A Proper Perspective on Transfer Growth

51AYWB8Q8FL._SL160_The McChurch has replaced the traditional church and its relational values. Fast-food Christians pull up to ecclesiastical drive-through windows, order the McGroups, consume the experience and then drive off, discarding relationships like burger wrappers on the highway of life. Savvy church growth pastors quickly learned that significant growth can occur if a church learns how to market it burgers to capture the appetite of this roving crowd. In some instances merely producing an interesting alternative to the status quo can lead to significant church disaffections. – William Chadwick, Stealing Sheep, p. 20

Transfer growth, by definition, creates no numerical growth in the kingdom of God. In fact the term is an oxymoron, and grossly misleading, for its net result is simply much ado about nothing. There are no new converts, no baptisms, no expansion of knowledge of God in the world, and no salvation fruit from this labor.  Arguably – and contrary to popular belief – there is no known purely positive kingdom benefit from a benefit change! – Chadwick, Sheep, p. 30

Conversion growth, in general, graphs poorly. Even with the investment of considerable resources in evangelistic programs, conversion growth is slow growth. By its nature it requires the decision of one person at a time. Each of them needs to have the gospel presented in a fashion that they can understand, and often this requires the building of relational bridges to their world. – Chadwick, Sheep, p. 95

We have attractive carpets, nicely arranged bulletins, cleanly painted walls and deep subculture norms. The unchurched do not fit into this world. When the middle age of life sets in, church people can become upset with the headaches of having newborns in the house; we are past that stage of life. We desire to plan our retirement and find ways of increasing our spiritual and physical comfort levels. The “not like us” gain the disfavor of an unwanted pregnancy and can, in many subtle ways, be aborted. – Chadwick, Sheep, p. 141

Healthy transfer growth is about rescuing sheep. In some cases they are rescued from a church where salvation is not articulated. In other cases they are rescued from a setting where false teaching and heresy occur. And some sheep need to be rescued from abusive church settings. – Chadwick, Sheep, p. 157

Preaching is Worship!

d118Have you noticed how people refer to the singing in church as “worship time,” as if the other parts of the service are not part of our worship? This is troubling, because Christians should recognize that prayer, saying the creeds, giving, and especially the sermon, are all part of our worship of God. But I wonder if one of the reasons why people do not know this is that preachers have forgotten to worship God when they preach. We may deliver carefully crafted sermons, but if we ourselves are worshiping God when we do, then that element will be lost on the people as well. On the other hand, when we are preaching primarily for the glory and pleasure of God, we can draw the rest of the congregation into worship with us. In fact, that is just what the best preaching does. – Harry L. Reeder III (with David Swavely), From Embers to a Flame: How God Can Revitalize Your Church, pp. 110-11

The Danger of “Church Growth” Books

0805440984.01._SX50_SCLZZZZZZZ_It struck me one day in a Christian bookstore that most of the “church growth” books I picked up in that store were not books on vision but on image. They hadn’t been published to help me see the world in a particular way but to help the world see me – were I a megachurch pastor – in a particular way. They were books that enticed the pastor of limited self-image to be like somebody else the world admired. What a cul-de-sac of emotional poverty this is. These books were published to serve the idolatries of megapastor wannabes. – Calvin Miller, O Shepherd Where Art Thou?, p. 4

The Testimony of a Towel

I am reading Journeying Through a Jungle by Sandy F. Ray.

The late Dr. Sandy F. Ray, who served the Cornerstone Baptist Church in New York for 31 years, was regarded as one of America’s most dynamic pulpiteers. He was also president of the Empire State Baptist Convention and vice-president of the National Baptist Convention.

I have known of Dr. Ray vicariously. He and my father were colleagues. I have heard that Dr. Ray and my father had similar preaching styles. But I have never been exposed to the preaching ministry pastoral biography of Dr. Ray until now.

Dr. Ray published one book, Journey Through a Jungle. As this book of sermons was going to press in 1979, the Lord called Dr. Ray home.

I just had to have this book. You can buy a copy through Amazon for no less that $99.95!

There is a chapter in Journeying entitled, “The Testimony of a Towel,” from John 13, where Jesus washed the disciples’ feet. It is a good read with a challenging message. It also reflects clean and compelling preaching.

