Thursday, September 30, 2010

How to Have Healthy Non-Romantic Relationships With the Opposite Sex

A Bible based guided discussion for young adults developed by Dr. Terry W. Dorsett.

• The differences between boys and girls sometimes drive us crazy and sometimes draw us together. But God has made us so that we need each other.
• Though we often think of a boy/girl relationship in terms of romance, people of the opposite sex can also choose to be friends without all the drama that romance often causes.
• However, when we have friendships of the opposite sex, there is always the danger of our hormones getting carried away. When that happens we can mess up a great friendship by letting it drift in a direction that is not healthy.
• There are three things we need to do to keep our non-romantic friendships with the opposite sex healthy.

1. Clearly understand what God says in the Bible about healthy relationships.

• Joshua 1:7-8 - Above all, be strong and very courageous to carefully observe the whole instruction My servant Moses commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right or the left, so that you will have success wherever you go. This book of instruction must not depart from your mouth; you are to recite it day and night, so that you may carefully observe everything written in it. For then you will prosper and succeed in whatever you do.

• Why does it take strength to follow the Bible in today’s world?
• Why does it take courage to have a good friendship with the opposite sex?
• Why does this verse say we need to carefully observe the WHOLE instruction we find in the Bible?
• What does it mean to turn to the right or the left in a friendship?
• If we stay on the correct path, what does God promise us?
• Staying on the correct path can be difficult.
• What tips does this verse give us for staying on the correct path?
a) Speak scripture verbally on a regular basis.
b) Memorize scripture on a regular basis.
c) Obey what we learn in the scriptures we speak and memorize.

2. Allow the Holy Spirit to be our best friend and comforter in times of trouble.

• John 14:16-17 - And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever. He is the Spirit of truth. The world is unable to receive Him because it doesn't see Him or know Him. But you do know Him, because He remains with you and will be in you.

• We all need friends, especially in tough times. But sometimes if we are not careful, in a difficult time we rely TOO much on our friends and not enough on God.
• We need to remember that if we are a Christian, the Holy Spirit is with us and will help us in times of need.
• He is the Spirit of truth. The world is unable to receive Him because it doesn't see Him or know Him. But you do know Him, because He remains with you and will be in you.
• What does it mean that the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth?
• Why are those who are not Christians unable to receive the Spirit?
• If we are Christians, the Holy Spirit is with us. Will we let Him comfort us in times of need?

3. Be willing to ask for help from someone who is older and wiser when we realize we are in trouble.

• Proverbs 12:15 - A fool's way is right in his own eyes, but whoever listens to counsel is wise.

• When we realize that we are in over our head, we should not be embarrassed to ask for help.
• Though our friends can be a support to us, seldom do they know how to actually help us because they are not yet wise enough to offer objective advice.
• We must find someone older and wiser than us or our friends and get good counsel from them.
• It is the foolish person who keeps doing what he/she has always done and expects different results than what happened in the past.
• Reality check: If we keep doing what we’ve always done we will keep getting the same results. We need someone to help us change so that we can move past our troubles.
• There is nothing wrong with seeing a counselor or psychologist if we need help.

To keep our friendships with the opposite sex healthy, we need to do three things:
1. Clearly understand what God says in the Bible about healthy relationships.
2. Allow the Holy Spirit to be our best friend and comforter in times of trouble.
3. Be willing to ask for help from someone who is older and wiser when we realize we are in trouble.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Tough Love - A Study from Malachi

A sermon based on Malachi 1:1-14 by Dr. Terry W. Dorsett.

Verse 1 - An oracle: The word of the LORD to Israel through Malachi.

• Malachi was the last prophet in the Old Testament.
• When Malachi finished his ministry, the Lord did not speak through another prophet for 400 years.
• Very little is known about the man Malachi. He might have been a priest. What is known is that he lived in a time in which people had begun to fall away from their faith.
• Malachi was burdened by what he saw in his society and felt compelled to try to help people see the error of their ways.
• Though sometimes prophets are seen as being judgmental, they are actually motivated by a deep burden over the pain they see in the lives of those who chose a lifestyle of sin.

Verse 2 - I have loved you, says the LORD. But you ask: How have You loved us? Wasn't Esau Jacob's brother? This is the LORD's declaration. Even so, I loved Jacob, but I hated Esau.

• The message that God told Malachi to give to Israel was one of love.
• Though Malachi was going to be showing “tough love,” it really was God’s love that Malachi was trying to convey.
• Most of us do not like tough love.
• Real love compels us to do what will actually help others, not just what makes them feel good for the moment.
• The Israelites were going through a hard time so they asked Malachi how God had demonstrated His love for them.
• When we go through a hard time in our own lives, it is easy to begin to feel like God no longer loves us.
• It is easy to focus on the negative things in life and forget all that God is doing.
• Malachi used a unique illustration to point out to the Israelites how God had loved them.
• Malachi said that God loved “Jacob” but hated “Esau.”
• The Jews descended from Jacob and though they were having a hard time, they had returned to their land and rebuilt their temple and had a somewhat normal life.
• The Arabs descended from Esau and at that point in history had been utterly decimated as a people. They had not yet been able to rebuild their nation. It lay in ruins no matter what they had tried to do.
• Were the Jews better than the Arabs?
• Did the Jews deserve to be blessed more than the Arabs?
• No. Both groups had done wrong and both groups had received the punishment they had deserved.
• But God, in His mercy and grace, and had chosen to help the Jews rebuild their nation.
• God demonstrated His love to them in this way.
• Life may not have been perfect for the Jews, but it was far better than many of the people around them.
• Each of us has done a lot of stupid things in our lives.
• Each of us has received the “rewards” for our mistakes and carries certain burdens as a result.
• But sometimes God chooses to bless us in spite of ourselves as a demonstration of His love.
• We should never doubt the love of God in our lives even when things are not going well.
• We do not have to look far to find someone in far worse shape than we are.
• Whatever we have, as little as it may seem at the moment, is a gift of love from God.

