MILLENNIALS LEAVING THE ESTABLISHED FOR THE CONVENIENT?

Neal Pollard

I was more than a little amused to read one of the latest offerings at the offbeat online food site “Munchies” (munchies.vice.com).  While it seems to be having fun with the overkill-reporting of all movements millennial, they give hard data to support the idea that those in the age range of 18-34 are forsaking fast-food chains and sit-down restaurants in deference to convenience stores with their nachos, taquitos and slurpies.  This data is being interpreted as a reflection on their tendency to impulse buy or be lured in by novelty.

Having at least two children who would fit the broad definition of “millennials,” I am always trying to figure out how this demographic ticks.  It seems that every news story featuring them, as a generation, casts them as fickle, rebellious, self-serving, or disconnected from the rest of society.  While they have inherited some broken systems (educationally, economically, religiously, etc.) and, as such, may naturally feel some distrust and disdain for those responsible, stereotypes and broad brushes are usually faulty.

When I view Christian millennials, having spoken with a great many of them over the past few years, I see a group intent on doing great things for Christ.  They don’t want to hear plans for helping the poor and needy; they want to organize and supply manpower for doing it.  They want more than Bible classes and sermons on soul-winning; they want to see their “role models” doing it and involving them in it.  They don’t want to simply accept our word for it on why we do what we do in worship and doctrine; they want well-thought-out explanations and demonstrations of book, chapter, and verse.

Today’s millennials are on the frontline of a battlefield more daunting than any living generation before them.  The prince of this world has attempted to brainwash and indoctrinate them with his lies.  The institutions of our culture actively seek to redefine right and wrong for them.

So many of the Christian millennials I know are eager to serve as soldiers in the Lord’s Army.  They may disparage some of the “established” forms not founded upon the Rock, but the kind of faith they are developing and must grow will be anything but “convenient.”  They may have to pay a higher price for holding onto their faith than any of us did at their age.  May we have the wisdom and take the time to mentor, encourage, love, and assist them in influencing a world so rapidly changing.  They can do it, and we must help.  God certainly will (cf. Rom. 8:37-39)!

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THE TACTICS OF TROUBLEMAKERS

Neal Pollard

When you come across Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arab, and the unnamed others of Nehemiah six, you can’t help but be struck by how timeless some things are.  The book of Nehemiah recounts the great construction project led one of the Bible’s great leaders, Nehemiah.  In fact, this Bible book is a great instruction manual on great traits of leadership.  Despite his skill, though, Nehemiah faced several obstacles.  He had overcome poverty, internal strife, and discouragement, only to encounter the opposition of troublemakers at this stage of the work. Notice what they did and how great leaders respond to such tactics.

He faced insincerity (1-3,10-12).  The aforementioned men tried to pull Nehemiah away from wall-building under the guise of a “meeting.”  Yet, the text says they sought him harm.  Later, we see that these troublemakers have hired an associate of Nehemiah’s, who fabricates a story meant to frighten him.  Both times, Nehemiah saw through the deception.  His answer was to focus on the work, refusing to leave it to become trapped in their snare.  When we are engaged in great works for Christ, there will be those, either out of jealousy or their own heart problems, who don’t want it to succeed.  Perhaps even despite an air of piety or “righteous concern,” they are willing to twist the truth to undermine our work.  Like Nehemiah, we must refuse to leave the work to be dragged into unproductive distractions.

He faced insistence (4).  They sent this same message at least five times!  Imagine Nehemiah and the others, up on the wall, finishing the job as the troublemakers keep pestering them with the same mantra.  Look at what Nehemiah does.  He sticks to his guns.  What grit and determination!  We should know that troublemakers often have nothing better to do.  They aren’t working on their own “walls,” so they choose to do nothing better than try to tear down the walls of others.  We must be prepared to keep working, however much they pester.

He faced insinuation and invention (5-7).  This is a favorite weapon in the troublemaker’s arsenal. They used talebearing, slander, gossip, and the like to try and undermine the work.  You can imagine the sneaky, slithery way in which they did it, can’t you?  “It is reported.” “Gesham says.”  “We’re going to report you to the king.”  What Nehemiah did in response is such a lesson for us.  He didn’t wring his hands or spend a lot of time with counterarguments.  He had truth on his side and did not feel compelled to wallow in the mud with the mudslingers.  He knew he was doing right, and he simply told them so.

He faced intimidation (9).  God gives us insight into the motivation of the troublemakers. Nehemiah says, “They all were trying to make us afraid.”  Why these mean-minded men were so obsessed with halting the work is not exactly clear, but pride and self-importance seem to play a part.  Nehemiah counteracts their bullying by going way over their head! He took it to God, praying for strength to overcome their pressures and threats. Obviously, as we read, God answered Nehemiah’s noble prayer.  When we face such intimidation, we have access to the same power!  That’s the first place we should turn when bullied by troublemakers.

