Why doesn’t Eagle Heights have a designated university student gathering during the week? Why don’t you all do more free food? Doesn’t requiring membership keep people from serving? Why do you do what you do? Why are there some things that you don’t do?
Let me begin with a bit of personal background. I value being a part of a local church in a small town with a major university. I have been working with university students for almost twenty years either in a parachurch capacity (BCM – Baptist Collegiate Ministry), or as a local church pastor. It is hard for me to imagine being in a place where university students are not a regular part of making disciples.
But Stillwater has its challenges when it comes to pastoring a local church in a small town with a major university. For instance, there are a lot of parachurch ministries that are targeting university students, which means we have to figure out how to work with them – or around them. With this in mind, here is what we do and why we do it.
- We desire to partner with parachurch ministries, not compete with them. There are many (15+) Christian Parachurch Ministries on the campus of OSU that spend most of their time and resources specifically targeting university students. As a local church we support some of these ministries in various ways, including financially. Additonally, many of the staff and students who are committed to parachurch ministries also regularly attend our church. So instead of competing with them, we would rather partner with them to make disciples.
- We want to be a biblical local church for university students, not duplicate the specialized efforts of parachurch ministries. Some of these parachurch ministries have mid-week worship gatherings and most all of them have a weekly Bible study. If we are supporting some of these university groups financially or otherwise, then why would we duplicate or compete with what they are already doing with our support?
- We have something unique to offer university students while they are in Stillwater. I spent almost ten years doing campus parachurch ministry. I value groups like BCM, Student Mobilization, etc. The Lord used BCM to change my life. But groups like these are not local churches. Some of them act like local churches, but most of them don’t recognize biblically qualified leaders (1 Timothy 3:1-7), or practice membership and church discipline (Matthew 18:15-20), or acknowledge the biblical authority of the local church in the administration of the biblical ordinances. Parachurch is a designation that describes ministries that are coming alongside local churches to accomplish specific disciple-making tasks with specific groups of people. Besides what was mentioned above, one of the realities that often differentiates local churches from parachurch ministries is diversity. For example, the diversity of age that should exist in local churches is a strength when rightly understood. Young people need to know and learn from more mature people with life experience, and people who are more advanced in years need to know and learn from younger people who are often still full of passion and zeal. We intentionally try to be multi-generational in our approach to disciple-making strategies. We organize the way we do ministry to get people from different generations to build each other up. In other words, we don’t think our local church needs to be another affinity-based, age-specific parachurch ministry, when there are a lot of those already existing on campus. We want to begin to integrate university-aged people into the life of the church so they can know how to build up the body of Christ when they move on to the next phase of life.
- We want university students to see and be committed to a healthy local church. To do this we emphasize church membership. Church membership simply means a person is making it publicly known that they are a committed follower of Jesus Christ, and therefore, they are committed to His people in a local body through regular attendance and serving, and they are under the biblical authority of biblical leadership that is affirmed by a local congregation. Unsurprisingly, some people balk at the idea of church commitment because they are convinced it keeps people from the local church. But we believe church membership is a biblical means of discipleship, and that to lessen the level of commitment to “reach” more is doing a biblical disservice to those who claim to be disciples of Jesus. We also try to organize multi-generational groups that read the Bible together so that they can learn to value the benefits of generational diversity, while also learning how to make disciples in a local church context. We call these 5Groups. For most students, the local church is the next step for disciple-making community. Parachurch ministries need the local church for this reason.
Though our university ministry is very decentralized, we do have a Sunday Morning University Bible Study, a monthly university lunch, and a university spring break trip. By the way, almost all of these still have a multi-generational dimension to them. But primarily we are trying to help university students be a committed part of a healthy local church. One of our goals is that in participating in a healthy local church, university students would then go and be a part of what they have experienced with us. If that happens, then we would consider that a biblical win, and that is why we have chosen to do university ministry the way that we do it. It’s also the reason we have chosen to refrain from activities that are commonly associated with university ministry.
