Monday, May 30, 2011

Seeking God’s Will

A sermon based on James 4:13-17 developed by Dr. Terry W. Dorsett

Verse 13 - Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will travel to such and such a city and spend a year there and do business and make a profit.”

• As we begin to draw near to God, life begins to get better.
• When life begins to improve, we have the emotional, spiritual and physical energy to begin to dream of what our future may look like.
• It is good to look to the future and plan for it.

Verse 14 - You don't even know what tomorrow will bring—what your life will be! For you are a bit of smoke that appears for a little while, then vanishes.

• It can be a challenge to plan for the future because we do not know what the future holds.
• Life often takes us in directions that we never thought possible.
• James says our life is like a “bit of smoke.”
• The Greek word used for smoke is “atmis” which can also be translated as mist or steam.
• The point James was trying to make is that life is just a small blip in the eternal scope of things and it can be gone in a moment.
• Therefore, whatever plans we make must take this uncertainty of the future into account.

Verse 15 -Instead, you should say, "If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”

• James says that we should live our lives in such a way that we can say “If the Lord wills” we will accomplish our plans.
• This does not mean that we have to literally say “if the Lord wills” to everything we plan.
• It means that we have to LIVE, ACT and PLAN for a future that is in keeping with God’s plan for our lives.
• The way Christians plan for the future is different than the way non-Christians plan, for we must include the spiritual dimension in our plans.
• We should be seeking God’s will for our lives, not merely seeking to fulfill our own desires.
• Though God has unique plans for each of us, there are some things He expects us all to do.
• God expects us to read the Bible and pray regularly (Joshua 1:8, 1 Thessalonians 5:17)
• God expects us to help those in need (James 1:27, Matthew 25:35-40)
• God expects us to share the Good News of Christ with others (Matthew 28:19-20)
• God expects us to avoid habitual sin (1 John 3)
• In order to discover what the unique things are that God wants us to do in our lives, we must first be doing the general things that God expects all of His children to do.
• As we faithfully follow the Lord’s general plan for our lives, the Holy Spirit will begin to reveal to us God’s specific plans for our lives.
• Therefore, all the plans we make for our future must take God’s general plan into account.
• As God reveals His specific plan for our lives to us, then our future plans must be adjusted so they are in line with God’s will for us.

Verse 16 - But as it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.

• Unfortunately, most of the people that James was writing this scripture too had not taken God’s will into account when they made their plans for the future.
• They only thought of their own desires.
• Planning our future without taking God’s will into account is arrogant.
• The Greek word for arrogant is “alazoneia” and means that it is vain pretension. Vain pretension implies that it only thinks of us and not of others or of God.
• Because such plans are so self-centered, they are more than arrogant, they are evil.
• The Greek word used in this verse for evil is “poneros” and it literally means “hurtful.”
• Therefore, plans made for the future without taking God’s will into account will actually HURT us and those around us who are all affected by the plan.
• Why would any Christian want to make plans that will hurt themselves or others?
• God resists those plans because of His great love for us.

Verse 17 - So, for the person who knows to do good and doesn't do it, it is a sin.

• When we do something that is clearly wrong, we COMMIT a sin. This is called a sin of COMMISSION.
• But there are also times when we simply choose NOT to do what we know is right.
• This is also a sin. It is a sin of OMISSION. We have omitted correct behavior from our lives.
• Once God has shown us what His will is for our lives, if we fail to follow it, then we have committed the sin of OMISSION.
• Sometimes we think that so long as we do not commit a WRONG action then we are okay.
• But living the Christian life is more than just NOT doing wrong things.
• Living the Christian life is also choosing to do the RIGHT things.
• Have we chosen to follow God’s general plan for our lives?
• Have we chosen to follow the specific plans that God has revealed to us about our lives?


• God expects us to plan for the future.
• But God expects us to include His will for our lives in the plans we make for the future.
• Including God’s will in our lives in not just something we “say.” It must be something we do.
• When we fail to do what God has called us to do, we are in sin before God and need to correct it.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Biblical Baptism

After church today someone asked me about being baptized. Perhaps this post will help answer many questions people may have about this important issue.