Verse 6 - A son honors his father, and a servant his master. But if I am a father, where is My honor? And if I am a master, where is your fear of Me?

• God calls those of us who believe in Him, His children (John 1:12).
• Children are supposed to honor their parents (Ephesians 6:1-2).
• The Israelites had forgotten to honor God.
• Do we ever forget to honor God?
• God calls Christians to reorder our priorities and to follow Him (Luke 9:23).
• The Israelites had left God off their priority list and were following their own ways, not God’s.
• Do we ever follow our own way instead of God’s way? Do our priorities get messed up?

Verse 8 - When you present a blind animal for sacrifice, is it not wrong? And when you present a lame or sick animal, is it not wrong? Bring it to your governor! Would he be pleased with you or show you favor?

• The Jews protested Malachi’s strong words.
• They did not see their failure to love God back nor did they see their failure to follow God’s ways.
• Malachi points out to them just one example.
• The Old Testament had very strict guidelines about what the people could bring to sacrifice when they worshipped the Lord.
• They were supposed to bring a healthy lamb or goat that was at least a year old and looked perfect.
• The whole point was that it was supposed to cost them something. After all, a sacrifice is not supposed to be free.
• Instead of doing that, they had been bringing sick animals that they could do nothing with and giving that as a sacrifice.
• Malachi points out that if they had tried to pay their taxes with such a sickly animal, the governor would have rejected it.
• Yet they thought it would be good enough for God.
• Why do we always think we can give God our leftovers and that it will please Him?
• We should be offering God our best because we love Him and we want to serve Him.
• If we gave our spouse or our best friend the kind of love we give God, how long would that relationship last?
• If someone offered that kind of love to us, how would it make us feel?

Verse 14 - The deceiver is cursed who has an acceptable male in his flock and makes a vow but sacrifices a defective animal to the Lord . . . .

• God was not trying to be mean and demand more than the people could give.
• God would not have been upset if they had given their best and their best was not as nice as someone else’s.
• God was sad because clearly they could have done better but they tried to deceive God.
• God knows our hearts and sees through all our motivations.
• God knows when we have given our best and when we have given just enough to try to look good in front of others.

Verse 9 - "And now ask for God's favor. Will He be gracious to us? Since this has come from your hands, will He show any of you favor?” asks the LORD of Hosts.

• Malachi was trying to help the Jews understand that if they did the least for God as they possibly could then why did they expect God to bless them.
• God does often bless us in spite of our stupidity, but why do we think we “deserve” that blessing?
• Too many people think of God as a cosmic ATM machine. They can just drive by and make a withdrawal anytime they want to.
• That is not really now it works with God, but if it was, why would we think we can withdraw something from an account that is already empty!!!!

Verse 14 - . . . For I am a great King, says the LORD of Hosts, and My name will be feared among the nations.

• Malachi explains that the Lord is a great King.
• The Lord’s people are supposed to be a great people.
• If God’s people do not act great, it makes God look bad too.
• Sometimes God has to give His people tough love so that they can get back in line and live right. But it is still love.


• God always loves us, even when it does not feel like it.
• God expects us to give Him our best. When we fail to do so, God knows our inner motivations.
• We cannot live wrong and expect God’s blessings on our lives.
• We must live in a way that proclaims God’s greatness to those around us.

This post is part of a larger study of Malachi found in the book, "Malachi: Finding Hope in the Midst of Adversity." 

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Lay People Will Help If Trained Effectively

H. B. London expresses the feeling of many pastors in his book Your Pastor is an Endangered Species, when he writes, “pastors serve in a me-centered world where church members and attenders are becoming more and more apathetic.” While few would argue with London’s assessment that our society has become more self-centered, we must ask if pastors are training their congregations to be part of the solution or part of the problem. Fred Lehr works with pastors who have experienced burn out. He writes in his book, Clergy Burnout: Recovering from the Seventy Hour Work Week and Other Self Defeating Practices that “the volume of responsibilities dumped on the clergy is inordinate, and because we clergy are so codependent, we accept that burden, rescue the laity from their responsibilities, and suffer the consequences.” Pastors must learn to let go of their own need to be in control. Pastors must help the laity accept more responsibility for the ministries of the church. Pastors may be surprised just how much lay people are willing to do if only they are asked and then trained properly.

Simply making announcements at worship services will probably not produce the level of commitment needed to provide significant assistance to pastors. Dennis Bickers correctly observes in his book, The Bivocational Pastor: Two Jobs, One Ministry, that “a bivocational minister should not expect to find lay leaders who are capable of serving on leadership teams without investing time and energy in training them.” Pastors must make time in their own schedules to develop leaders. Pastors must then be willing to release significant responsibilities to the individuals they train.

Pastors should make sure their sermons include teaching on spiritual gifts and the importance of using those gifts for God. Pastors must find ways to highlight practical examples of what lay people can do to help lead the church. Once lay people begin to understand that they are needed and gifted for ministry, they will be more willing to accept responsibility for ministry leadership.

Pastors should not wait for people to step forward and volunteer. They should be constantly looking for parishioners with leadership potential. Pastors should have an ongoing and intentional plan for discovering, enlisting, training, and releasing lay people for ministry.

Building effective leadership teams in the church will not be an easy task. Differences in personalities, communication styles, and life experiences will be obstacles to be overcome for effective teams to emerge. Drawing on his years of research, George Barna concludes in his book, Today’s Pastors, that “a team mentality does not spontaneously arise with the church. A leader must instill the vision for team play among the players and create an environment in which those players work together toward a common end. The objective is to glorify God through acts of personal spiritual growth and community service.” Though the challenges to building such team environments in the church are significant, the end result is worth it.

