Jealous With a Godly Jealousy

Pastors, do you love your church like a father loves his daughter?

givingawaythebride-700x4661This week, I met with a young couple for our third premarital counseling session. We are at the point in the counseling process where we are scripting out the ceremony itself. So we started talking about what the father of the bride will say when he gets to the end of the aisle. You know the drill: the minister says, “Who presents this woman to be married to this man?” And the father, sometimes with tears in his eyes, responds, “Her mother and I.” He lifts the veil on his daughter, kisses her on the cheek, places her hands in the hands of her groom, and steps back. And in that moment, he probably prays that he has done everything he can to prepare his princess for this moment, not to mention for the lifetime that follows.

This image was on my mind this morning as I read 2 Corinthians 11:

I hope you will put up with me in a little foolishness. Yes, please put up with me! I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him. But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the Spirit you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough.

2 Corinthians 11:1-4 (NIV)

I’ve read these words from Paul quite a few times. But when they came up again this morning in my read-through-the-Bible plan, they felt more fresh–more urgent, than they had on previous readings.  I think that’s because this is the first time I’ve read them as a senior pastor.

Paul planted the church in Corinth some time around AD 50-51 (you can read about it in Acts 18 ). He watched it grow and flourish. 2 Corinthians was written about five years later. Paul had heard reports that the church was being torn apart by false teachers (2 Corinthians 11:13) who were assaulting Paul’s character, sowing discord among the believers, and teaching false doctrine. They were questioning  his integrity (2 Corinthians 1:15-17), his speaking ability (2 Corinthians 10:1011:6), and his unwillingness to accept support from the church at Corinth (2 Corinthians 11:7-912:13). There were also some people who had not repented of their sinful behavior (2 Corinthians 12:20-21). (Thanks to gotquestions.org for this summary)

So in chapters 10-12, Paul gets about as personal as he ever gets as he pours out his heart for this “problem child” church. Sometimes he sounds like a jealous husband, defending himself to his wayward wife. Or at least, that’s how he’s sounded in previous readings.

But this morning, I read Paul’s words not as a jealous husband, but as a father who wants to present his daughter to her groom as a pure, spotless bride. Verse 2 is key: Paul is jealous with a ‘godly jealousy’ because he, the father of the bride, has promised the church to one husband–Christ.

51tor5erg6l-_sy300_This is the heart a pastor ought to have for the church he leads. Think about all the cliches of a protective father with a teenage daughter. Ask yourself, do you love your church in the same way? Here’s my gut check for how well I am loving my church. Understand, I’ve always been a little squeamish about pastors who talk possessively about “their” church. But then I go back to the “my daughter” analogy, and it makes sense. So bear with me as I talk about “my” church:

  • Am I aware of my responsibility in preparing my church to meet her groom? Am I teaching her to discern right doctrine from false doctrine? In the same way a father helps his daughter learn how a man should treat a lady, a pastor needs to help his church discern truth from error.
  • Am I as concerned for her reputation in the community as a father is concerned for his daughter’s reputation in the high school?
  • Do I pay attention to the books people in my church are reading? Even (maybe even especially) the “Christian” or “inspirational” ones?
  • Am I diligent about the quality of small group teaching in my church? Do I know what’s being studied in small groups the way the father of a teenaged daughter knows where she is on Friday night?
  • Am I concerned for their physical safety? This relates to the church’s policies and procedures regarding background checks, supervision, transportation, and so forth.

Pastors, what else would you add to this list?

Lord Jesus, help me love my church, which is truly your church, with a godly jealousy. I pray for the day I can present her to you, her Groom, a spotless, pure, and perfect. 

From Your Pastor: Week of September 17

James smilingAs I write this, I am reflecting on our first day together. What an amazing time of worship we had on Sunday! Guys, there were a lot of people here. I mean, a lot. I know that there were a lot of people who were just kind of test driving the new guy, but here’s the thing: we need to expect new people. We need to expect lost people. Not because we have a new pastor, but because we have a Savior who has come to “seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:10). The Father is drawing people to His son (John 6:44). We shouldn’t be surprised when they come to our doors.