How incredible that something which happened 2500 years ago can be so relevant to us today.  The old adage attributed to Aristotle is true: “To avoid criticism say nothing, do nothing, be nothing.”  Well, for Christians trying to do God’s work today, “nothing” is not an option.  We must be ever at work building His kingdom.  Thus, expect trouble and troublemakers.  Then, look to Nehemiah for the strategy to overcome them!  It still works.

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HE WAS COACHING ON ONE KNEE

Neal Pollard

What I’m about to do is painful and very nearly contrary to my nature.  It involves praising something about New England Patriots’ head coach Bill Bellichick, he of “Spy Gate” and “Deflate-Gate” infamy.  Yet, something he was witnessed doing on the sidelines during the late stages of Super Bowl XLIX gives great insight into why he has coached a record-tying four Super Bowl champions.  While Pete Carroll was on the other sideline, commendably patting players on the back and showing excitement and energy, Bellichick was seen on the other side of the field down on a knee speaking with players on both the offense and the defense.  For whatever we want to say about what we don’t like about him, he’s renowned within the team as a strict disciplinarian that even makes players nervous.  Without negotiation, he expects everyone to give their best.  And, he expects it done without fanfare, a Wall Street Journal article showing this with a memorable Bellichick quote: “Playing well is playing well. You can break it down into 17,000 adjectives, but it’s doing your job” (Kinkhabwala, 1/15/11).  But, when the Pats were down by 10 and panic might have overtaken him, he was calmly, coolly sharing an expectation or going over a game-plan to overcome the adversity.

So, I still don’t have to like him or the Patriots, but I appreciate that.

Leadership is about so many different, vital qualities. Energy and effervescence, passion and praise all can play a part.  However, there is hardly a substitute for a mentor, one who is serious, thoughtful, and caring enough to pull someone aside and give him or her individual attention.  The word usually translated “exhort” in the New Testament is from a Greek word which means “calling to,” “appeal to and earnestly request,” or “call to one’s side” (Kittel, np, Louw, np, and BDAG, 764).  Who doesn’t appreciate the loving, caring approach of an elder or other spiritual leaders, whether preachers, older members, deacons, and the like, who guide us and help us with biblical understanding, moral dilemmas, and ethical quandaries. They have that timely word when we are discouraged, that nugget of wisdom that seems meant for that moment.

I think we all desire leaders who will get down on one knee with us, as it were.  Leaders like these are who Paul had in mind when he wrote, “But we request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction, and that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Live in peace with one another” (1 Th. 5:12-13).   Thank God for great leaders who, with weighty responsibilities on many fronts, take a moment to come alongside us with encouragement and insight.

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Whose Voice Should Be Heard? Another Look At 1 Timothy 2:11-15

Neal Pollard

Paul averred that “all Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17, NIV). Its source is God. Its value is exhaustive.  Its result is practical.  That is how the all-wise God intended it.

In the first letter to Timothy, Paul gives his thesis statement that all he wrote in the epistle was to give the young preacher knowledge of how the church was to conduct itself in various matters (1 Tim. 3:15).  One of several matters addressed in the letter was what role Christian women were to take in “the household of God” (the church) in matters of teaching and leadership.  We read about that in 1 Timothy 2:11-15.  Here is what we find:

  • The Christian woman must receive instruction with entire submissiveness (11).
  • The Christian woman is not allowed to teach or exercise authority over a man (12).
  • The Christian woman is to remain quiet (12).
  • There are biblical reasons for this, reasons that go all the way back to creation (13-14).
    • The order of creation (13)
    • The deception of the woman (14)
  • The Christian woman has an honored role to help the church thrive and grow (15).

What is remarkable is the lack of ambiguity regarding this teaching.  It is clear and straightforward.  No cultural issues or problems are stated to occasion these words.  One does not find contradictory instruction in another New Testament context to offset or clarify the words here. Perhaps it is the straightforwardness of the words that have chaffed many who appear desirous of bending truth to fit the culture.  Such bending is not limited to this issue, but as the culture regresses from truth more and more matters are getting reexamined in order to change truth to fit the culture.

We must understand that all such efforts, in effect, place human beings as the authority in place of God and Scripture.  It causes people to say, “You have read this, but I say unto you.”  The problem is that it is not our place to say that Scripture does not mean what it says.  That authority belongs to Christ, and He exerts that authority through the men who wrote down His will in the New Testament.  It is His voice and their voices that need to be heard.  Whoever they say should teach and lead is whose voices need to be heard.  Any other voice is speaking without the utterance of God (1 Pet. 4:11).