The above is an excerpt from the book, Developing Leadership Teams in the Bivocational Church. The book gives six easy to use lessons that pastors can use to teach lay people to make visits and share the preaching responsibilities with their pastor. Though there are many other things lay people can do, preaching and visitation are two of the most time consuming. If the pastor can allow lay people to share these two important ministries, it can remove significant levels of stress from the pastor.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Little Things Add Up

Most of my regular blog readers know that I recently wrote a book called Developing Leadership Teams in the Bivocational Church. Since it is my first book and I am an unknown author living in a small rural state, it has been quite a challenge getting the word out about the book. But someone told me that if I would just spend a little time each day marketing the book, all those little efforts would eventually produce results. I set a goal of spending 30 minutes each morning and another 30 minutes each evening promoting the book. During those times I write letters and emails to people I think might be interested in the book. I post comments on blogs and websites that cover topics related to the book. I make phone calls to people who I think might be interested. I write reviews on similar books on as well as write “How To Guides” and create “Listmanias” for Amazon on topics related to my book. Finally, I use my connections on Facebook and on my blog to promote the book. I must be honest, some days I miss one or both of my 30 minute marketing segments. Sometimes I miss them for two or three days in a row. But I when that happens, I try to refocus and get back to my efforts to devote that small portion of time to this worthwhile effort. Though sales are still slow, bit by bit the book is making its way into the marketplace and getting noticed by people who share my concern for small churches and their pastors. Clearly, the little things I have done are starting to accumulate into larger results.

It occurred to me the other day while I was praying, that this same concept can be applied to any area of life. If we devote a little time each day to exercise, we will be healthier in the long run. If we devote a little time each day to our spouses and children, we will have better families. If we devote a little time each day to a hobby or skill, we will continue to improve and find satisfaction in them. All too often we wait until we can do some “big” thing that we perceive will produce some radical results in our lives. While those opportunities do occasionally happen, most of the time if we want to achieve some goal in life, we just have to keep plugging away at it bit by bit by bit. We may miss a day or two here or there in our efforts, but we must keep refocusing and returning to our efforts, no matter how small they may seem at the moment. All those little things will eventually add up to something big.

By the way, go buy my book and make my day!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Healthy Churches Are Led By Teams

The New Testament teaches that there are multiple callings to ministry and that all of them are needed for a healthy church (see Romans 12:3-8 and 1 Corinthians 12:4-11). Though God calls all Christians to serve Him in a general sense as followers of Christ (Ephesians 4:1-7), God also calls some believers to a deeper level of service to the church (Mark 3:14-19). Those people who have been called to a deeper level of service should be working together as a team to make sure all the ministries of the church are accomplished effectively. The objective for each team member should be a healthy church that glorifies God. This can only be achieved as a team of people respond to a call to various forms of leadership.

Different churches use various methods to help people discover their different callings in the church. Some churches have very detailed systems to identify and set apart such individuals. Other churches follow less structured methods. Some churches place a greater emphasis on having ordained leaders while other churches are comfortable with leaders who are not ordained.

Different churches use different terms for the people who respond to God’s call. Common terms include: elders, pastors, preachers, messengers of the Word, deacons, bishops, overseers, evangelists and apostles. Alexander Strauch, a noted authority on the subject of biblical leadership writes, “whatever terminology you choose to describe local church leaders will have advantages and disadvantages. In the end, every local church is responsible to teach its people the meaning of the terms it uses to describe its spiritual leaders.” Whatever the methods of identifying the individuals who are called to deeper levels of services and whatever titles are given to them is less important than the fact that there should be a plurality of individuals who are working together as teams to lead churches.

Unfortunately, in many churches today, the pastor is seen as the sole leader. While the pastor is important to the overall direction of the church, if the pastor is the only leader, the church will be limited by the pastor’s time, skills and spiritual gifts. But when the pastor is able to gather a team together, then the number of spiritual gifts, natural talents and time available for ministry all grows significantly. Pastors who find themselves as the single leader in a church should devote significant time to raising up additional leaders. Is your church led by a team? If not, what are you doing to help develop a team leadership mentality?

The above comments are an excerpt from the book, Developing Leadership Teams in the Bivocational Church, which can be found on as well as a number of other online retailers and select Christian bookstores.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Christophobia is Dangerous

There was a time in American society when people generally respected religion. Though I question the historicity of whether America was ever really a “Christian” nation, there is no denying that in the not so distant past Christianity was a major influence in our personal lives, our politics and our local communities.

Times have changed and now it seems that most public figures who claim to be Christians work hard not to be seen as too religious. They know when to show up the annual generic prayer breakfast and they end their speeches with “God bless America,” but that seems to be the limit to their commitment to public religion. This is most clearly true in politics, but we also see this same trend toward a vague commitment to a generic religion in all levels of public life in America.

The latest demonstration of this new generic religion is an aversion to the word “Christ.” Some small level of religion in general continues to be tolerable, but a specific commitment to Jesus Christ has somehow become a bad thing. As a matter of fact, our society is on the verge of becoming “christophobic.” What is christophobia?

A phobia is defined as a persistent, irrational fear of a specific object, activity, or situation that leads to a compelling desire to avoid it (view link here). Therefore, christophobia is a persistent, irrational fear of Christ that leads to a compelling desire to avoid Him. Notice the words “persistent,” “irrational,” “fear,” “compelling desire,” and “avoid.” Those are powerful words. We see them lived out in almost every area of public life in America. While some non-religious people may hail this as a new day of tolerance, they should actually be quite concerned about this growing sense of christophobia. Since it is irrational and based on fear, christophobia is dangerous. People making irrational decisions cannot be helpful to the common good. People making decisions based on fear close their minds to information that does not play into their fears. What makes christophobia so dangerous is that if society can be irrationally afraid of anything to do with Christ, then it can also be irrationally afraid of other things. If we allow christophobia to become acceptable in modern life, then we set the stage for letting irrational fear about other issues to also become acceptable. Our nation has come so far in the area of civil rights, that it would be a terrible setback if christophobia continues its path toward social acceptance.