Our church has a large number of people who did not grow up going to church on a regular basis. As a result, many people who come to our church do not know much about one of the most basic pieces of theology, that of baptism. Since baptism is such an integral part of the Christian faith, followers of Christ need to gain a biblical understanding of it.

According to the New Testament, baptism is the way that Christians publicly proclaim their faith in Christ. It is a picture of how Christ died for us, was buried for us, and rose again for us. When we stand in the water we are saying that we are taking our stand for Christ. As we are dipped under the water it symbolizes us dying and being buried to our old way of life. When we come up out of the water it symbolizes how we are raised to new life through our faith in Christ.

Baptism does not give us salvation, instead it demonstrates to others that we have already been saved from our sin and have made the choice to be a Christian. The New Testament makes it very clear that every person who has trusted Jesus as their Savior and made a commitment to follow Him should be baptized after making that decision. Obviously, if a person has never been baptized at all, then it makes sense that they would be baptized after they make a sincere commitment to Christ. If we realize we are in this category, we should pray about getting baptized right away out of obedience and devotion to Christ. It will enhance our connection to God and improve our personal spirituality.

Sometimes people were baptized by their parents before they were old enough to understand what it was all about. While that is a very lovely ceremony to watch, we cannot find any examples in the Bible of an infant or small child being baptized. In the Bible, people were baptized only AFTER they made a deep and sincere commitment to Jesus Christ. When people who were baptized by their parents finally make the choice for themselves to become Christians, they should bet re-baptized as a testimony of their own faith. It does not mean they do not appreciate what their parents did for them, nor does it "undo" their previous baptism, it simply means that now they are making this decision for themselves. Parents should rejoice that their children have come to a place of committed faith in Christ and support them in their own faith decision.

While there is no specific age that a person has to be baptized, I often recommend that children wait until they are at least 13 years of age in order to ensure they really understand what they are doing. Though I have baptized children as young as ten on rare occasions when they were able to clearly articulate their faith, I often recommend to young people that they wait until they turn 13. I have also baptized people as old as 89 years old because it took them that many years to really be ready to take this important step of faith. The "perfect" age is whenever a person is spiritually and emotionally mature enough to think this through this issue on their own and come to this conclusion for themselves without being pressured by their parents or peers.

There is something spiritually uplifting about being baptized. It gives us a sense of spiritual cleansing. It makes us feel closer to God. It is also a step of obedience to God, since He is the one who commanded us to be baptized after we trust Christ as our Saviour.

The next opportunity to be baptized at Faith Community Church is June 5, 2011 at 10 AM. If you want to be baptized, you need to set up an appointment this week to talk to me about it. Once we are both confident that you understand what baptism means, I would consider it an honor to baptize you. If you have not yet been baptized in the way the Bible teaches, make it a matter of prayer and then respond as the Holy Spirit leads.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

The “Nice” Things Christians Say

Have you ever known a Christian who used “nice” words to say mean things? I lived in the Bible Belt for a while and would often hear a person say “Well, bless your heart.” At first, I thought the person was being nice by speaking a blessing to whomever they were talking to. I eventually realized what that the individual was using that phrase to mean “I think you are a complete idiot, but I am too nice to be honest with you.” Once I realized the real meaning of this “nice” phrase, it did not seem very nice at all.

Then there are those Christians who will find a scripture, often quoted out of context, and use it as a weapon against a person they disagree with. And if you try to disagree with them, then you are automatically going against God and since that is a bad thing, then you are not really allowed to disagree with them. The problem is that they have often ignored the full teaching of scripture on the subject and only lifted out the section of scripture they wanted so they could twist it into something God did not intend for it to say. This can be frustrating for those who really do want to follow scripture, but want to be true to its REAL meaning instead of the twisted meaning that some people want to give scripture.