With that in mind, there’s some things I would love to see us do as a church that will help us be more outward focused:

  1. If you are a Sunday school teacher, keep the seats closest to the door available for first time guests. People who don’t know our building very well will take a little bit more time to find their way to class, especially if they have children to check in. So make sure they can slip in without having to walk through the middle of your circle.
  2. Speaking of Sunday School teachers, plan on getting to your class first. And do your best not to still be getting your material set up as people are arriving. You want to be able to give your full attention to guests as they are coming in.
  3. In the worship service, consider sliding to the middle of the pew to make room for guests on the ends.
  4. Say hello! Introduce yourself! Sometimes we are afraid to do that because we are worried that the person we are introducing ourselves to is a member of the church we’re supposed to know. If you’re worried about that, then just stand next to Trish and me. We don’t know anybody yet, so you can learn their names when we introduce ourselves!
  5. If you have not been coming to prayer meeting on Wednesday nights, please make it a priority. Thom Rainer, in his book Autopsy of a Deceased Church, points out that one thing churches that have closed their doors all had in common is that they rarely prayed together. Glynwood is a praying church! Let’s never lose sight of that!

We are heading into some amazing days as a church. And I am so blessed to be your pastor! Please let me know how I can be praying for you. My church email address is gbcseniorpastor@knology.net.

Joy in the Journey,

james

Review: Autopsy of a Deceased Church by Thom Rainer

Autopsy of a Deceased Church: 12 Ways to Keep Yours AliveAutopsy of a Deceased Church: 12 Ways to Keep Yours Alive by Thom S. Rainer
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a book that is made to be read with a group. As an individual, I could read it and say, “Hmmm… Interesting.” But a group reading it together could say “This is revolutionary.” Or “This is scary.” Or, most importantly, “This is us, and here’s what we need to do about it.” Dr. Rainer is a qualified “forensic pathologist” when it comes to churches. He has seen enough churches in various stages of decline to be able to speak with authority on when a church is in the death spiral. If you are wondering whether or not you should read this book as a church leadership team, then do this: look at your church’s average worship attendance over the past five years. If you aren’t growing, or if your pace of growth is less than the growth of your community, then you need to read this book together. Pure and simple. And the keyword is “together.” If you as a pastor are the only one that reads it, you will have wasted your time. A sense of urgency has to be shared if anything is to change.

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“With You is My Contention, O Priest”– Thoughts on Hosea 4

39567-hosea-800w-tn

 

My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge;
    because you have rejected knowledge,
    I reject you from being a priest to me.
And since you have forgotten the law of your God,
    I also will forget your children.

Hosea 4:6 (ESV)

I was pretty sure I knew the gist of Hosea: God tells his prophet to marry a hussy named Gomer; be a father to three children (two of which may or may not be his); watch her chase after other men; and then redeem her back. All this would be one big sermon illustration that would teach Israel about God’s unfailing love to His people despite their unfaithfulness (side note as a pastor: I’m really thankful God hasn’t come up with any object lessons like this for me so far. I’m happy getting my illustrations from YouTube and Tony Evans books). By the way, you should pause and read Hosea 1-3 if you aren’t familiar with it. Greatest. Love Story. Ever.

But in Hosea 4, the book starts feeling less like a Hallmark movie and more like the powerful prophetic word that it is. Chapter 4 begins with a devastating indictment against Israel. God has a bone to pick with the inhabitants of the land, says verse 1:

There is no faithfulness or steadfast love,
    and no knowledge of God in the land;
there is swearing, lying, murder, stealing, and committing adultery;
    they break all bounds, a

nd bloodshed follows bloodshed.

2017 MTV Video Music Awards - Show, Inglewood, USA - 27 Aug 2017
Host Katy Perry at the 2017 VMA’s

Sounds pretty descriptive of today’s headlines, doesn’t it? Or MTV’s  Video Music Awards.

Then, in language that parallels the blessing of Psalm 8:6-8 God pronounces judgment on Israel:

Therefore the land mourns,
    and all who dwell in it languish,
and also the beasts of the field
    and the birds of the heavens,
    and even the fish of the sea are taken away.