Some say we are in the midst of an unprecedented crisis. For many, the crisis is real. There has been a loss of employment. There has been isolation and loneliness. There has been illness and death. There is uncertainty. There is fear.
But there are also good things happening. There is service happening. There is courage. There is giving. There is love. There is sacrifice. There are many reasons for encouragement. I want to encourage you by sharing some acts and attitudes that have encouraged me.
- I was exchanging texts with a church member today who was checking on me, and I asked him if his family had contacted those below and above him in the membership directory. He said they had, but they were going to start contacting more. His initiative to do more than asked edified me.
- I was speaking with some of our senior adults by phone, and a sister told me that they are not fearful of what might happen. She said they go to bed every night knowing that God is in control, and the most important thing in life is taken care of in Christ Jesus. She rhetorically asked, “Why should we fear?”
- Our children’s director from church called and spoke to our daughter this morning. She didn’t have to do that, but listening more than she was able to talk, she took the time to care about a 7-year-old and her 7-year-old concerns. She also asked her about her favorite Bible verse. During the conversation, I heard out daughter say, “I really want to be able to go to Wednesday Night and Sunday Church again.” I thank God that an adult took time to care about a child and I was encouraged my daughter likes to gather with our local church.
- I have been encouraged by several who have offered to serve others, and give money and food to those who are in need.
- Our staff has been eager to adjust to the circumstances, taking on new responsibilities to serve our faith family. They have excelled at thinking of ways they can be innovative.
There are other examples that I have seen in the past several weeks that escape me now, and God knows them all.
How have you been encouraged by others? What are you doing to be an encouragement to others during these trying, uncertain, and even fearful times?
Pray for wisdom and strength to be an encouragement to someone in Christ. A crisis is an opportunity to make a difference and encourage someone who is in need.
Dear Faith Family,
I hope you will read this carefully and then determine to be the body of Christ, by building one another up in love.
You have heard it said, “Never waste a good crisis.” And I tell you there is wisdom to be gleaned from that statement. Let me explain. For most of us, this present situation is not one we would choose. It is inconvenient. It has created uncertainty. It has produced fear and anxiety. It all seems surreal. But this is an opportunity for us to see this disruptive moment as something that an all-powerful God can use for good. Here is what we are doing to trust and obey Jesus together as a local church.
- WE ARE ASKING EVERY EAGLE HEIGHTS MEMBER TO HELP US LOVE AND SERVE ONE ANOTHER – Each of you will receive an updated member’s directory by email. If you don’t receive one, please email Mindy at firstname.lastname@example.org and request one. When you receive the membership directory, please contact the person above you and below you in the directory. Try calling first. If that does not work, then please text or email. When you call or text, introduce yourself and explain that you are a member of Eagle Heights Baptist Church and that you are calling to see how they are doing. Then check on them by asking these questions: 1) Ask them how you can pray for them. 2) Ask them what they are currently reading in their Bible. 3) Ask them if there is a way that you can practically serve them. Finally, ask them if they have received the email and the church directory. If they have, then encourage them to do the same for the person below them in the directory. We understand that you may already be doing this for people in your Core Group, 5Group, or CR Group, but this “crisis” is a God-given opportunity for us to build relationships and care for people beyond our groups that already exist. Also, our First Impressions Coordinator, Wendy Ringer, along with others, will be contacting some of you to make sure that we are all doing our part. If you don’t hear from someone by phone, text or email, please let us know. For the good of this body and the glory of Christ, please do your part and reach out to one another. Please try to do this by Saturday of every week until further notice.
- SERVING AND CARING FOR OUR SENIOR ADULTS AND SHUT-INS – Please be aware that our deacons are already working hard at reaching out to our senior adults and shut-ins. If you desire to help the deacons or want to contribute to the benevolence fund, please contact Mindy at email@example.com and she will put you in contact with the deacons.
- DO YOU KNOW SOMEONE WHO NEEDS HELP? – If you need help or know someone that does, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. This is first and foremost for church members. We will do what we can to help everyone, but just like every other organization, we have limited resources.