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 What It Means to Be An Overseer

Neal Pollard

Elders are identified with three broad terms.  As Gary Hampton has put it, those who serve congregations in this honored way should not be offended that the term most often associated with them is the one that identifies them as old.  Not only are they “elders,” but they are also “shepherds” and “overseers.”  “Shepherd” describes their pastoral function:  caring for the spiritual and emotional needs of the flock, knowing the sheep, and building relationships with the sheep.  Too often, people confuse preachers as the ones associated with this role.

They are also “overseers.”  In one way, this term is almost self-defining.  They are to oversee the affairs and activity in the congregation they serve.  In another way, there may often be confusion about what it means to oversee.

  • They should not be “over hearers.”  They must be communicators and “contactors.”  They cannot rely solely on hearsay and rumor.  They cannot afford to be so detached from sheep life that they are uninformed. While they rely on information from preachers, deacons, and the “general membership,” that cannot be their sole means of information regarding church life.
  • They should not be “over meeters.”  I have heard it said that elders should visit two hours for every one hour they meet.  Although that may be unscientific, is it not saying that personal contact with church members is at least twice the job that coming together and making decisions about those members is?  How can anyone best decide about sheep with whom they have not spent quality time?  Certainly, lengthy meetings are draining and frustrating to elders.  Often, overseers are in danger of burn out from marathon sessions.
  • They should not be “over workers.”  God has not placed the entire workload of the church on elders’ shoulders.  Almost always, men are appointed elders because they have proven themselves diligent workers in various areas of church life.  Yet, as it was in Moses’ day, when elders are overloaded with the church work “alone” (Ex. 18:14) what they are doing “is not good” (Ex. 18:17), it is “too heavy” for them (Ex. 18:18), and they “are not able to do it alone” (Ex. 18:18).  That means elders should not be doing deacons’ work and deacons, by definition, should.

David E. Smith, an elder with the Birdville congregation in Heltom City, Texas, said, “Let me confess up front that I’m guilty.  Guilty of not letting deacons do their jobs so I’ll have more time to do mine.  I think most elders fall in this category from time to time.  There is an urgent need for us to change our “modus operandi”! …Sometimes I get overly involved with our deacons’ work which distracts my attention from spiritual matters.  And there is never a lack of spiritual matters needing attention” (“Questions Of Eternal Consequences,” Ft. Worth Lectures 1999, pp. 267-268).  With regard to church work, let overseers be delegators of work rather than devourers of it all.

  • They should not be “overreactors.”  Faith is vital to effective pastoring.  Financial contribution is vital to church work.  Disgruntled members are an unpleasant reality from time to time, and some can never be placated short of letting them always have their way.  People are growing older.  Most every church should be more evangelistic and all churches could be growing more.  These are some of the burdens God’s shepherds must bear.

Elders no doubt regularly lose sleep and generate stress over such matters.  Yet, as God makes elders overseers (Acts 20:28), He will supply their needs (Phil. 4:19).  It is God’s work, and He blesses all Christians who step out in faith in service to Him.  That certainly applies to the valiant work and oversight of His shepherds.

We cannot “over praise” elders.  They are definitely not over-rated.  They work over time. It is amazing that they are not overcome by the heavy task they execute.  Let us all be reminded of what these special men known as overseers are truly called to do.  It takes extraordinary men to do this heavenly task. “Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you” (Heb. 13:17b).

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Are You A Taker Or A Giver?

Neal Pollard

  • Are you sure to take credit for works that are done or do you seek to give credit for them?
  • Are you more apt to take others’ time or to give your time to others?
  • Do you take joy from others or give it to them?
  • Are you quicker to take the attention or to give it?
  • Would others better know you as a taker of happiness or as a giver of it?
  • Is your reputation as one who takes others’ help or who gives yourself to help others?
  • Are you prone to take advantage of someone or give an advantage to someone?
  • As you take God’s blessings, do you give yourself as a blessing to others?
  • Would you be better known as a taker or giver of encouragement?

There are surely more contrasts along these lines, but consider this regarding them all. Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35b).  Much of this is a matter of selfishness or unselfishness.  As unappealing as the prospect is, each of us does well to look closer at which we are.  We may grab a temporary spotlight, get a short-term advantage, or have the fleeting praise of men, even while taking, but the Lord’s view is different.  He says of takers, “They have their reward in full” (Mat. 6:2,5,16).  How much better to give (cf. Lk. 6:38)!