A society that is driven by irrational fear cannot long endure. For the sake of our nation’s future, we need public figures, teachers, community leaders, and even non-religious people to stand up and declare that is okay to be a public Christian in America today. That does not mean that everyone has to be a Christian, or even that those public leaders who declare it is okay to be Christians are Christians themselves. It just means that there should be a public recognition that it is not a “bad” thing to be a committed Christian who is in the public eye. If we fail to make that statement as a society, we may well find ourselves falling over the edge of a cultural cliff that makes it acceptable to exclude any sub-group in society. Surely that is not the society we meant to become.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Guest Post - The Bivocational Life

This is a guest post from Christine Pechstein. Christine is a motivational speaker and life coach who helps business leaders as well as Christians keep balance in their lives. You can learn more about Christine's ministry at:

When I was first out of college life seemed so easy. There were two things I had to do: Work and Play. Back then, if I’d known what a bivocational life was, that would have been it. During the day, I would work to make a living and support myself. And after work, I would continue to live my social life where I left off after my college graduation. I wanted to have plenty of time to enjoy my evenings walking the beach, catching a sporting event, or simply hanging out with friends. It seemed to be such an achievable plan, too. It’s funny to look back and see how simple I envisioned my life after a 9-5 job.

But then things started shifting. My life started needing my attention in more than just those two areas. Life kept growing and changing with things like marriage and kids coming into the picture. And then we added things like school and outside activities. Eventually even more came into the picture. As I grew up, so did my life. And I shared my time with ministry, volunteering, and leadership responsibilities that came into play. Pretty soon, my work and home life dividing line got erased. And my life and all the things I was doing just got muddled in the process. I began to realize I needed to manage all the various components of life, because as I grew, so did my needs and the needs of my family.

Instead of trying to be everything to everyone and do everything for everyone, I began to run my family like a team. And each team member had a certain level (even the newest and youngest!) of responsibilities to add to the success of us being an effective (non-frazzled) family. This was the beginning of how I became a passionate teacher of all things life management. I began to manage and coach a team of leaders in my home, and we are the same today-many years later.

As I got involved in ministry, I learned that there is the same need for church and ministry management. For pastors, ministry leaders, and volunteers, there are also many components that make up the life of the church which make it run efficiently and effectively that must be considered when we determine how to manage our personal time and priorities. For anyone who works or serves in the church and combines those responsibilities with outside life responsibilities and an outside job, effective leadership and proper use of all available resources is imperative not only to the effectiveness of ministry, but also the preservation of staff and the prevention of burnout in all service volunteers.

A pastor and friend of mine, Dr. Terry Dorsett, wanted to help pastors who work two jobs, so he wrote a book entitled, Developing Leadership Teams in the Bivocational Church. This book helps both the pastor and the lay leaders understand the importance of sharing leadership in the church. He has been using these principles in churches in Vermont for several years, and it has worked very well.

Regardless of how pastors and/or church attendees may feel about bivocational ministry, it is a growing practice in North American church life. Patricia Chang is a research professor at Boston College and has studied many denominations and written extensively about clergy issues. Chang has done extensive research on how bivocational ministry is impacting American denominations of all sizes and theological persuasions. In a major study published in the Pulpit and Pew journal of Duke University, Chang concludes that “the majority of congregations in the United States are small, with fewer than 100 regular members, and cannot typically afford their own pastor.” This results in a growing need for more bivocational pastors every year.

Dr. Terry Dorsett is the Director of Missions with Green Mountain Baptist Association in Vermont and will be appearing on my Blog Talk Radio Show, Sunday, October 17, 9pm, CST.

I want to encourage you to learn more about bivocational ministry, leadership teams, and check out his book which is available at and a variety of other online retailers. You can also request it at most Christian bookstores. And we hope you’ll join us in October to learn more!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Shared Leadership Is Normal for the Church

The New Testament demonstrates a shared leadership model as normal for the church. In modern times, many churches have become accustomed to a single-pastor model of church leadership. This model puts pastors in situations where they are serving alone as the primary leaders of the church. In larger churches this model may be modified if there is a staff of pastors who serve under a senior pastor, but the basic concept is still that the senior pastor has a great deal of authority over the church. This single-pastor model is especially evident in the preaching and pastoral care ministries of the church. The solo pastor, or the senior pastor in a larger church, is often expected to do almost all of the preaching and pastoral care.

When the bulk of the preaching and pastoral care is centered on one person, it creates the impression that the person has more authority than the New Testament grants. Once the congregation perceives that the pastor has all the authority, it follows that the pastor also bears all the responsibility for getting everything done. This tension between authority and responsibility can be significant. Yet this is exactly what many bivocational pastors face in their churches. The church expects them to provide most of the leadership in the church as well as accept most of the blame for any faults in the church. This is not how the church was led in the New Testament.

In the life of the New Testament church there was an equal sharing of leadership by a group of people. One example of this multiple leadership approach is found in Acts 13:1-3: "Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger,
Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a member of the court of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them. Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off." This passage demonstrates that five people were serving together as the prophets and teachers of the church in Antioch. There is no distinction made between the leaders, which indicates a joint sharing of duties and responsibilities between these five individuals.

This plurality shows that the church should not rise and fall on the leadership of just one person. When pastors find themselves in churches that do not have multiple leaders, developing leaders should be one of the first priorities. Paul's young protégé Timothy found himself in such a situation while he was serving as pastor of the church in Ephesus. Paul wrote a letter to Timothy instructing him in how to lead the church. Part of those instructions are found in 2 Timothy 2:1-2: "Timothy, my dear son, be strong through the grace that God gives you in Christ Jesus. You have heard me teach things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Now teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others."

In this passage Paul instructs Timothy to teach other individuals the truth of the gospel. But they were not just any individuals; they were individuals who must be able to share in the teaching ministry of the church. They were to be trustworthy people who would pass the truth of the gospel on to others. The emphasis was on Timothy training others who would join him in his teaching, preaching, and leading ministries in the church. This should be a goal of all pastors, especially those serving in bivocational roles.

