From Jim’s Gems

My friend, Jim Faughn, has written a most insightful article regarding the work of shepherding in the Lord’s church.  How very needed are the things he has discovered to be practiced by all shepherds, elders, bishops in the Lord’s church!!!  This is outstanding advice both for those who serve in this vital role and to those who serve under them.

SOME THINGS I’VE LEARNED SINCE “THEY” AND “THEM” BECAME “WE” AND “US”

by Jim Faughn

There have been a lot of changes in my life. Few, however, rival the change that took place on December 21, 2003. After sitting in on elders’ meetings and being with elders for well over twenty years, I became one. “They” and “them” quickly became “we” and “us.”

I had been as close to being an elder as one could possibly be for all of those years without actually being one. As elderships in three different congregations had asked me to meet with them almost every time they met, I had seen godly men pray, plan, deliberate, discuss, question, rejoice, express sorrow, and do a host of other things “up close and personal.”

As the work of the church in general and the elders in particular were discussed, I had listened to members of those congregations as they expressed support for or concerns about what “they” did. I had heard what the members liked and what they didn’t like about “them.” In fact, I had my own opinions about these matters. While I did my best to keep these opinions to myself, I still had them. I could see (or at least I thought I could see) all kinds of ways that the work of the Lord could be done better if “they” would handle their responsibilities differently.

Now that “they” is “us,” I hope you will indulge me as I share some things I’ve learned first-hand. Hopefully, these thoughts will provide some insight into something that looks a whole lot less difficult on the outside than it does on the inside.

  • The term “elder” is not synonymous with the term “infallible.” Nobody knows this better than the men who try to serve the Lord and a local congregation as elders. There are times when the judgment of elders could be better — sometimes a whole lot better. At those times, please be patient with us, communicate with us, and work with us. We are, after all, all on the same team. Please accept our “humanness” and realize that we are doing the best we can do. Most importantly; please pray for us. Until and unless you’ve been here, you will never know how much we need your prayers.
  • It would help to be a trained juggler. While our primary concern is to please the Lord, elders constantly feel the pressure of trying to juggle the needs and desires of various age groups and people of various economic, educational and social levels. In addition to these factors (and many others), elders are constantly dealing with people who possess different levels of spiritual maturity. When it appears that a ball has been dropped, maybe, instead of pointing that out, it would be better to help pick it up. Better yet, how about helping us carry the load so that the ball is not dropped in the first place?
  • The Maytag repairman would have a heart attack in his first month as an elder. If the commercials are correct (and who would ever doubt the information in a commercial?), the fictional Maytag repairman doesn’t have much repairing to do. I wonder what he’d do if he had to try to “fix” relationships, feelings, consequences of sin in people’s lives, programs, budgets, etc. He might not look quite as relaxed as he normally does. In fact, we might be visiting him in the Cardiac Care Unit of one of the local hospitals.
  • When you’ve seen one, you have not seen ‘em all. This one is a two-way street. Sadly, some members of a congregation think that everything is “settled” when they talk to only one of the elders. The responsibility is in the hands of an eldership, not just one elder. Please do not ask one of us to “carry the water” for you. We all want to hear what you have on your mind and we need to hear it from you. There does not need to be any misunderstanding.   At the same time, the eldership has not made a visit, expressed concern, spent time with somebody who needs to be encouraged, etc. when only one elder has done these things. All too often, one man becomes the “head elder” by default because he is the only one the members of the congregation see at hospitals, funeral homes, and at other times when they truly need a shepherd.
  • Shepherding is a wooly job. I’ve not been around many (make that any) shepherds, but, if I met one, I would not be surprised to find traces of wool on his clothing. Shepherds are in contact with the sheep. Effective shepherding cannot be done at arm’s length. It is my firm opinion that the shepherds of God’s people today should regularly read and faithfully seek to apply the information we read about the Good Shepherd in John 10.
  • Sheepdogs cannot do the job of shepherds. A corollary to the last point is that elders cannot hire a preacher to do their shepherding for them. All too often, the modern “system” looks like the one in which shepherds (elders) obtain the services of a sheepdog (preacher) to keep the flock safe and where they are supposed to be. I often wonder how much more evangelism an “evangelist” could do if he wasn’t expected to be the sheepdog.
  • Board rooms are not as effective as living rooms, family rooms, or dining rooms. Decisions are made in board rooms. People’s lives are touched in living rooms, family rooms, and dining rooms. I have some very strong opinions about what criteria the Lord will use to judge elders. Those strong opinions have absolutely nothing to do with most of what goes on in board rooms. They have to do with how well the shepherds know the flock and how important souls are. On the Day of Judgment I seriously doubt that there will be any “extra credit” given to those elders who had an impressive budget and who met it every month.
  • It is almost impossible to push a string. Whatever the elders’ dream for a particular congregation is, we need to take the lead in that. We do not need to be making assignments, checking flow charts, etc. If we want the church to be more evangelistic, we need to be more evangelistic. If we want the church to give sacrificially, we need to give sacrificially. Whatever it is that we would like to see the church doing, the members need to see us doing.
  • You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink. Are there verses or parts of verses in God’s Word that trouble you? Here’s the one at the top of my list since the day I became an elder: “…they watch for your souls, as those who must give account…” (Heb. 13:17). I live every day with the realization that I am accountable to the Lord for the souls of scores of people and that I can do nothing to force, coerce, cajole, threaten, or entice them in such a way that I can guarantee that their relationship with the Lord is as it should be. Try living with that one for a while and see how many sleepless nights you have.
  • She’s not behind me; she’s alongside me. While there is no particular order to these thoughts, I did save the best until last. The well-known saying is that “behind every successful man, there is a good woman.” Elders’ wives are not behind them. They walk alongside them and make the journey much easier by so doing.  While I do not believe that it is appropriate to put the elders’ wives behind them, it is also wrong for her to walk ahead of him and “do the job” for him. Believe me; this is a real temptation. There are times when it would be very tempting to “pass the buck” or let somebody else “take the heat,” but it is neither the loving thing for a husband to do nor is it scriptural. It is altogether appropriate for the wife of an elder to accompany him on any number of his visits, to assist him by having people into their home, and to find other ways to support him, but He needs to be the one doing the shepherding, not her.  While you are praying for elders, please do not forget to pray for their wives. Very often, their husbands cannot let them know what is troubling them because they would be betraying a confidence and/or causing her unnecessary pain. Often all that an elder’s wife knows is that the man she loves is hurting or troubled in some way and she’s doing all she knows how to do to help him. You might even consider putting your prayers into action and asking one or more of the godly women who serve “in the shadow” if they’d like to have lunch, go shopping, or “just talk.” You might be an answer to her prayer.