- SMALL GROUP RESOURCES FOR ONLINE MEETINGS – To honor our local government leaders and to love our neighbors, we are suggesting that groups use online platforms like Zoom to meet. We know, it’s not what is best; it’s not how we want to get together. But look at the bright side. We are fortunate that we live in a time in which we have access to such mediums and platforms. Whatever you do, make sure your groups are contacting everyone in your group at least once a week to check on each other and pray. Note: Even if you are doing this as a group, we still want everyone to use the Eagle Heights Membership Directory to check on the whole body of Eagle Heights. Here is a link to Zoom: https://zoom.us/ Here is a very brief video tutorial for church groups who want to use zoom: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nKQq96TiGpg&t=&fbclid=IwAR3XsAQxUj9il3TfpjBhrnn-j49EtA7Vyy58QZVuyUAGMhQjy3bU97NYx0g Here is a helpful article on how to lead a small group online: https://factsandtrends.net/2020/03/19/how-to-host-a-small-group-online/
- WEDNESDAY NIGHT LIVE – Beginning this Wednesday, Parker will lead a 15-minute devotional at 6:30 pm. We will be using our Eagle Heights Facebook Page to stream this content and we hope that you will take advantage of this to implement and practice family worship. While this is targeted for families and youth, we encourage everyone to participate.
- GIVING TO EAGLE HEIGHTS MINISTRY AND MISSIONS – There are several options for supporting the ministry of Eagle Heights and Missions. 1) You can mail a check to 2617 N. Jardot Rd. 74075 2) You can use online giving: https://eagleheights.com/give 3) Text Giving: If you want to give to the “general ministry fund”, then text “Give” and the amount you want to give to this number: 405.353.9939. If you want to give to the “missions fund”, then you can type “Missions” followed by the amount you want to give to the same number: 405.353.9939.
- ONLINE MEETINGS WITH ELDERS? – The Elders are brainstorming the possibility of designating some times that members can join them for a short time of devotion and prayer using a platform like Zoom. This is still in the works, and we will let you know if this hypothetical plan becomes an option.
- PRAY FOR THE WEEKLY ELDER MEETING – Please pray for the Elders as they meet on Thursday Nights to discuss how to lead and care for our faith family during this time.
A church is a group of people who are committed to following Christ and serving one another in love. Will you join us? Will you be a part of what we are supposed to be and do? Let’s be the church! Let’s be the gospel made visible, demonstrated by our love for one another. Then the world will know that we are disciples of Jesus (John 13:34-35).
Let us know if you have any questions or concerns.
For God’s Glory Together – Pastor Brent
Greetings Brothers and Sisters:
These are unprecedented times. The Coronavirus (COVID-19) has created a lot of interruption and uncertainty, and yes, even fear. But God’s word has some very certain things to say to us in an uncertain and often turbulent, fear-producing world. God’s word repeatedly tells us not to fear or to be afraid (Joshua 1:9; Psalm 23:4; Isaiah 41:10; Matthew 6:34; John 14:1, 27; 2 Timothy 1:7; Etc.). It’s times like these that we find out who or what we really trust and worship.
God’s word also commands us to gather regularly for worship with our local church (Hebrews 10:19-25). To forsake the local church without a substantial reason (this may soon be one of those substantial reasons) is to forsake the word of God and Jesus, who is the head of the church body. So despite the uncertainty and concerns over the Coronavirus, we will continue to meet regularly unless we must suspend meeting together for a time. We will continue to monitor the situation closely and make decisions as things develop.
So we intend to continue to meet for the foreseeable future, but we also want to be wise. We don’t want to needlessly endanger people by not taking this virus seriously. Some among us may be more susceptible to the impacts of this virus, like our senior adults. We want to do what is best for everyone.
Here are some ways you can love others as we plan to continue gathering together:
- Know the symptoms. They are similar to other upper respiratory infections with symptoms like runny nose, sore throat, coughing, and sometimes a fever.
- If you have the symptoms, please stay home. We would ask you to do the same thing if you had the flu or strep or a cold. The church gathering is a time of sharing life, but please make every effort not to share any sickness.
