I am serving God for those things, rather than serving God to glorify Him and serving Him because He’s God and He deserves it. In those times, God is simply a means to my end. He is my avenue of gaining all of those considerably noble qualities, when in reality He should ALWAYS be my END. I should do everything in pursuit of Him, not in pursuit of His gifts, benefits, or qualities. Now, God is a good God. And yes, the closer to Him I get, the more I will desire to be like him and exude those qualities above. “You will recognize them by their fruits…” – Matthew 7:16.  But should that be WHY I serve and pursue God?

I’ve even, as silly as it seems, done something to “serve” God because in my head I thought “well if I don’t, I don’t know who else will.” Just a big FYI, God does not need me to fulfill His plans. He also does not have to use me, but He chooses to. He chooses to allow me to be a part of His good and perfect plan. “Nor is He served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.” – Acts 17:25.

And please don’t get me wrong, your service is SO important. The church would not be able to run if it was not for the people who give their time, energy, and efforts. And I firmly believe that God will use all service for His good. But in saying all of this, I simply want to encourage you to be aware of or even reevaluate the motives behind your service.

“…whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ…” – 1 Peter 4:11

Therefore, let us serve and pursue God that in all things He may be glorified. Think about the motives behind the things you do, and be honest with yourself. Are you serving for self gratification? Are you serving for God’s benefits? Are you serving to be with your friends or because you think it’s fun? Are you serving and pursuing Him simply because that’s what your parents did or how you were raised? Or are you serving Him in order that He would be glorified?

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Lets Stop The Hop

I love going to a good movie with my family. My boys get excited when a new superhero movie comes out! So I, being the good father that I am, make it a point to indulge my fascination…I mean THEIR fascination with a great adventure story. Imagine with me, if you will, how a day at the movies might look if something like the following were to take place.

The boys are excited about seeing the new movie, and I am obviously giddy about the same, all the while Stef is grinning and bearing it. We all load up in the vehicle, each donned with our superhero attire, not mom of course, she’s the adult in the group after all. We travel to the theater, reminiscing our favorite scenes from the previous comic book-movie installment and the post credit scene that left everyone anxiously awaiting the next leg of the story. Finally we’ve arrived and we make our way to the theater. Tickets are purchased, we enter the magical land of big screens and spend our savings on buttery popcorn and the obligatory sour, mint, and cinnamon candies. At last comes the time that we enter into the sanctuary of the silver screen and we each depart from our family group, going on our own way into theaters number 2, number 6, number 9 and number 14.

Where did I lose you? Why on earth would we, with so much anticipation, investment, and excitement traverse such a detailed course only to enjoy the pleasures of the movie apart from each other? Great question! But families do something of this nature very often albeit not necessarily with movies, but with corporate worship, and quite frankly it’s time that we take a closer look at this routine and examine a possible need for change.

Church shopping, hopping, blending…call it what you will; however, I would offer to you that it is reckless and dangerous to the family. You may be thinking to yourself how bold and ostentatious this assertion may be; nevertheless, I make such a statement with great love and concern for the family and the church that we are called to be. Now, before you quit reading out of disdain for this bold statement, I ask that you hang with me just a bit longer. Please hear my heart as it is truly for our families to fully experience the greatness of God, together!

First, allow me to say to those that have a church home but continue to “hop” from one church to another- I get it, but…

I get that we need community. I get that our children go to school with congregants of many different churches and we may feel the need to have them worship alongside each other. However, I would remind us all of the course set for us in Deuteronomy 6:7 “You shall teach [my commandments] diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” Therefore, there’s really not a biblical emphasis placed on framing our worship around our friends, but there’s a blatant command for our families to worship together. How can this expectation be kept if we know very little of the worship, teaching, and preaching that our family members are participating in with a different church family or a variety of families from day to day?

I also get that we have needs that sometimes are not always met by one church family. Much like when my boys want Mexican food and I want a good bacon cheeseburger…which only means that we’re making multiple stops. Nonetheless, we see in scripture multiple exhortations for us to grow up into maturity and not see the church as a buffet. In Hebrews, which is a letter to believers, we find such an strong cry: Hebrews 5:12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food. Perhaps we need to step away from the tempting perspective of church being a time of feeding to the biblical perspective of  church being a time of encouraging and sharpening one another (Heb 10:25, Prov 27:17), and to be sure to not forget that our time together is to be spent worshiping the only one who truly deserves it and so much more.

Are we fed by scripture and time together? Absolutely; and I would suggest that we do just as much feeding as the person sitting next to us or the one in the pulpit. We feed into the lives of the people we greet in the foyer, the person we hold the door open for, the couple in our bible study class, and even into the life of our pastor! But, if we fail to forget this and only think about our own appetite while placing the blame of our perceived spiritual malnourishment on the shoulders of our pastor or ministers, only to move on to or mix in some other buffet, could it be possible that we’re negatively impacting the life of the church and its members? As a matter of fact, isn’t this what the letter to Hebrews stated again in 10:24-25? To consider how to stir up one another in love and  “encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”  All the more…herein lies the passion and persistence needed to come together even more! Why? Because, praise God, Christ is returning and we get to be on the welcoming committee as Larry Osbourne writes in his book Thriving in Babylon.