Here are several quotations I made note of from this chapter:

“Jesus was not merely washing the dust from the Judaic deserts from their feet; he was washing shackling fetters of tradition from their minds. He was washing the ancient cobwebs of customs and crippling concepts from their souls. Their feet were not as dusty as their hearts and attitudes. Their hearts and minds were dusty with selfish ambition.” – p. 33

“Power is terribly dangerous in the hands of irresponsible people. Jesus was never power-drunk.” – p. 33

“Humility is the watchword in the kingdom of heaven.” – p. 34

“There are degree mills all over this nation to satisfy people who feel that a degree will enhance their seating status. Many preachers feel that a degree will give them a seat in the higher category of the clergy fraternity.” – p. 34

“God sent his Son into the world, not with a scepter or a crown, but a towel. The record says that he laid aside his royalty and took a towel for his redemptive task.” – p. 36

“If we would be great in the kingdom of God, we must take a towel. A towel is the route to glory. The real joy in religion is associated with a towel. The happiest people in the world are those who are satisfied to take a towel. Saints with towels build the kingdom of heaven. The towel brigade build and maintain our churches.” – p. 37

“When Jesus returns, he will not be seeking titles; he will be checking towels.” – p. 38

Oxford Sermons: Volume IV

This past summer, I had the privilege to attend theProclaimer’s Place preaching conference in Oxford, England. It was led by Dr.Joel C. Gregory in conjunction with the
It was my second year attending. And I was challenge,refreshed, and inspired to continue growing in my preaching.
I also had the opportunity to speak at a local Baptistcongregation on the Lord’s Day that I was in England. It was a wonderfulexperience.
A collection of sermons from Proclaimer’s Place attendeeshas been published.
I am privileged to have a sermon included in thiscollection. It is a message on Psalm 23 entitled “Living with Confidence in God.”
There are also contributions by two of my preaching heroes –Maurice Watson and Ralph Douglas West
Pick up a copy of “Oxford Sermons: Volume IV” edited by JoelC. Gregory today. 

Remember H.B. Charles Sr. (Father’s Day 2011)

It has been a long weekend for me. And I am not just talking about my hectic schedule over the past several days. I am referring to my consuming thoughts about my father.

My father was funeralized Father’s Day weekend, 1989 – twenty-two years ago.

I trust I will see my father again in glory. This is a comforting assurance for me. Yet there are still times when I still grieve his passing. It happened to me again this weekend.

I think being at my grandmother’s funeral this week did it to me. There was a slide show at the end of the service. And there was a picture of my dad, standing outside my grandparents’ house. There were several other people in the picture. But I did not pay attention to them enough to tell you who they were. All I saw was my father’s big smile. I have been consumed with thoughts of my dad the rest of the week.

Most of my weekend has spent studying and preparing myself to preach. And it has made me think much and long about how my father taught me to love books.

I do not think that my affinity for reading and research came naturally for me. I made friends with books trying to be like my father. He was an avid reader, with a library that consisted of thousands of books. We moved several times over the years. And I remember the biggest priority was always whether a potential home had a suitable place to store his books. I think he would be impressed with the library I have developed over the years.

I do not know what happened to most of my father’s books. But I still have my father’s Bible. It is filled with the study notes in the margins. When I see it, I think about the countless hours my father sat reading and studying that Bible. And it challenges me to spend much time in the word of God.

One evening, I asked my father to help me find a scripture. I quoted it to him: “If my people, who are called by my name, would humble themselves…” I knew the verse. But I did not know the reference. He told me to go get a book off his desk called a “Concordance.” He told me he would show me how to find the verse. I did not want to do that. I just wanted him to tell me the reference. He gave me a choice. Either I could get the concordance of his desk and let him show me how to find the verse or I could get his phone book off his desk and call to ask his assistant pastor, Rev. Russell Banks, where it was. I chose to call Rev. Banks. But I was rebuked by how patiently my father dealt with his prideful son. I later asked him to show me how to use a concordance. And it began a friendship with reference books that has taught me the word and help me to prepare to teach others.

My father taught a minister’s class on Tuesday nights. One night, before class, I showed the other guys several new books of sermon outlines I had bought. He sat and listened. Then he started the class by warning the other guys not to be like me. He says that I was looking for short cuts and that guys were making money writing sermon outline books for lazy preachers like me. I was challenged to dig my own wells so that I won’t have to steal other people’s water.

As I was preaching my early service this morning, I thought about how my dad used to tell people that raising me was like raising a champion horse. He was trying to discipline my ways without breaking my spirit. I do not know if he died with a sense that he succeeded. But I hope he would be proud of the man, Christian, husband, father, and minister that I have become.