- Lather your hands with sanitizer and wash your hands a lot. We have purchased extra hand sanitizer for the church building, and we have plenty of soap, so please use it. If you are serving in any capacity, please wash your hands when you get to the building.
- We will suspend the greeting time. For the foreseeable future, we will not have the greeting time to prevent opportunities to inadvertently pass on infections.
- No holy kisses or holy handshakes, please. Let’s continue to greet each other with smiles and maybe an elbow tap, but let’s avoid handshakes for a while. Even if there are no reported cases of COVID-19 in Stillwater for the time being, this is good practice for when/if it impacts our city.
- If you can’t attend or you are concerned about attending, please do these things. 1) Let us know so we can see if there is some way to assist you. 2) Listen or watch the sermons online: https://eagleheights.com/resources/sermons-podcasts 3) You can give online: https://eagleheights.com/give 4) Don’t fall out of the spiritual discipline and habit of church attendance.
- We also want you to know that we sanitize the children’s areas after each Sunday. We were doing this long before the Coronavirus was on our radar. Again, please don’t bring your children if they exhibit any of the symptoms mentioned above.
We are doing all we can and will continue to do so as we receive information. God is in control, and that is where our hope should ultimately be grounded. But we will also press forward and do what we can to help slow the spread of this virus. We want to avoid causing more angst for an anxious world. This is an opportunity for Christians to trust God and stand out. But we also want to be cautious and wise so we don’t contribute to the problem.
Let us know if you have any questions or helpful advice.
For God’s Glory Together,
This was how we honored so many at our annual Thanksgiving meal on November 24, 2019.
Opening remarks and reading of Psalm 116:12-19
- First, notice that the Psalmist emphasizes calling upon the name of the Lord (13, 17) in worship (13-14) and thanksgiving (17)
- Second, notice that he does so in the presence of all God’s people (14 and 18).
- So, I want to thank God for our salvation in Jesus.
- But I want to thank God for you all, and I want you to be thankful for each other and what it means to be a church that serves and loves each other for God’s glory through Jesus Christ.
A FEW QUALIFYING THOUGHTS:
- We may have forgotten someone. If we have, please let us know.
- We did not include AWANA in this because Jill already does a good job of recognizing leaders for years served.
- These mentioned are those who have served continuously (making it easier to count).
- If you used to serve, but don’t anymore, we appreciate you. God knows. I trust you will appreciate that others are being honored for their continued faithfulness to build up this local body.
- Charlie Cooksey – from the beginning for 22 years +
- 5 Years – Ben Burnsed
- 15 Years – Charles Cox
- 5 Years – Angie Delahoussaye *, Desiree Burnsed *, Elizabeth Ziegler, Teresa Moss
- 7 Years
- Allison Smith
- 8 Years
- Rhondalyn Richardson, Dawn Schrock
- 9 Years
- Julie Ray
- Lauren Mills *
- Amanda Rasmussen
- Jessica and Jerod Cottom *
- 10 Years
- Stephanie Ochsner *, Ron Delahoussaye *
- 13 Years
- Suzanne Moore, Ben and Erika Brown
- 14 Years
- Carla Nelson
- Christy Shuman *
- Sarah Jones
- Lacey Prentice
- 18 Years
- Jadi and Mike Gibbs *
- 22 Years and still going
- Bobbie and Lonnie Daugherty, Micki Rogers
* denotes they serve every Sunday
CORE GROUP TEACHERS/FACILITATORS
- 5 Years – Lonnie Daugherty and Jon Cunningham
- 8 Years – Kevin Moore
- 10 Years plus – Kevin and Brenda Zacharias and The Rogers
- 5 Years – Kevin Moore and Ryan Smith
- 7 Years – Tyson Ochsner and Kevin Zacharias
- 10 Years – Russ Ingram
- Cayton Jones and Ron Delahoussaye – 7 years
- Curtis Kinsey – 9 years
- David Hatfield – 14 years (David was a part of the group of first deacons)
- Greg Webb – 22 Years and still going
FIRST IMPRESSIONS MINISTRY
- 5 + Years – Dan Newman, Carla Nelson, Mark Schrock, Curtis and Nancy Kinsey, Julie Ray, Kayley Mills, Chris Timmons
- The Nelson Family – 7 years
- Charles Cox and Scott Farrington – 12 years
- 8 Years – Sarah Jones
- 10 Years + – Micki Rogers and Lonnie Daugherty
SINGING WORSHIP MINISTRY
- 5 Years