But here is what stuns me as a minister. While God judges Israel, he doesn’t blame them.

He blames the priests. “With you is my contention, O priest,” he says in verse 4 (which seems to be a much more compelling and convicting translation than the NIV. I’d love for someone way smarter than me to help me understand the huge difference between the translations of verse 4, but that is a conversation for another day. If you are interested, check out the translation comparison from Blue Letter Bible.

God says, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge because you [the priest] have rejected knowledge.” And because the spiritual leader of the people rejected knowledge, God would reject him as a spiritual leader. (verse 6). And you won’t find a more challenging word for a pastor than Hosea 4:9:

And it shall be like people, like priest.

In the business world, the cliche is “Speed of the leader, speed of the team.” Pastors, we cannot lead anyone where we are not going ourselves. God’s people are being destroyed for lack of knowledge. But if we as spiritual leaders are forgetting the law of our God, then the spiritual condition of the nation is on us.

God have mercy.

From Your (almost) Pastor

On August 272017, Glynwood Baptist Church (www.glynwoodbc.com) called me to be their lead pastor. This letter is for them (as much of this blog will be in the future) but you’re welcome to read it as well. 

On behalf of Trish, Caleb, and Josh, let me say THANK YOU for the unbelievable welcome you extended to our family this past Sunday as we begin a new era of serving with you all. The day could not have been more beautiful. From the new sanctuary, to the beautiful decorations and interior accents, to the great job the tech crew did (adjusting the sound mix to accommodate a full room for the first time is no easy task!), to the amazing work Gary did filling in for Mike at the last minute, to the joy of baptism, to the food at the reception, it was just an amazing day from start to finish.

And, oh yeah. There was a vote. Glynwood family, to say we were overwhelmed and gratified by the outpouring of support—both in the vote itself and in the countless Facebook messages and posts since—would be an understatement. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

old guySo, one of the questions I got a lot on Sunday was, “What do you want us to call you?” As far as the name goes, James is fine. If you’ve taught your kids that it’s rude to refer to grown-ups by their first name, then Pastor James works. Or Brother James. Reverend Jackson would be pretty far down the list of preferences, but I’ll answer to anything. In fact, here’s a picture of my name tag from when I preach kids camp (I’m not making this up!)

You can also follow me on Twitter (@Jackson_JamesL); Instagram (@jamestn1010) and Facebook (James Jackson). If you have any questions about any of those, ask Edgar. 🙂 Eventually I’ll have a church email address, but for now, you can reach me at jamestn1010@gmail.com.

Great days are ahead, and there is so much joy in the journey. We love you!

james

Book Review: Introverts in the Church by Adam S McHugh

Introverts in the Church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted CultureIntroverts in the Church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture by Adam S. McHugh

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An excellent read for church leaders to consider that evangelism and church leadership are not the exclusive domain of extroverts. It includes helpful ideas for how to structure the programs of our church to be more introvert friendly. It also helps extrovert-centric ministries to consider how much the body of Christ is enriched by the introverted personality. Parts of it will be a little off-putting to evangelicals because it suggests some of the more contemplative and liturgical worship practices (which we evangelicals tend to be suspicious of as mysticism). But maybe that’s the point. We tend to look at our worship experiences as being the only way to do it, and maybe that’s keeping the wallflowers on the other side of the wall–on the outside looking in.

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Book Review: American Gospel by Jon Meacham

American Gospel: God, the Founding Fathers, and the Making of a NationAmerican Gospel: God, the Founding Fathers, and the Making of a Nation by Jon Meacham
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fair and Balanced (for real, not like Fox News)

Meacham is a gifted historian and not a bad lay theologian. Though not writing from an evangelical perspective, he is fair to evangelicals without pandering to them. Appendix A, a collection of source documents of (mostly) the Founders writing about religion, is helpful for deflating the myth that we are a Christian nation, while at the same time helping us see that many of the founding fathers were men of deep personal piety. I wish there were more chapters– that he would have dealt with issues rather than eras. That would have made it easier to go back and reference specific points of history. And if the hard copy (I read it on kindle) has an index, I will probably buy it for future reference.

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