I truly miss my father. And I thank God for sharing him with me as long as he did. And I pray that the Lord will keep me from dishonoring the good name my father passed on to me.

Thank God for Dr. John F. MacArthur, Jr.

I am happy.

I came home from work, there was a package on the porch waiting for me. I knew what it was. And I had been waiting on it. It was my copy of the new biography written by Iain Murray and published by Banner of Truth: “John MacArthur: Servant of the Word and Flock.”

I was introduced to the ministry of John F. MacArthur Jr. early in my pastoral ministry. I was being confronted with claims of Charismatic experiences in my congregation. And I needed a better understanding of the matter. Somehow – I think it was through a magazine advertisement – I heard about MacArthur’s Charismatic Chaos.

I went to a local Christian bookstore to find Chaos. When I asked the young lady behind the counter if they had the book in stock, she replied, “Yeah. But I wouldn’t recommend it. He doesn’t believe in the gifts.” I was shocked. I have never had a bookstore employee to discourage me from buying a book. It made me all the more eager to read the book. Honestly, I thought the MacArthur was harsh at points. But the book settled my convictions. And they have not changed. Chaos also deepened my passion to know the truth and strengthened my confidence in the sufficiency of God’s word.

I then began to pick up everything I could find by MacArthur. If he wrote it, I read it. I regularly listened to his “Grace To You” broadcast. And when I found out where his church was – about a thirty-minute freeway drive from where I lived – I would drive out to pick up tapes of his recent sermons.

During the first extended vacation time I took as a pastor; I spent my first Sunday off at Grace Community Church. This began my regular attendance in MacArthur’s Sunday night services. I remember with fondness the messages he preached through Romans 8 on Sunday evenings. Hearing them joyfully settled my convictions about Eternal Security, once and for all.

I knew that I was in love with Crystal when I invited her to join me for a Sunday evening service at Grace Church. I had never attended a service there with anyone before. I kind of viewed it as my own time to have my faith fed. Thinking that Crystal would one day be my wife, I wanted her to visit the church that was having such a profound impact on my doctrinal convictions and philosophy of ministry.

After the service, we were in the “Book Shack.” As we saw all of the books and tape series, we talked about the discipline required to produce this kind of work. When we were making our purchases, Crystal asked the young man what Dr. MacArthur was teaching on Sunday mornings. He answered 2 Corinthians. She asked was he in a series. He answered that Dr. MacArthur had been in 2 Corinthians for the past 3 or 4 years. I can still see the shocked look on Crystal’s face.

Some years later – being married with children – I was able to briefly continue my formal studies at The Master’s Seminary, which is on the campus of Grace Community Church and where Dr. MacArthur is the president. Though only there a short time, my understanding of scripture was deepened and my vision for pastoral ministry expanded.

I have never met John MacArthur. But he has been a dear friend to me for many years now. His example has challenged me. His preaching has nurtured me. His courage has inspired me. His books have taught me. His commentaries have aided me. His congregation has blessed me.

As I heard the news that Dr. MacArthur has recently completed preaching through the entire New Testament – verse-by-verse – I have been overwhelmed with gratitude for this faithful servant of the word. His defense and confirmation of the truth is formidable. Sure, there are times when I disagree with positions that Dr. MacArthur takes (It seems that most who read or listen to him give this qualification). But even when I disagree with him, I cannot easily dismiss him. He has done his homework on the text. And he forces me to do mine.

I know that it may not be best to write a biography on a subject while he is still alive. All of the evidence is not yet in. But I am grateful for the providential orchestration of circumstances that have caused this new biography of MacArthur to be written. And I am looking forward to reading the story of this man of God and his commitment to Christ, the scriptures, and the church.

Thank God for Dr. John F. MacArthur, Jr.

Pastoral Vision vs. Vain Self-Image

It struck me one day in a Christian bookstore that most of the “church growth” books I picked up in that store were not books on vision but on image. They hadn’t been published to help me see the world in a particular way but to help the world see me – were I a megachurch pastor – in a particular way. They were books that enticed the pastor of limited self-image to be like somebody else the world admired. What a cul-de-sac of emotional poverty this is. These books were published to serve the idolatries of megapastor wannabes. – Calvin Miller, O Shepherd Where Art Thou?, p. 4