- Ben Burnsed, Colby Bennett, Dana Duell
- 10 Years
- Ben Ehrlich, Toby Angell
- 15 Years
- Karen Lemley, Julie Farrington, Veronica Heisler
- 7 Years – Bruce and Janet Barringer
- 8 Years – Tonya Ingram
- 6+ Years – Dawn Schrock
- 9 Years – Dana Baker and Bobby Luttrell
- Tammy Ramsey – 10 years
- Mindy Hardy – 15 years
- Ryan Smith – 15 years
Again, I hope we did not forget anyone, but I suspect we did. And I am sure there are many who have served our faith family in untold ways; by giving regularly, serving in temporary positions, etc. As I said before, God knows. But it is always good for us to honor each other in Christ. I am glad there are so many we can honor in our faith family.
Every morning I have the joy of taking my children to school. Bella gets dropped off first. Elijah is second. Luke is dropped off a little later at the high school. Right before they get out of the car I say to them: “This is the day that the Lord has made. Rejoice and be glad in it and make the most of it. I love you. Have a great day.” I try to make it a point to say this every day. Some days I even sing it. But that usually hurts my message instead of helps it.
This morning I declared my daily dose of encouragement to Elijah. He responded: “I know dad. I’ve got it. You don’t have to keep telling me over and over.” To which I responded: “I do have to say it over and over, and I will continue to do so because it is one of the most important things I can tell you. I want you to know and get this.”
As I was driving off I realized: “I am just starting to get to him. He is hearing it. It is sinking into his mind and heart.”
I’ve heard it said that when a leader/teacher/parent gets tired of saying something, then the people listening are just starting to hear it and get it. But I say that when our children are tired of hearing it, we have truly started to influence and teach them. When it seems to get old to them, it is just starting be real and truly take hold.
What true and life-changing language do you consistently say over and over to shape the mind and heart of those you love? Don’t give up. Be consistent and you will get to them. They will let you know when you have.
It was one of those up-and-down Mondays that pastors sometimes face with above-average discouraging moments. But the Lord was gracious and He encouraged me in an unlikely way; a church member unexpectedly came to tell me she might be leaving for another church.
The truth is, most of the time when people leave your local church for another local church, it stings. It is unpleasant. It can be really discouraging. But this sister came and told me she was considering leaving and I considered it to be good. As a matter of fact, it brought me joy.
Are you confused yet?
In our Elder’s meeting the day before, I had mentioned to my fellow pastors that I had not seen the aforementioned woman in a while and asked them if they had seen her. They said they had not and so I told them I would contact her during the week. So when I heard a knock on my office door and learned that she had come to see me, I was glad to see her.
She came to tell me that she had been visiting another church during the summer. She went out of her way to say she loved Eagle Heights and had grown a lot during her time with us. It was apparent she was sincere in her affirming words.
She went on to explain her daughter’s family had committed to another church and that she was attending with them. And while she still wanted to gather with Eagle Heights, she really wanted to enjoy the season of experiencing church with her grandkids. She wanted to have conversations with them about reading the Bible and following Jesus. Though she wasn’t one hundred percent sure she would be leaving Eagle Heights, what I heard her saying to me was that she was going to another church for good reasons. She wasn’t leaving disgruntled. She wasn’t mad at anyone. She wasn’t upset as a consumer. She just saw an opportunity to be a part of what God was doing in the life of her family.
She let me know that she was worried about having this conversation. She was concerned about whether she could come back to Eagle Heights if she left. I assured her that she could come back and that I was happy for her and her family. I thanked her for doing the hard thing and coming to me to let me know what she was thinking and doing.