The above comments are adapted from Developing Leadership Teams in the Bivocational Church by Dr. Terry W. Dorsett. To learn more about bivocational ministry and how lay people can help bivocational pastors become more effective, purchase the book at or at or

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Four Tests to Help Us Listen to God and Not Our Own Emotions


  • When we face a big decision in life, we often pray for God to give us some idea of what to do. We may end up with a variety of different directions we could go.
  • When trying to make such a decision, how do we know if we are listening to God or to our own emotions?
  • It is important to know how to tell the difference between the voice of God or our own emotions because the emotions of our heart can trick us. When emotions deceive us, life can get messy real quick!!!!!


Jeremiah 17:9 "The heart is more deceitful than anything else and desperately sick—who can understand it?"

  • The reason that our emotions can be wrong is because our hearts are naturally sinful.
  • Sin has caused all of us to have "heart" problems so we need a system to check our heart and make sure it really is God leading us before taking action.
  • There are four tests we can use to make sure our ideas are from God and not our emotions.


1. God will never tell us to do something that contradicts His Word.

  • God used 40 different men to write the Bible in three different languages over a period of 400 years. Though God used those men's personalities and backgrounds, God inspired the men to write in such a way that the entire Bible is without error.


2 Timothy 3:16-17 - All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

  • The scripture is profitable to us and equips us to good work in our lives.
  • We should be reading the scriptures daily so we can hear from God through them.
  • But since the Bible was written a long time ago, is it still relevant for today?


Isaiah 40:8 "The grass withers, the flowers fade, but the word of our God remains forever."

  • God says that His Word will remain true forever.
  • God's Word has no expiration date!
  • It is as true now as the day it was written.
  • Because the Bible was 100% true when it was written and is still 100% true today, God will never tell us to do something contrary to what He has already said in His Word, otherwise He would be contradicting Himself.
  • If our "great idea" or life choice would lead to actions that go against scripture, we know the idea is a bad one even if it "feels" right.
  • The feeling is a deception from our well-meaning but imperfect human heart.

2. God does not tell us to do things that cause confusion or division in the church.


1 Corinthians 14:32-33, 40 "And the prophets' spirits are under the control of the prophets, since God is not a God of disorder but of peace . . . But everything must be done decently and in order."

  • This verse says that people (prophets) who think they are hearing from God are still in control of their spirits.
  • What that means is that we do not lose control of ourselves just because we think we have an idea from God.
  • God does not want us to lose control of ourselves because God is not a God of disorder, but of peace.
  • God will not lead us to do something that causes craziness in the church.
  • We must learn to control our actions if we really want people to listen to what we think the Spirit is saying to us.
  • Ideas that ignore this concept are not from God or have not been delivered the way God intended for them to be shared.
  • We must ask ourselves if our idea will cause confusion or division in the church.
  • It is important to note that non-Christians may be confused by our actions since they lack the Holy Spirit, but Christians should understand our ideas if they are really from God because they have the same Spirit.
  • Sometimes an idea may be from God, but the timing is not right and we have to wait on the Lord. We must not let our hearts run ahead of God timing.


3. When God tells us to do something, there will be confirmation from other Christians.


Proverbs 24:6 ". . . In the multitude of counselors there is safety."

  • God tells us we will safe if we have a large group of counselors.
  • This is referring to Spirit-filled believers, not those with worldly ideas.
  • If we have an idea about something we should do, we should share it with some other Christians who we know are Spirit-filled and ask them to join us in prayer.
  • Sometimes when we share our ideas, no one else will get excited about it. In those moments, instead of getting upset and angry, we should thank God for keeping us from doing something stupid.


Ephesians 4:3-4 "diligently keep the unity of the Spirit with the peace that binds us. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope at your calling."

  • God speaks with unity in the Spirit.
  • If we think we are the only one "connected" to God, we are being arrogant not spiritual.
  • Spiritual people realize sometimes they are wrong. Therefore, they consult with other spiritual people to make sure God is saying the same thing to others. That is how they keep from making a mistake.
  • But what if no one else thinks my idea is a good one, but I am still convinced it is from God?
  • In times like that we must ask God either to put the idea on the hearts of others or to remove the idea from our own heart.
  • Then we must wait on God to do one or the other, which can be hard.


4. When God tells us to do something, the idea will not go away.


Psalm 37:4 "Take delight in the LORD, and He will give you your heart's desires."

  • If we are living our lives in such a way that we delight in God, then God will put certain desires in our hearts.
  • Those desires will not go away or fade with time. They will remain in our hearts.
  • If we are really living for Christ and an idea remains in our hearts for a long time, then we can be assured it is from God.
  • Because we are really living for God, we will have already filtered those ideas through the other three tests. They will have either passed or failed the other three tests.
  • If the ideas failed the other three tests, we will discard them and they will no longer be on our hearts.
  • If the ideas do pass the other tests and remain in our hearts, we can have confidence that the ideas are from Him and will eventually come to pass.
  • What do we do while we wait for those ideas to come to pass?


Matthew 6:33 "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you."

  • Instead of becoming obsessed with our idea, we should focus on serving God the best we can in our present situation.
  • We should do all we can to seek God's kingdom and live as righteously as we can.
  • In time, all the other things that we desire will come to pass if they really are from God.