So, there you have it — at least for now. I’m sure that, given enough time, my list will change somewhat. I just thought that it might be beneficial to read one person’s thoughts about what he has learned in the past few years. I pray that I will keep learning and will be a more effective servant of the Lord in whatever capacity He and His people allow me to serve.

— Jim Faughn

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Acts 23

THE MISCHIEF OF DIVISION
by David Lemmons

In Acts 23:6 the Bible tells us that Paul perceived something.  That something that Paul perceived was the divided state of the Jews before whom he was giving his defense.  Listen to Luke’s record of the event…
But when Paul perceived that the one part
were Sadducees, and the other Pharisees, he cried out
in the council, Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the
son of a Pharisee: of the hope and resurrection of the
dead I am called in question
.
To me it is certainly interesting to observe how Paul used the division that existed between these two Jewish sects to get himself out of a life-threatening situation.

It is interesting as well, from another perspective, to observe how that the division that plagued these Jews was instrumental in bringing about the defeat of attaining a common goal these two sects shared.  If we turn back to 21:28ff we find that strong accusations were made against Paul and that the entire city was in an uproar.  They actually “went about to kill him” (v. 31).  Those who served on the Sanhedrin were united in their desire to be rid of such an one as this Paul who preached about Jesus.  Had Paul not been rescued by Lysias, he would surely not have had opportunity to give any defense before this group of Jewish leaders.  At his first defense, Paul mentioned being sent to the Gentiles by the Lord and the reaction of the Jews was: “Away with such a fellow from the earth: for it is not fit that he should live” (Acts 22:22).  These Jewish leaders who sat on the Sanhedrin had a strong cementing cause that would normally have held them together: LET’S GET RID OF PAUL–THAT ONE WHO PREACHES THAT GENTILES CAN BE SAVED, but something defeated them even in the presence of such a powerfully emotional cause.  That something was the state of division that existed among themselves.