It’s never easy when someone leaves your local faith family, even though they still might be a part of the Universal Church Family. But if this woman does end up leaving, how can I be upset? How can I not be glad for her? How can I not be joyful about the way she handled it.
I only wish that more people would leave this way. She told me she might be leaving, and when I found out why, my discouragement was turned to joy.
When preaching, should pastors call out false teachers by name for the protection of their local church?
As is our most consistent practice of preaching, our church has been working through First and Second Peter. Chapter two of Peter’s second epistle focuses on exposing and excoriating false prophets and teachers. The picture that Peter paints is not a positive and encouraging one.
A cursory reading of the New Testament makes it evident that false teaching was not only a problem for the churches Peter was addressing, and therefore, it’s no surprise that false teachers and their teaching continues to be a problem today. Satan is a deceiver, and he deceives people and uses the deceived to deceive more people. It’s what he does. Peter was protecting the sheep (1 Peter 5:1-5) by letter and aimed to bring these dangerous teachers and their doctrine into the light. Shouldn’t present-day preachers and teachers follow Peter’s example?
But here’s the rub – well, it can be a rub for some. Should preachers today call out false teachers by name when they preach? Should they publicly expose enemies of Jesus during the sermon? Or should they just teach what is right, what is wrong, and let the audience sort through who qualifies as a false teacher and leave the prosecuting by name to God?
Here are a few of my thoughts and convictions:
- Even if I am convinced someone is a false teacher, I am often hesitant to call them by name. I have a few reasons for this. First, I don’t want it to be easy for those who are listening, to Google a name I mention and begin to listen to their teaching. In other words, I don’t want to advertise for false teachers. Second, I wouldn’t want this to be a stumbling block to a first-time guest who already sees Christians and churches as overly harsh and critical. And, yes, I know that the gathering is for believers, but I want to remove as many barriers to the gospel as possible so that the gospel might be heard without hindrance. And, yes, the thought has crossed my mind that maybe both of these are excuses because I care too much about pleasing others.
- Additionally, we live in a hyper-critical culture of name-calling and condemnation. Look, false teachers are real and eternally dangerous, but not everyone that is in error is a full-blown charlatan and destined for hell. I am under no illusion that I have everything doctrinally right. But not all error is the same. Some error(s) is the kind that will cause Jesus to say to you: “I never knew you.” (Matt. 7:23) Though you were certain you did. So we must be extra careful that our secondary doctrinal disagreement with someone is not portrayed as though it is a matter of first importance; an essential theological matter. As the difference between heaven and hell. But I also don’t want to make hyper-critical disciples with my preaching leadership.
- On the other hand, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, we see that the Holy Scriptures called out Christian impostors, betrayers, and false teachers by name. Recognizing that the original manuscripts didn’t have chapters and verses, an example of calling out gospel troublemakers by name is found in Second Timothy. In 2 Timothy 1:15, Paul names Phygelus and Hermogenes for abandoning him in Asia. In chapter two, Paul identifies the disease-like teaching of Hymenaeus and Philetus. In chapter three, he remembers Jannes and Jambres who opposed God, Moses, and “the truth” in Exodus. In chapter four, he singles out Demas, who loved the present world over the eternal Christ, leading him to abandon Paul. And finally, Paul identifies “Alexander the coppersmith” who did Paul much harm, saying the Lord will repay him according to his deeds. In four chapters, Paul calls people by names five times to warn Timothy about those who have turned their back on the gospel of Jesus Christ. Unrepentant, public sin was publicly condemned by the Holy Spirit and Paul.
- Finally, consider that if someone who lived in your neighborhood was a known child predator and sexual offender, would you only teach your children what good people look like and what bad people do wrong? Or as the primary protector and shepherd of your children, would you say, “Don’t go near that house. The man who lives there is very dangerous.” Further, would you not describe him? And if you and your children knew his name, would you not tell them to stay away; to avoid even the proximity of his presence? If you knew who it was that could damage and even destroy your children, would you not give very specific descriptions and warnings? I would be as precise as possible to maximally protect my children. I know that pastors aren’t parents and church members aren’t children, but isn’t it a pastor’s job to know the dangers of the day and to know the people who peddle them? Is it loving for a pastor to allow false teaching in the name of Jesus to seduce the sheep he is to watch over and will give an account for (Hebrews 13:17)?