If we want to know if an idea or choice is from God or from our own emotions, we must run the idea through these four tests:

1. God will never tell us to do something that contradicts His Word.

2. God does not tell us to do things that cause confusion or division in the church.

3. When God tells us to do something, there will be confirmation from other Christians.

4. When God tells us to do something, the idea will not go away.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Being Faithful to our God Given Dreams

A sermon preached by Dr. Terry W. Dorsett based on Acts 28.
Preached at Precision Valley Baptist Church, North Springfield, VT on August 29, 2010.
Preached at Faith Community Church, Barre, VT on September 5, 2010.
  • Paul had been called by God to share the Gospel with those who had never heard and start churches for them to worship in. Paul was faithful to do this for many years despite unbelievable obstacles and difficulties.
  • But Paul knew that for the Gospel to change the culture of the Roman Empire, he would need to preach the Gospel in the city of Rome. Since Christianity was despised and illegal, this was going to be quite a challenge.
  • Paul ended up being arrested on false charges while he was visiting Jerusalem.
  • Paul defended himself in a number of different courts but his opponents twisted the truth to keep him in prison.
  • Paul was finally put on a ship with some other prisoners and they sailed for Rome to stand trial there. But they were caught up in a terrible storm and the boat was torn to pieces. The group found themselves shipwrecked. 
Verse 1 - Safely ashore, we then learned that the island was called Malta.
  • Paul and his companions find themselves shipwrecked on Malta.
  • Malta is an island in the Mediterranean Sea located 58 miles from Sicily and 180 miles from Africa.
  • Malta is only 18 miles long and 8 miles wide.
  • The name "Malta" means "refuge" and this little island certainly served as a refuge to Paul in a time of trouble. 
Verse 2 - The local people showed us extraordinary kindness, for they lit a fire and took us all in, since rain was falling and it was cold.
  • The local people were most likely Phoenicians and spoke a language considered gibberish by the more cultured people.
  • But they were friendly and cared for all those who were shipwrecked.
  • Education and money do not always equal kindness. Kindness comes from the heart. 
Verse 7 - Now in the area . . . was an estate belonging to the leading man of the island, named Publius, who welcomed us and entertained us hospitably for three days.
  • Paul and his companions are taken to the estate of Publius, where they stay for three days.
  • Little is known of Publius, but he was most likely the procurator of the island. A procurator is sort of like a governor but with less power. 
Verse 8 - It happened that Publius' father was in bed suffering from fever and dysentery. Paul went to him, and praying and laying his hands on him, he healed him.
  • Publius' father was sick with dysentery.
  • Dysentery causes severe diarrhea and rapid dehydration.
  • On Malta, this disease was often spread through a microbe found in goat's milk.
  • Dysentery can last days, or even weeks, and is extremely uncomfortable.
  • Dysentery can cause death if left untreated, especially in children and the elderly.
  • When Paul prayed for this man, the man was healed. 
Verse 9 - After this, the rest of those on the island who had diseases also came and were cured.
  • Once one person was healed, others came to find the same help.
  • The Gospel brings healing to our lives.
  • As each person's life is changed, their friends and family desire to experience that same change.
  • The Gospel should be life changing and contagious! 
Verse 11 - After three months we set sail in an Alexandrian ship that had wintered at the island.
  • We know from Acts 27 that the group could have spent those same three months at Fair Haven and not lost the ship or its cargo.
  • Greed and bad advice had caused them to lose everything and become refugees on Malta.
  • Greed and bad advice will always bring pain into our lives. 
Verse 14 - There we found believers and were invited to stay with them for seven days. And so we came to Rome.
  • Once Paul and his group got back on track, they discovered some other believers who helped them along the way.
  • When we are struggling to remain faithful, we NEED other Christians to help us along the way.
  • Times of difficulty are not the times to pull away from the church.
  • At long last, Paul came to Rome.
  • It almost seems anti-climatic after the terrible storm and being shipwrecked and living as refugees. But Paul finally got there.
  • Though it took longer than Paul thought it would and arriving as a prisoner was not in the original plan, Paul finally got to Rome, which was his life-long dream. 
Verse 15 - Now the believers from there had heard the news about us and had come to meet us . . . when Paul saw them, he thanked God and took courage.
  • Paul's story had beaten him to Rome.
  • Whether we know it or not, people are watching how we handle the difficulties that threaten our God given dreams.
  • Christians are being strengthened and encouraged as they watch us struggle to overcome the obstacles in our path.
  • Non-Christians may make their faith decision based on our response to difficulty.
  • When Paul realized he was not alone, he found the courage to keep going.
  • We must realize that we are not alone in our struggle. God is with us and so are many believers, some we may not even know. 
Verse 16 - And when we entered Rome, Paul was permitted to stay by himself with the soldier who guarded him.
  • When Paul finally made it to Rome, he was given an amazing amount of freedom.
  • He went from having to live in a dungeon in fear of being assassinated by his opponents to living by himself with just a single soldier guarding him.
  • Paul had been faithful to pursue his God-given dream despite all the difficulties he encountered.
  • God rewards faithfulness!
  • Are we being faithful to our God given dreams in life? 
Verse 30 - Then he stayed two whole years in his own rented house.
  • For two years Paul was in his own home sharing the Gospel with anyone who would listen.
  • Paul's lifelong dream had been to travel to Rome to share the story of Jesus.
  • Though Paul faced many obstacles and difficulties along the way, he was finally able to fulfill his lifelong dream.
  • If we have a God-given dream, we must not let go of it no matter how many difficulties we may face along the way.
  • If we remain faithful to God and pursue the dream He has given us, we will see it fulfilled. But we must remain faithful.
  • Faithful means doing it even when we do not feel like it. Faithful is NOT on again, off again. 
Verse 31 - And he welcomed all who visited him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching the things concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with full boldness and without hindrance.
  • Paul welcomed anyone.
  • Paul did not play favorites.
  • Paul proclaimed the Gospel with boldness.
  • Though Paul was in Rome under house arrest, he preached without hindrance.
  • God tends to work things out in ways we would never have expected.
  • The story of the book of Acts ends abruptly with this verse.
  • Luke (the writer of Acts) does not tell us what happened when Paul stood before Caesar.
  • Why does Luke not tell us the rest of Paul's story?
  • Because the book of Acts is not about Paul.
  • The book of Acts is about the Gospel going forth from Jerusalem to every part of the earth.
  • No matter how many challenges and obstacles Satan erects, the Gospel cannot be stopped.
  • Part of our God given dreams must include sharing the Gospel with others because it is not all about us.
  • Luke does not tell us what happened to the church Paul was trying to start in Rome.
  • Some historians think that Luke might have died before he could finish Acts because Luke does not tell us anything about what happened in Paul's life after this verse. All we know is that Paul preached unhindered.
  • Paul had a God given dream to preach the Gospel in Rome. What God given dreams do we have?
  • Paul followed that dream through every obstacle and every storm and saw the dream achieved. We must stay faithful to our own God-given dreams and they will come to pass.
  • Our God given dreams should include sharing the Gospel with others.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Be a Blessing to Your Grandchildren