Acts 23:7 tells us there was dissension among the Pharisees and the Sadducees and that the multitude (of the Jews) was divided.  Verse 8 gives to us the cause of the division of these Jewish leaders and their followers–“For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit: but the Pharisees confess both.”  The fact is that these two sects SHOULD HAVE BEEN united.  If the word of God had been respected  and  followed  to decide this question, there would have been NO disagreement, these sects would not have existed.  The fact is that the Pharisees were correct in confessing both the resurrection and that there were spirits and angels.  Division on this point over which there should have been agreement WEAKENED their resolve and prevented them from doing that which they had a strong desire to accomplish.

Paul was able to bring up that matter over which these two sects disagreed to bring about the confusion that resulted in his life being spared.  Let us appreciate the teaching of Paul in another context that God is not the author of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33).  It was the ideas of man (in this case, the Sadducees) that led to the division into sects of the Jews!

Can we not benefit from noticing the mischief that was caused by the divided state of these Jews?  Can we not appreciate how very foolish it is to allow man’s ideas and “think-so’s” to destroy our unity and weaken our efforts to stand strong for the Lord?  Is it not obvious to us that Satan and his angels are presently using division among God’s people to bring about his own aims?

The division that exists among God’s people today needs to be considered in the light of the use that Paul made of division in Acts 23.  He used it to inflame passions that diverted the attention of the Sanhedrin away from his case to their own differences. We simply cannot stand strong before an unbelieving world when we do not speak the same thing, as Paul urges in 1 Corinthians 1:10.  In fact, the solution to the divided state of our brethren is still the solution offered by Paul to the saints at Corinth.

On occasion I hear the idea promoted that the best way to deal with division in doctrine among us is to ignore it and pray that it will go away.  I would go along with the notion that much prayer is needed, however I must insist that the ignoring of error among us is hardly a proper pursuit.  Those who have strayed from the concept of a “thus saith the Lord” for all of our practice need to be reproved and rebuked (2 Timothy 4:2).  They need to be made aware that when they present a false and misleading view of the Lord’s church to those outside the body of Christ, they are guilty of weakening our efforts to carry the blessed gospel to a lost world!  They cause us to be in the position of the Pharisees and Sadducees before whom Paul stood.

I recently engaged in correspondence with a brother in Christ who actually refuses to acknowledge that Colossians 3:17 demands the authority of Christ for all that we do.  I don’t know how Paul could have made himself any clearer than he did make it in this text.  The arrogance and audacity of men today in dealing with the sacred text is a fruitful cause of division among us and weakens our efforts to reach those that are lost with the saving message.

I pray that my brethren will ever be mindful of the terrible MISCHIEF Satan can cause due to an acceptance of the ideas and doctrines of men, and that we will ever be vigilant to speak the same thing and that there be no divisions among us.  I pray that we will be strong in demanding a book, chapter, and verse for our practices.  There is no reason that we cannot be immensely successful so long as we maintain our UNITY!

TWO Questions

Two Different Questions: What and When?
by Eric Lyons, M.Min.

“Do you believe that baptism is essential for salvation?” “Yes.” “So you believe in water regeneration?” “No.” “But you believe that you must be immersed in water before your sins are washed away?” “Yes.” “So you believe that the power to wash away your sins is in the water?” “No.” “How can you say you do not believe in water baptismal regeneration if you think that a sinner is not saved until after he is baptized?” “Because when one is saved and what saves a person are two different questions.”

Read more H-E-R-E.

Challenged

Florida Brother Challenges Evolution Educators

July 25, 2008

by Jon Gary Williams

A 93-year-old Florida brother contributed to the defeat of evolutionists in his state.

The feathers of those who promote the tattered and torn theory of Darwinian evolution have again been ruffled, this time in the state of Florida.

Earlier this year advocates of evolution set out to have their theory redefined in the state’s textbooks. Their demand was that the word “theory” be removed and replaced with the phrase “fundamental fact.”

The Florida Department of Education held meetings to have this issue discussed, at which time those from both sides were allowed to present their case. The department received thousands of emails from people on both sides.

The exponents of evolution were confident their appeal would win approval. However, when the vote was taken by the seven board members, evolutionists were stunned to learn they had been defeated by a 4-3 vote. Not willing to accept defeat, they threatened to take their cause to the state legislature and have the ruling overturned.

Now enters 93-year-old brother Fred R. Bogle of Orlando.

Read more H-E-R-E.