But lets not forget, if we see an opportunity to serve alongside our church family in a way that God has laid on our hearts yet not made available, lets step up! The Hebrews passage in Chapter 5 reminds us that we ought to be teachers by now, so lets serve in biblical, creative ways under the leadership of our church family! What damage do we do in stepping away from our church family just to pursue a passion that He’s laid on our hearts? Perhaps that need is placed there for you to pursue and glorify Him through the family of believers that He’s already placed you in.

Finally, for those of us that may be found shopping, hopping, or blending- unity is desperately needed within your church family. Listen to David’s song in Psalm 133:1 “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!” How can one church family be unified if they are not dwelling together or their time together is inconsistent? I then think upon the cry of Paul in his letter to the church of Ephesus:

Ephesians 4:1 “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

How can we walk alongside each other with any consistency if our worship together is spotty at best?

I am left with a fear that few reading my thoughts see a clear, vivid problem with my analogy of our family trip the the movies. As much as we love seeing great stories and colorful images come to life, our participation in corporate worship is not about our entertainment at all. My concern for those that shop, hop, or blend churches is ultimately that consumerism is at the heart of this behavior. How much have we cheapened grace that we may confuse the worship of our Creator and Savior with concert-style entertainment and simple take-home points? How far from God’s wrath being poured out on His Son do we have to go to consider church being all about us and our self-help? How dull of hearing and guilty of little doing do we have to be to place our preferences above the worship and adoration of our one, true God? What a scary place to be. I pray that we fix our eyes back on Him, take up the commandment to worship together as a family, unified in our dwelling, and walking together in corporate worship. Lets leave the buffet of shopping, hopping, and blending aimed at our own appetite to the world, and once again gather together to glorify our Lord.

Central has a Blog!

Here at Central Baptist Church our desire is to preach, teach and live the gospel for the glory of God. We believe that in order to live out the gospel you must first know it. You can’t live out something you don’t understand; that is why we emphasize the importance of preaching and teaching. Too often churches skip right past the why and get to the doing, and I firmly believe that is a great mistake. If I may, think about it from a business perspective for a moment. Would you welcome a new member to the company and immediately put them out into the field to represent you without giving them any sort of training? The obvious answer is no, of course we would never do such a thing. However, within the church today that is exactly what we do. We don’t want to waste time thinking through what we believe and what we are doing and why we are doing it; instead we just want to be the hands and feet of Christ.

Let me say that I too desire that we be the hands and feet of Christ, but we first need to know who we are, and whom the God is we are serving, otherwise our service will be misguided at best. Over the last four years I have desired to challenge us to think more deeply about what we believe and why we believe it, because I firmly believe that to do so makes us all better servants of God. I don’t buy the line that to think theologically about things is to become inwardly focused instead, I dare say that to think more theologically about things will make us more effective as we reach out to the world around us.

With that being said, it is often hard to address many of the issues that inevitably come up in the life of the church. Many times decisions are made to do certain things in certain ways and it is hard to address the why with the entire congregation. It is with this in mind that we have created the “Central Staff Blog.” The word blog means web log, and it is a chronicle or online diary. With that in mind, our desire is that this will be a place where we can share with you some of the things that the Lord has been dealing with us about as your staff, and share about things pertinent to the church that just can’t be done well through a blurb in the bulletin or an insert.

My hope is that through this platform you will be better able to know the heart of your ministerial staff, and stay informed about things that are happening in and through the Body of Christ at Central Baptist Church. Each week there will be a new blog post, and the ministerial staff will take turns writing the blog for the week. Each blog will be from the perspective of that particular staff member and as a result will more than likely be related to their area of ministry.

I hope that through this blog you will be informed and challenged to think more deeply about the why behind much that goes on in the church and culture. Too often the things we do are so pragmatically driven; meaning they are only concerned with whether it works. As the people of God the why always matters. The why is often the difference between what the world does and what the church does. Everything we do should be intentionally rooted in the truth of God as He has revealed through His Word. We realize that in many forums it is often hard to completely flesh out, but hopefully this blog will enable us to flesh out the why behind many things about which you may wonder.

Most of us on the staff are new to blogging, so please bear with us as we start this new journey using this new medium. As always, please pray for us as well. Pray that we would use this forum in a way to promote unity within the body of Christ while spurring one another on to love and good deeds just as the writer of Hebrews stated. I want to leave you with asking you to help us as we start this new journey. One of the ways you can help us is encouraging fellow church members to follow this blog. The blog contains a follow button, and by following the blog you will receive email notices when the blog is updated. The more people that follow the blog the more effective this form of communication can be in preaching, teaching and living the gospel for the glory of God!

Thanks,

Michael Meadows

Pastor