Many churches across America are struggling to reach out to young adults. While some churches have discovered innovative ways that are quite effective, others have yet to find the "secret" to impacting young people. I was contemplating this struggle the other day while I was reading Psalm 103:17-18, "But from eternity to eternity the LORD's faithful love is toward those who fear Him, and His righteousness toward the grandchildren of those who keep His covenant, who remember to observe His instructions (HCSV)." These verses say that when people keep God's covenant, not only are they blessed, but their grandchildren are blessed. It occurred to me that perhaps the "secret" everyone is looking to reach young people are grandparents.

When grandparents live out their faith in a deeply spiritual ways, their grandchildren are often moved by it. How many people share testimonies of a grandparent's faith that was steady as a rock during times of difficulty? How many people remember going to church as a child with their grandparents? These verses reveal that God will bless grandchildren on behalf of the godliness of the grandparents. One of the best gifts a grandparent can give their grandchildren is to live a godly life in front of them.

As I consider how this works out in real life, it occurs to me that in my own ministry to young people, we have reached a number of grandparents. Our church has been struggling to reach parents but the grandparents seem to come much easier. This is particularly interesting because our church uses a contemporary worship and preaching format that is designed to communicate primarily to young people. From a human standpoint, grandparents should not be interested in our church at all. But grandparents see the struggles their grandchildren are having and want to do something to help. Sometimes they seem more willing to make sacrifices for their grandchildren than what even parents are willing to make. That is not to say that grandparents love their grandchildren more than parents do. It is simply a realization that parents are often distracted by their own issues and struggles and may not have as much emotional energy to give to their children as grandparents do. Some grandparents have overcome their own struggles already and are in a position to help grandchildren more than the parents can. Other grandparents still have issues, but realize time is growing short in their own lives. They seem willing to give up their own desires to invest more in their grandchildren. Either way, grandchildren can be blessed by the godly living of grandparents.

If you are a Christian grandparent, pour yourself into the spiritual development of your grandchildren. Do it even if it means you have to listen to music or preaching at church that is not your favorite style. Do it even if it means volunteering for youth events when you would rather be relaxing at home. Do it even if you feel like you do not know how to relate to young people anymore. If you are a non-Christian grandparent, consider making a decision for Christ and then help your grandchildren understand why you made this decision. It will change their lives forever!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

What Do You Expect from Dirt?

In my ministry to young adults I often find them struggling with self esteem. It can be a challenge to help instill within them a healthy self esteem because there is a fine line between a proper self esteem and arrogance. Our society often tells young people they are special just "because" but psychologists such as Jean Twenge tell us that is actually not helpful. Basing self esteem on simple existence is not helpful because deep inside we all know that makes no sense. Instinctively, humans feel that we must DO something special in order to BE special. Twenge, and other psychologists, say that those who work with young people must help them find something they do well, and then build a great self esteem on that. It does not matter what it is, just something that is done well. That makes sense to me. But it does not change the reality that we have a whole generation of young people who have been told they are great, but deep inside they still struggle with self esteem.

Perhaps the problem is that we have ignored the theological perspective of self esteem. The theological perspective includes the reality that we are all sinners. Even non-religious people know we have all made our fair share of mistakes. Some of those mistakes are significant enough to cause real pain in our lives and in the lives of those around us. How do we build a healthy self esteem based on things we are good at while also dealing with the reality of sin in our lives? How many good behaviors do we have to do in order to balance out the bad behaviors we do so easily?

The other day I was reading Psalm 103:14, which says, "For God knows what we are made of, He remembers that we are dust." Some may ask how that relates to the issue of self esteem. It relates because it reminds us that God knows mankind was formed in the beginning from simple dust. And one day, we will return to dust. To be blunt, what can God really expect from dirt? God knows we will sin. God has provided a way for us to be forgiven from sin through the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. We will make a lot of mistakes in life. We may feel those mistakes far outweigh the good things we have done. We may not amount to much in other people's eyes or even in our own. But God thinks enough of the little pile of dirt we call a body that He sent His Son to pay the price for our sin so we can be forgiven. Forgiveness means forgetting. God "forgets" about our sin when we ask for forgiveness. Repentance is turning away from our sin and doing our best to walk the way Jesus walked. Though we will still make mistakes in life, God understands that when are doing the best we can. God knows where we came from and He knows where we are headed. God sees us from a perspective that we cannot grasp ourselves. And God loves us anyway, and that makes us special.

Part of having a healthy self esteem is understanding who we are in Christ. Knowing we are special enough for Him to die for us should make us feel good about ourselves. But also remembering we are dirt keeps us from getting too conceited. Let us all try to be the best dirt we can be.


Saturday, September 4, 2010

Pastors Burn Out If They Do Not Delegate

There are an increasing number of pastors experiencing burn-out. The number of pastors who enter this downward emotional spiral has been growing in recent years. Bob Wells has done extensive research on the health of American clergy. In a 2002 article in Pulpit and Pew, Wells concluded that "doctrinal and theological differences aside, North American churches have in common not only the Cross and a love of Christ, but also a pastorate whose health is fast becoming cause for concern." Pastors are not as healthy as they should be. This lack of health contributes to the higher burn-out rates currently being experienced by pastors.