Please Sign Here

I just signed a petition demanding that Congress lift the federal ban on offshore drilling immediately (before they take their month-long summer break). Members of Congress are doing nothing while gas prices soar. Let’s put their feet to the fire! Join me in signing H-E-R-E.

July 08 Think is In

One of the finest things that comes to my mailbox each month is think Magazine. It is published by Focus Press, which you can check out by clicking H-E-R-E. There are links on their site to purchase individual issues of the magazine in PDF format, and many other things. I am posting here the contents of this issue, primarily for my own use, so that I may now SEARCH this site and come across a HIT among the words below which might help me in my study of some particular topic or passage that has been dealt with by these fine writers. I can then find it among the issues of the magazine on my shelves (or, PDF versions are available for reading on the computer). You might wish to do the same thing some time, so perhaps it will be a help to you, as well.

This July 2008 issue has the theme: “The Future is in your Hands: Embrace Them.” From page 4 this quote is found: “Homes will be stronger and lives will be richer only when parents stop making excuses for not making the sacrifices necessary to bring up children in the ‘training and admonition of the Lord’ (Ephesians 6:4).”

  • Page 4… FROM THE EDITORS, by Brad Harrub and Jim Palmer. A quote: “The need for faithful parents (and as a result, strong homes) is so elementary—yet it is so contrary to today’s cultural norms that we decided to devote an entire issue to the subject.”
  • Page 7… ON THE LIGHTER SIDE, “Casseroles and Fellowship,” by Jimmy Davy.
  • Page 8… FAITH AND FINANCE, “Three R’s to Face a RECESSION,” by Jim Palmer. (1) Renew Your Trust in God; (2) Repent of Ruinous Habits; (3) Remember That Someone Else is Suffering More.
  • Page 12… LIFE IN AMERICA, “Become a Better Father,” by Phil Sanders.
  • Page 14… DAILY WALK, “Childlike Greatness,” by Adam Faughn. An acrostic: Caring; Honest; Innocent; Love; Devoted.
  • Page 15… ATHEISM EXPOSED (a new department), “The JESUS Problem,” by Dewayne Bryant. The New Atheists: A Different Breed of Unbelievers.
  • Page 16… “Growing Up Too Soon,” by Glenn Colley. “Today’s society has collectively sacrificed its children’s years of innocence on the altar of its hedonism and materialism.”
  • Page 19… “Generation to Generation,” by Tommy South. 2 Timothy 1:5; Acts 16:1-3.
  • Page 20… “Parenting the Heart,” by Jim Palmer.
  • Page 22… “Redefining Success,” by Brad Harrub. “Many congregations have ‘vital statistic’ boards mounted in the front of their auditorium that record attendance and contribution. I would suggest congregations add a new line: ‘Number of children who abandoned the Faith this year.'”
  • Page 25… “The Next Generation: KEY TO THE FUTURE,” by Jason R. Roberts. Timely Principles from Deuteronomy 6.
  • Page 26… “Of Fathers and Their Sons,” by Jared Jackson. “Being a dad with lofty spiritual goals for his family takes a lot of work. But goals are not enough. Action must follow.”
  • Page 28… “Overscheduled + Overstressed + Overstimulated = Disconnected,” by Cindy Palmer.
  • Page 29… “Stepping Stones to Our Future,” by David Longley.
  • Page 31… “It Takes One to Know One,” by Cindy Colley.
  • Page 32… A WOMAN’S PERSPECTIVE, “Spiritually Confident Children,” by Jill Jackson.
  • Page 33… HEART OF THE MATTER, “Giver vs Taker,” by Brad Harrub.
  • Page 35… TRAIN AND NURTURE, “Sweet Memories of Mom,” by Sandra Thornton.
  • Page 36… MAN TO MAN, “Purity Starts with Love,” by Bubba Ingram.
  • Page 38… LIGHT FROM THE PAST, “The Adventures of Jonah,” by Dewayne Bryant.

NOT More Oil, More SALT

The Local Church of Christ: A Community Example

by M.H. Tucker

Some churches are not going and growing as they should in Christ, because of a lack of salt. Through careless living and indifference, they have been separated from the Lord Jesus and are now powerless. This is so much unlike Paul’s description of the church. He wrote that Christ’s aim is to “present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:27).

