I am writing this article from my church office. There are shelves
that run along two walls holding hundreds of books that have
become part of my library over 29 years of ministry. The number
of volumes is still growing but at a much slower rate. There are
many valuable works that I pull off the shelves every week written
by authors and scholars I highly admire. Some books have become
like old friends – familiar tools of the trade related to teaching and
I can honestly say that I would trade them all for one book – the
Bible. In matters of personal daily living or ministry
responsibilities, the wisdom, comfort, direction and perspective of
God’s word is unmatched by any other volume. For example, the
first three chapters of Revelation give us a valuable perspective
that can be applied to our NCCBA regional church fellowship.
Each of the seven churches the Apostle John wrote to was no more
than 30 or 40 miles from their nearest neighbor. While the
distance separating them was not that far, their ministry situations
were unique. The messages to the churches reveal a picture of
ministry that is as true now as it was then. Churches had strengths.
There were things that they were doing well for the glory of God.
There were problems in churches that needed to be faced. Those
churches knew what it was like to press on with kingdom work in a
Illinois State Youth
world that was increasingly hostile to God’s truth. The ministry
dynamics varied significantly from church to church but the
congregations shared a common identity. Each fellowship was a
part of the body of Christ. They all worshiped and served the
risen, glorified Savior.
It is worth noting that the messages to all seven churches were
preserved for our benefit in the scriptures. It is wise and good to
stay connected with what the Lord is doing in the bigger picture of
local church ministry. Maintaining contact with other pastors and
churches in our NCCBA family requires a personal investment of
time and effort, but it brings a return of encouragement, valuable
insight and possibly expanded ministry opportunities. May God
grant you strength and wisdom for the challenges and opportunities
of your unique ministry setting. May God also show us the value
of our regional association and the opportunity it provides to enjoy
a broader perspective of His kingdom work in the north-central
PASTOR CARE- If (Since?) God is All Knowing
The other day, I was talking with a friend about the practical
application of things we say we believe to the way we live. The
focus of our discussion was on God’s omniscience and our
perpetual (it seems) choice to hide who and what we are from God,
ourselves and each other. The context was the desire to improve a
relationship that is deeply fractured. The suggestion was that the
most effective way to work toward healing and restoration was to
re-establish genuine communication.
As we talked about this, it became clear that the only way to begin
bridging the chasm between two estranged people would be the
choice of one person to authentically tell what he/she was thinking
and feeling to the other person. This was based on the conviction
that the only workable basis for relationship is truthful
understanding and acceptance of each other. The possibility of
success in this effort was found to be in being real rather than
being convincing or controlling.
Next the observation was made that choosing this course of action
is extremely difficult. From the moment that Adam and Eve made
the choice to disobey God, they also began making the choice to
hide from each other and from God. They no longer saw
themselves as safe in relationships. Rather they felt dangerously
exposed and in need of protection from one another and from God.
As we talked further about this problem, we acknowledged that all
of us have difficulty being real, openly seen and known for who
and what we are. We all hide. We hide from God, as though He
really is not all-knowing. We hide from each other, thinking it is to
our advantage to get others to think we are different than we really
are. And perhaps most effectively, we hide from ourselves,
ignoring truth and believing our own deceptions.
The crucial point in all of this is in the fact that God knows us
totally and accurately, since He really does know everything.
When we carefully consider the outcome of this affirmation being
applied to life we realize that hiding from Him is futile and
counter-productive, just as it was for Adam and Eve. The truly
exciting and alluring part of all of this is that the same source that
convinces us He knows all also convinces us that He loves us
totally without reservation and without failing.
As Christ-followers, we claim that the only way to have a right
relationship with God is by trusting Him and being honest about
ourselves. When we more completely behave consistently with this
conviction, we will discover our relationship with Him becoming
more intimate and precious than we can begin to imagine, until we
know that we are fully known and fully loved by Him.
Since our relationship with God and our relationships with each
other are inseparably tied together, it becomes obvious that the way
to being fully known and fully loved by other people lies in the
same direction-taking the risk and the privilege of being honest
about ourselves with ourselves and with others. The Ten
Commandments, as well as other texts, convincingly instruct us in
the essential connection between these relationships.
The powerful conclusion of our conversation the other day was a
time of prayer in which each of us worth-shiped God by
acknowledging these truths and asking Him to enable us to more
consistently weave them into our day-by-day life. I hope that these
thoughts may encourage you to examine the same issues in your
life and relationships, and that you also will conclude that your
relationship with God is worth being honest about who and what
you are, and the being transformed into the image of Him who died
and rose again for us. Only a journey on this path will lead us to
healthy and truly intimate relationships with others.
Nicholas D. Bell, LMFT
Interim Pastor, First Baptist Church
How Much Do You Weigh?
While meeting with other youth pastors this past month a very
interesting quote was mentioned, “Christians should be weighed, not
counted.” This is not talking about physical weight, but about spiritual
weight. But before we can weigh someone spiritually we must have a
consistent standard by which to measure them. May I propose the
standard Jesus fixed for us in the final verses of the Gospel of Matthew?
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the
name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching
them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with
you always, to the very end of the age.” (Jesus) – Matthew 28:19-20
The first part of the standard for spiritual weight can be found in
the first eight words of this passage, “Therefore go and make disciples of
all nations” There is no “ifs”, “ands” or “buts” about what Jesus is saying
to us. We are to go and make disciples. We are to go wide with our
faith, which is the first part of the standard. Going wide with our faith
means simply to evangelize, to be in constant dialogue with people about
Christ. I don’t know what that will look like in every situation or what
every person’s style of evangelism is, but God commands us to do it
anyway. Not only are we to evangelize but we are to train and
encourage others to start looking for and participating in evangelistic
opportunities. I know it is scary but this is what God commands.
The second part of the standard for spiritual weight is first half of
verse 20, “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” In
other words, go deep. Now, we can easily start to think this means we
need to measure how deep we are ourselves, but the reality is we are to
take others deeper in Christ. Now in order to take others deep we need
to continuously be pushing ourselves deeper and closer to God but the
measure for depth is how deep we take other people and here is why. If
we go extremely deep into God and His Word but don’t take anyone else
there, what is the point? You take everything that you have learned to
your graveand nothing is profited. What would have happened if the
disciples had kept everything they had learned to themselves? There
would be no church. When the verse says teaching it is not talking about
knowing head knowledge but is talking about the practical application of
So when we multiply these two parts (go wide, go deep)
together we get spiritual weight, which is a better gauge of the
condition of a ministry than the number of people involved. So
how much do you weigh?