There is a reason so many fall prey to false teaching. Error is insidious, and it looks deceptively like the truth. It is true that all truth is ultimately God’s truth. But when you have a half-truth posing as a whole truth in the name of Jesus, it can only be classified as a total and deadly untruth (JI Packer). And concerning those teachers and preachers who seem to be saying some really good things that may even be helpful to some degree, but also say some questionable things about essential, gospel truths, wouldn’t it be better to stick with the people who are teaching us the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?
What I know for sure is that people have strong opinions about this question. What do you think?
I desperately want to make a difference in the life of my children. I want them to flourish and live life to the fullest. I want them to know the truth so that they can be free and full in Christ. I want the same for all the people I love, including myself.
With so many competing voices in the world, I have come to firmly believe that one of the best ways we can make a difference is by having a statement (or a few) that we really believe, and say it over and over again.
As I reflect on my childhood, the statements that were said over and over are the ones that have stuck. Not all of those statements that have persisted have also impacted my life in profound ways, but they remain nonetheless. For instance, my dad would say often to my siblings and I: “You all are a three-ring circus at the world’s fair.” Though the meaning escaped me for a long time, it became a part of me. It’s ingrained in my brain.
One statement that I say every morning to my children as I drop them off at school is this: “This is the day that the Lord has made. Rejoice and be glad in it!” (Ps. 118:24) I also try to frequently say this in times of mistakes and discipline: “There is nothing you do to turn me away.” Here is one more example: “We have to do what we need to to, to do what we want to do.”
So ponder the long-term implications of saying the same statements over and over. What if for the next ten years I declare daily to my children: “This is God’s day! He made it. Therefore, we can have joy in it because we know He is present and this day is no accident. Make the most of this day for His glory and your joy!” Then when my day of departure arrives and I go to be with the Lord, what will my family and friends say about me when they gather to celebrate the life God has granted? What will they remember?
I hope something like this: “Remember that dad always used to say to us Psalm 118:24. He did that because He wanted us to know that each day was worth living to the fullest because He believed that God had made it, and it was a gift to be used for His glory in Christ.”
If that is what they say when I go to be with Christ, then I will rejoice for all eternity that God has used me because I consistently proclaimed one glorious truth about God and how we should respond.
What is the one truth you say to yourself and to those you love everyday?
In the last month many were horrified when they learned the details of sexual abuse that has taken place in Southern Baptist Churches across the United States. The Houston Chronicle released a three-part expose detailing the reality that over 20 years there have been at least 700 victims of sexual abuse.
For many this has been a massive wake-up call as it relates to making sure that everything possible is being done to protect children and everyone else from the threat of abuse. I am glad to say that our own church, Eagle Heights, already had many safeguards in place. But it is always good to take a crisis like this seriously and do some thorough review and self-examination regarding protective plans and execution of those plans to make sure we are doing all we can to prevent something so evil and tragic.
Our church family has policies that protect both children and volunteers. For example, we have regular training times, which includes a recent video that we have put together about what to avoid and what to be looking for as it relates to abuse. And of course, any person who works with children or youth has a current background check. Additionally, the Elders and church staff are presently working on evaluating and addressing any gaps in our plan.
But as a church we take one more step that might be undervalued as firewall against abuse: Church Membership.
In his book, On Guard: Preventing and Responding to Child Abuse at Church (2014), Deepak Reju argues that there are three reasons that church membership “can help decrease the likelihood of sexual offenders infiltrating your children’s (and youth) ministry.” (All quotes below are from Reju.)