The Salt of the Earth

After Christ described Christian character in what is called the beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12), He passed on to the matter of the influence of Christian character. Two metaphors make it clear that the Christian has a purpose or function in the world: “Ye are the salt of the earth… Ye are the light of the world.” For it is written: “Ye are the salt of the earth; but if the salt have lost its savor, wherewith shall it be salted? It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out and trodden under foot of men. Ye are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a lamp and put it under the bushel, but on the stand; and it shineth unto all that are in the house. Even so let your light shine before men; that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:13-16).

Three attitudes toward the world are open to the Christian.

  • First, he may conform to the world, but this is forbidden: “And be not fashioned according to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:2).
  • Second, he may practice asceticism. Centuries ago, the practice of isolating oneself from the world was believed to be the road to holiness. However, the statement of our Lord, “Ye are the light of the world,” does not allow a Christian to live in isolation. In fact, asceticism is no help in overcoming the world. We read of such: “Which things have indeed a show of wisdom in will-worship, and humility, and severity to the body; but are not of any value against the indulgence of the flesh” (Colossians 2:23).
  • Third, the only alternative then is to influence the world around us.

The great need in every community and every nation is more saving salt, that is, Christian character. More salt would have saved Sodom and Gomorrah. If ten righteous persons could have been found, they would have been preserved. The crying need throughout the world today is not more oil, but more salt. It is not intercontinental ballistic missiles which will preserve a nation, but Christian character—salt and light.

Oh, for the need of saving salt! It is the enemy of spiritual and moral decay; it is a preventive of corruption. Christian character is essential to keep the world from disintegrating. Wisdom dictates that we discard many things before we discard salt. A home can do without TV, carpets, and stereos, but not salt. A city can do without a mass transit railway or escalators, but not salt.

When Salt Loses Its Savor

Jesus said, “But if the salt have lost his savor, wherewith shall it be salted? It is good for nothing, but to be cast out and to be trodden under foot of men” (Matthew 5:13). Just as the church of Christ will influence a community to adopt a high standard of morals by her example, she can contribute to the downfall of a community through worldly living. The psalmist prayed that he would not be guilty of this, “Let not those who hope in thee be put to shame through me, O Lord God of hosts; let not those who seek thee be brought to dishonor through me, O God of Israel” (Psalms 69:6). “Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ” (Philippians 1:27).

A Christian must be careful about dress. When Christians dress in thigh high skirts, skin tight jeans, flesh colored Capri pants and skimpy swimsuits, they bring reproach upon the church. Christian women must never provoke the lustful gaze. For it is written: “Ye have heard that it was said, ‘Thou shalt not commit adultery’; but I say unto you, that every one that looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart” (Matthew 5:27-28). Watching television lewdness and computer porn endangers one’s soul.

A Christian must guard his speech. A filthy tongue puts one’s evil mind on parade. “Let not corrupt speech proceed out of your mouth” (Ephesians 4:29). Again God’s word says, “But now do you also put them all away; anger, wrath, malice, railing, shameful speaking out of your mouth” (Colossians 3:5).

We must also abstain from strong drink; yes, even a social drink. For it is written; “For the time already past is sufficient for you to have carried out the desire of the Gentiles, having pursued a course of sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousals, drinking parties (emphasis added) and abominable idolatries” (1 Peter 4:3).

Edgar Allen Poe, one of America’s great writers, said, “I learned to love the flavor of good wine sitting at my father’s table.” Poe died an alcoholic. Only eternity will reveal how many souls will be lost because someone encouraged social drinking.

The church must be warned if she is to remain pure before the community. Paul wrote, “Now we exhort you, brethren, warn the unruly…” (1 Thessalonians 5:14). Timothy received the charge: “Them that sin rebuke before all, that others may fear.” Titus was told, “…speak these things, exhort and rebuke with all authority” (Titus 2:15).

In order to maintain a good example before the community, withdrawal of fellowship may be necessary. This will challenge men to live right. “Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw from every brother that walketh disorderly…” (2 Thessalonians 3:6). “And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed” (2 Thessalonians 3:14). Again the Holy Spirit stated through Paul: “I wrote unto you not to keep company, if any man that is named a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such a one no, not to eat” (1 Corinthians 5:11).

When we do the above, the church will not have to resort to entertainment, build elaborate buildings or secure an outstanding speaker to attract the community. The great challenge of the church is to practice purity in a world of iniquity.

Bulletin Briefs, Volume 11, #7, July 2008