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“NO MATTER WHAT” OBEDIENCE

(video by Wes Autrey)

Neal Pollard

I cannot imagine anyone present yesterday morning to witness Janice Lee baptized into Christ could have failed to be touched at a very deep level.  J.J. and Lila Brennan had been studying the Bible with Janice, and she came to the conclusion that she needed to be baptized for the forgiveness of her sins.  So, she came to the front after my sermon and made that desire known.

She was in a wheelchair because she suffers left side paralysis as the result of a stroke.  She is also on oxygen.  Several ladies and a few of us men took special measures to help her into the baptistery.  She could walk, slowly, gingerly, and with much difficulty.  The ladies helped her up the stairs, while we stood in the water to receive her and help her the rest of the way.  Each step was tenuous and required the utmost effort on her part. Once she was finally in the baptistery, we carefully lowered her under the water and brought her back up.  Very quickly, her deeply felt emotions gently bubbled to the surface.  She softly cried, recalling difficult things from her past, and she said, “I forgive those who’ve sinned against me.”  The joy and peace on her face is something impossible to adequately describe.

What did this new sister in Christ demonstrate yesterday?  Resolve!  Afterward, I found out not only that she had to deal with the consequences of the stroke, but she is afraid of water.  Yet, she saw the need of her soul as preeminent over any obstacle she might have cited.  The constant need of oxygen, the paralysis, and the phobia were outweighed by the Lord’s command.  Her faith was so strong that they were not insurmountable barriers.  She refused to let them be!

The difference at the Judgment, in part, will be that some will offer excuses for why they did not obey the Lord while others, through genuine, trusting faith, will not need to make excuse.  They will stand before Christ, who will see His blood covering their transgressions.  What does it take to go to heaven? A “no matter what” obedience!

V__7BB1(Photo taken by Kathy Pollard)

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Act While You Can!

Neal Pollard

Recently, I was corresponding with Arthur Ohanov, a gospel preacher in Donetsk, Ukraine, who served as my translator on a couple of mission trips to eastern Ukraine in the early 2000s.  In part, he wrote me, “As I am typing this letter I hear bombing in our city, but God is good! We continue our ministry of reconciliation of sinners with their Father!”  Brethren like Arthur are heroes, facing difficulties we can only imagine in America.  Walking the streets of Kramatorsk, Slavyansk, and Slavyanagorsk back then, I could not fathom that war, carnage, and death could possibly come to that region in so few years.

Periodically, people talk about how the immorality and unbelief in our nation will bring devastation to this nation.  While that is undoubtedly a possibility, which we can see even with God’s special nation in Old Testament times, that belongs to the sovereignty and justice of God.  Yet, nations throughout the centuries rise up and testify that national peace can quickly and dramatically give way to war and destruction.

Today, we wake up to calm and peace.  At the throne of God, we can (and should) humbly thank Him for this tremendous blessing.  Each day that begins like this represents a golden opportunity for each of us.  Wherever we go, we encounter people who are alienated from God and who are heading for eternal catastrophe.  We should consider this peace more than a privilege.  It is an obligation.  While we have time, we must try to reach as many as possible.

The deacons at Bear Valley have been working for several months, planning and strategizing to enhance our vision for the lost in our area.  Many of our members have been approached and asked for help as we try to prepare ourselves as a church to more effectively carry out the Great Commission.  That will continue to expand. We really need to feel the urgency expressed by Christ, who said, “We must work the works of Him who sent Me as long as it is day; night is coming when no one can work” (John 9:4).  “Night” may come by virtue of how swiftly our lives are lived on earth.  It can also come at the hands of dramatic changes in our nation and communities. Because the future is wholly unforeseen, act while you can!

“Lysychansk 16″ by Ліонкінг – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA

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Veronica Partridge’s Proclamation

Neal Pollard

On January 5, Veronica Partridge, “Christian Blogger,” posted an article entitled, “Why I Chose To No Longer Wear Leggings.”  Her essential answer was that she did not want to dress in a way that would potentially make someone other than her husband to “think lustfully about” her body (www.veronicapartridge.com).  How do I know about the blog?  I did not even know who she was until I was running on the treadmill this morning and Good Morning America was running a story about it.  Then, in Googling “Veronica Partridge Leggings,” I saw that such websites as “Huffington Post,” “New York Daily News,” and “The Inquisitr” have written opinion pieces about her words.  Just what is visible from the Google result reveals that they do not necessarily appreciate her point of view.  What is her point of view?

She spoke to her husband and asked if an attractive woman in form-fitting pants was in view, did it present a potential heart struggle for him.  He said it did, and at the end of her post she wrote, “And at that moment, I made a personal vow to myself and to my husband. I will no longer wear thin, form-fitting yoga pants or leggings in public….I also want to set the best example of how to dress for my daughter. I want her to know, her value is not in the way her body looks or how she dresses, but in the character and personality God has given her” (ibid.).