- Church membership done thoroughly helps us to identify whether a person is genuinely a Christian. Before a person can become a committed and active part of our faith family and serve, they are required to meet with an Elder and answer four questions: First, what is your testimony of being saved? Second, what is the exclusive gospel of Jesus Christ that alone can save and transform? Third, have you been baptized as a believer by which you publicly identify with Christ? Fourth, what is the evidence that the Spirit lives within you? Are you bearing much fruit showing you are really His disciple (John 15:8)? Now of course we know we can’t ultimately judge the the true spiritual condition of a person, but if we are going to let people teach the gospel to our children, and give them the responsibility of physical and emotional care over them, it only makes sense that we do all we can to reduce the risk of spiritual and physical harm. Church membership helps identify genuine believers, and Genuine believers are less likely to abuse those under their care.
- A church membership process also gives the pastors, the staff and other members the opportunity to know people before they are given responsibility as a part of the church. We have started presenting prospective members to the congregation for consideration a week in advance before the church affirms them. We know this can be uncomfortable for some, but if there is a concern, we want to deal with it up front. A church membership process prevents “immediate access to the church and, consequently, the church’s kids.” (Reju) I trust most parents wouldn’t let someone watch their children if they knew nothing about them. If a parent vets a babysitter, why would a church be less diligent and careful?
- “A church membership process causes pedophiles to think twice about joining, especially since there are other churches that don’t require this and will give them almost immediate access to children.” Reju writes, “Anyone can come to church, but not everyone who comes should have access to our kids.” We want the struggling and hurting person to come to our church, but we also want to make sure hurting people don’t hurt others. Reju is surely right when he suggests that a sexual offender, or potential sexual offender, is more likely to gravitate toward a church that has less protection and a “low wall” of accountability. And frankly, it saddens me to think there are churches who have such a low standard for protecting their children.
There is no plan that is completely foolproof, but there are ways to reduce the possibility of abuse. It is better to have tried and failed, than to have failed to try. We must be able to say that we did all that we could to prevent abuse. Believe it or not, church membership can serve as a useful preventative tactic. It is just one piece of a safety wall that may protect our church from a disaster that hundreds have experienced over the last twenty years. May God give us the wisdom to do all that we can to love people and protect them from evil.
Does anyone else find it challenging to get their children to brush their teeth – along with a lot of other simple and necessary tasks?
A few mornings ago our six-year-old was in full resistance mode about brushing her teeth. She just could not understand why it was necessary to brush when it would all be undone by eating in a few hours. She plead her case to her mom. She stated it again. It just didn’t make any sense to her. “What’s the point?”, she complained.
Her patient mom had decided enough was enough, and forcefully commanded that she go brush her teeth or else. And so our reluctant six-year-old moped toward the bathroom, like a teenager with shoulders slouched forward, to do the senseless act – the act of brushing her teeth.
On her way from one end of the house to the other, I stopped her and asked her to talk to me. I asked why she did not want to obey her mom. She put forth her best argument, and I listened. Then I asked her: “Don’t you think we have good reasons for asking you to brush your teeth?” She wasn’t sure we did.
I explained to her that she had been sleeping all night and that there were things in her mouth, that if not brushed out, would create little holes in her teeth. Those little holes would need to be drilled out, and to drill them out, she would need to have a shot to numb her mouth. And all of this would cost us money that would be better used for other, more enjoyable things. I concluded our conversation by showing her the fillings in my teeth and asked: “You don’t want fillings like daddy, do you? Do you see we are trying to help you by asking you to brush your teeth?”
Having appeared to be persuaded by my reasons, she went to the bathroom with shoulders up and brushed her teeth.
So what’s the point of sharing this little experience?
Well, I am not saying we have to formulate careful and coherent arguments for every act of obedience we command, but one of the things I am learning about parenting is that most of the time children respond well when we give them reasons for our expectations. When we take the time to do this, it also teaches them how to think and communicate. We are helping them develop and grow as a person, and we are helping them see that we know and want what is best for them. We are earning their trust.
Sometimes its necessary to demand obedience because “I told you so and I am the parent.” But perhaps taking an extra five minutes to explain the “why” would be beneficial to child and parent.