One of the factors that lead to burn-out is loneliness. When pastors do not feel they have anyone with whom to share their burdens, they feel isolated and alone. Loneliness can lead to depression. When pastors feel depressed, they are more vulnerable to emotional fatigue, to the practice of unhealthy habits, and to increased levels of anxiety. These factors greatly decrease pastors' effectiveness in ministry. Pastors who feel ineffective in their ministries have increased negative emotions, which in turn increase the likelihood of burn-out. Therefore, systems must be put in place to help pastors overcome feelings of depression so they can be healthier individuals and more effective in their ministries. When such systems are not in place, pastors become trapped in a downward spiral that feeds upon itself until they become emotionally paralyzed in ministry and in their personal lives.

Unfortunately, loneliness and depression are just part of the problem. The general brokenness of modern society brings additional challenges to pastors who are seeking to bring healing to their communities. H. B. London, of Focus on the Family, writes, "Today's pastors face crises unknown to any other occupational groups. Contemporary parish ministry, without anyone intending to make it so, has become an emotional and spiritual H-bomb, ready to explode any second." Loneliness, depression, a compulsion to fix society, and the internal politics of local churches combine together to make pastoral ministry a difficult calling to fulfill. Yet God has called people to this important task and the call must be answered.

Bivocational pastors, who work outside jobs in addition to serving churches, are even more likely than fully-funded pastors to experience burn-out. As bivocational pastors are taught how to build pastoral leadership teams, they will be less prone to feelings of loneliness. As bivocational pastors learn to share the burdens of ministry with an entire team, they will no longer feel as overwhelmed. Building pastoral leadership teams can help pastors avoid feeling burned out.

Building pastoral leadership teams requires a willingness to delegate some duties to others. Delegation, the lifeline many ministers must grasp to avoid burn-out, will be a challenge for some bivocational pastors to practice. The very fact that bivocational pastors are willing to work two jobs to follow the call of God demonstrates their work ethic. They are the kind of people who get the job done, even if it means they must do it themselves. But this type A personality can be as much a curse as a blessing if not channeled in healthy ways.

Delegation is not just about passing off a list of tasks to others. Delegation means giving up control and sharing leadership with others. While some pastors may fear this, delegation actually helps pastors be more effective because it helps them see the blind spots in ministry which they have missed on their own. Raising up effective pastoral leadership teams makes the entire church more effective than what any individual leader, no matter how gifted, can do on his or her own.

Delegating menial tasks may be easier to do, but for delegation to really help, pastors must also be willing to delegate some of the preaching and pastoral care duties. Because these are two of the most time-consuming and emotionally-draining aspects of ministry, a failure to delegate a portion of these duties will result in pastors still not having time to rest. Alexander Strauch has written a number of excellent books to help pastors train deacons and elders in their churches to share the load of ministry. Strauch notes that "it is a highly significant but often overlooked fact that our Lord did not appoint one man to lead His church. He personally appointed and trained twelve men." These were not twelve men who helped with menial tasks but men Jesus sent out to preach, teach, and address the needs of people. Pastors need to follow the example of Jesus and recruit help in their preaching and pastoral care efforts. As pastors learn to give away part of their ministry to others, they will have less stress. Less stress will help them avoid burn-out and stay in their ministry positions longer.

When pastors are unhealthy, they tend to change churches more frequently in an attempt to relieve stress and/or rediscover joy in ministry. But if the pastors' work habits are the real problem, then they take those problems with them to the next church and experience those same difficulties all over again. What is needed to break these unhealthy patterns is for pastors to be willing to stay longer at each church they serve. As the pastors build relationships with others in the church, those relationships serve as bulwarks against loneliness, depression, and a dangerous "I can do it all myself" attitude. As the pastors become healthier, the churches become healthier. When churches become healthier, then pastors do not feel as overwhelmed. A pattern of health for both pastors and churches emerges when pastoral longevity is increased.

Pastoral burn-out is a real issue in modern church life, but it is an issue that can be addressed. It was this issue that prompted me to write my book, Developing Leadership Teams in the Bivocational Church. This book focuses on helping pastors learn to train up multiple leaders so they can delegate some of their preaching and pastoral care duties to them. It is my prayer that this book will help pastors avoid burn-out and have long and happy ministries in their churches.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

How to Go Deeper in the Word

After people have read the Bible devotionally for awhile, they often desire to go deeper in the Word. But how does a person go deeper in the Word? Is there some secret method for learning more from God? We can follow these practical principles to go deeper in the Word.

1. We cannot go deeper in the Word unless we are in the Word to begin with.
  • A daily time with God is an absolute must for anyone who desires to go deeper in their faith. Some people call this "devotions" and other people call it a "quiet time." The term really does matter.
  • Talk to some other Christians whom seem strong in their faith and ask what some ways they do their quiet time are.
  • The three key aspects of a healthy quiet time are:

    1. Reading the Word in a translation we can understand.
    2. Praying about what the Word has said in our lives and about the concerns we have in life.
    3. Applying the Word to our daily lives. We cannot just read the Word, we must live it.

2. If we want to go deeper in the Word, we must be committed to reading the entire Bible, not just the parts we like.
  • Reading the entire Bible helps us connect the various parts into the whole.
  • Reading the entire Bible helps us find nuggets of truth that we would miss otherwise.
  • Reading the entire Bible will point out weaknesses in our faith that we never knew were there.
  • CAUTION: We read the entire Bible to CHANGE, not to FINISH!!!!

3. If we want to go deeper in the Word, we must be willing to invest in some resources to help us through the difficult parts.
  • We must FIRST rely on the Holy Spirit to help us understand the Word.
  • The Holy Spirit often uses other resources to accomplish His purposes.
  • Three biblical resources every Christian should have is:

    1. Concordance – helps us find all the verses with a particular word in it.
    2. Bible dictionary – helps us understand terms, places and names.
    3. Commentary – gives us historical research and theological insights that we might not know on our own.

4. If we want to go deeper in the Word, we must remain faithful
  • We are often good "starters" but we must learn to follow through.
  • We will not learn it all the first time through which is why we must keep reading the Word as lifelong learners.
  • As we go through different seasons in life we sometimes see things that we could not have seen at any other time in our lives.

Copyright 2010 - Dr. Terry W. Dorsett