The commenters in response to her blog said some of the same things I’ve heard people say in response to sermons I’ve heard preached or that I’ve preached on modesty.  “It’s not the woman’s fault if the man chooses to lust.” “If a guy’s going to lust, it doesn’t matter what the woman is wearing.” “Who defines modesty?”  Truly, this is a difficult matter to preach or teach well.  Why?

  • People have different standards of what is modest and immodest.
  • Some women are unaware of how revealing or provocative some items of clothing are for most men.
  • Some men may pressure or persuade their wives and daughters to dress in such a way.
  • Some women may like how certain men look at them when they are dressed in such a way.
  • It is human nature to place what we see as our own “rights” over how our exercise of such “rights” negatively effects others.

Those not interested in pleasing God will not be moved by biblical passages and principles.  For those who are, here are some things to consider.

  1. 1 Timothy 2:9 calls for the Christian woman to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly.  In context, she violated this with ostentatious clothing that blinded people to her adornment of good works and claims of godliness.  If “overdressing” does this, can “underdressing” do this?
  2. 1 Peter 3:2-4 ties together chaste and respectful behavior with clothing that draws attention not to the external but to “the hidden person of the heart.”  Is there ever a line where one’s clothing leaves the realm of the chaste (not have sexual nature or intention) and enters the realm of the immoral?
  3. Matthew 5:28-32 says that a man who looks at a woman with lust for her has sinned.  This is the man’s responsibility, but is it ever possible that a woman can so clothe (or not clothe) herself in such a way as create a stumbling block for him in this regard (cf. Mat. 18:7).

There are some items of clothing that are definitely chaste and modest.  Surely, most everyone would say that there are some items of clothing that are definitely not.  What God’s people must do is give serious thought to such things and do that which gives them the best chance to promote Christ.  This is but one area, but it is one area.

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KING’S CRITERIA WERE RIGHT ON THE MARK

Neal Pollard

Martin Luther King, Jr., gave his “I Have A Dream” speech on a seasonable and rain-free day in August of 1963, but this speech, delivered to at least 250,000 people, is often remembered on the holiday in January named for him. This speech is one of the most important documents of our nation’s history and was a watershed moment in improving race relationships between black and white Americans.  Eloquently and poetically pointing out the injustices his race of people had endured and were enduring at the time, King looked forward to a new and improved day.  He hoped all people, whatever their race, would “not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” He hoped to leave Washington, D.C., and return back to his home with a faith in the powers that ruled nationally and locally which would be translated into hope, brotherhood, and unity. His final call was to “let freedom ring” (via http://www.archives.gov/press/exhibits/dream-speech.pdf).

Many people forget that Mr. King was a religious man, a preacher who often alluded to Bible characters and principles as well as directly quoting from it.  Inasmuch as he accurately referenced it, Mr. King was calling all people to God for guidance regarding right and wrong.  He said that character took priority over color.  He saw unity as right and division as wrong. He called for freedom rather than slavery, real or virtual.  While he was rightly championing these characteristics in the realm of racial equality, those principles doggedly stand regarding other matters.  Character, unity, and freedom matter in religious matters.

When we stand before Christ in the judgment, there is no indication that He will even take note of our race, ethnicity, or nationality.  He will look to see if His blood covers us.  Peter rightly says, “I most certainly understand that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him” (Acts 10:34b-35). Corrupt behavior or disobedience will not be acceptable, no matter who we are.

Furthermore, anyone who fosters division is rejected by God. He hates “one who spreads strife among brothers” (Prov. 6:19). He condemns it through Paul in 1 Corinthians 1:10-13.  In social or spiritual matters, I don’t want to be responsible for inhibiting a brotherhood God desires.  If I refuse to stand where He stands or if I stand where He doesn’t want me to stand, He will not accept it.

Finally, there is a freedom even more important than the noble cause King and his followers pursued. They wanted loosed from the manacles of a bondage imposed by others.  All of us, outside of Christ, are subject to a bondage we cause for ourselves.  Paul refers to this as being “slaves of sin” and “slaves to impurity and to lawlessness” (Rom. 6:17,19).  But, thank God, we can be “freed from sin” (Rom. 6:18). Then, we become slaves to righteousness.

Christians must care about racial equality, never treating someone different because of the color of their skin.  The way to right content of character, unity, and freedom is found in the book so often quoted by Mr. King.  No matter where or when we live, it will guide us toward an eternal home in heaven.

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