Then there are those Christians who say they are “praying for you.” But the context of the conversation or tone of their voice, or their body language indicates that they are actually judging us and are not likely to be praying for us at all. Not all Christians do this. Many are genuinely praying and since most of us can use all the prayer we can get, then we are encouraged when someone says they are praying for us. But when Christians use the “I am praying for you” phrase as a nice way to tell us they think we are bad people, it takes away whatever encouragement we might have gained from genuine prayer.

Then there are those Christians who like to say harsh things to others but insist they are saying those harsh things out of “love.” There are times when we must say difficult things out of love. That is part of really caring about each other. But there are also times when we let “speaking the truth in love” become an excuse for giving our personal opinions out of a heart of bitterness. One way we know if a person who claims to “speak the truth in love” is really saying these things in love is if they are also willing to HEAR the truth in love. If we can actually have a gracious conversation with each other about difficult things, then it has probably been spoken in genuine love even if it seemed harsh at the time. But when one person wants to do all the harsh talking and expects everyone else to just listen, love is probably absent. When one person is willing to point out the weaknesses of others, but is unwilling to hear about his or her own weaknesses, love is probably absent. Anytime a conversation turns into a one way lecture instead of a two way discussion, love is probably lacking.

I am not suggesting that Christians should stop trying to be nice. Our world has become a pretty harsh and rude place. We need MORE niceness in our society, not less. I am simply observing that sometimes we Christians like to hide behind nice words to say mean things. Most people can see right through this thinly disguised human arrogance. They know it is not an example of true spirituality. It is one reason so many people are turned off by religious talk. We are not demonstrating genuine niceness when our behavior does not correspond with our words. More importantly than how people can so easily see through our false piety and Pharisaical self-righteousness, God sees through it! God knows our hearts. He will hold us accountable for using His Word, prayer and Christian phrases in selfish ways to hurt others. Perhaps we should keep this in mind as we say “nice” things to people today.

For more devotionals like this one, consider Touching the Footprints of Jesus

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The “Terrible” Rumor

A gentle older couple from a church across town stopped into my office the other day. They wanted to make us aware of a “terrible” rumor going around town about our church. The rumor was that our church allows ANYONE to worship with us no matter their past, their background, or their current state of sinfulness. I do not know where that couple heard this rumor, but I was quite happy to confirm that the rumor was TRUE! Our church has worked hard to let everyone in the community know that we accept each person who comes just as they are. I am glad the word is getting out about this and that people are talking about it openly in our community. I can think of worse rumors floating around out there about churches.

Jesus encountered the same kind of “rumors” in His ministry. Luke 5:30-32 (HCSV) recounts the story: But the Pharisees and their scribes were complaining to His disciples, "Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?" Jesus replied to them, "The healthy don't need a doctor, but the sick do. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." In this passage, as well as many others, we see that Christ reached out to people who did not fit the typical “religious” stereotype. Christ reached out to those often spurned by the church. Many people did not understand or like what Christ was doing. If His actions were going to be misunderstood by so many, why would Christ take these anyway? Christ did this because He loved all kinds of people. His love compelled Him to reach out to anyone He came in contact with, including those that others may have considered untouchable. But do not be confused. Though Christ took each person where they were, He loved them too much to leave them where they were. Christ challenged people to consider their spiritual condition before a holy God and called them to repent of their former lifestyle and become His followers.

Our church feels the same way as Christ does about the people whom God is bringing to worship with us. We accept them as they are. But we love them too much to leave them as they are. We sow the Word of God into their lives and watch as the Spirit of God transforms them. We are ever mindful of Hebrews 4:12 (HCSV), “For the word of God is living and effective and sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating as far as to divide soul, spirit, joints, and marrow; it is a judge of the ideas and thoughts of the heart.” We do not have to judge the behavior of others. All we have to do is share the Word of God with them. The Spirit does the convicting and brings about repentance and faith in Christ. This is what all churches should be doing.

I thank God that our church is filled with really messed up people who found a loving and accepting place where they could discover Christ. I thank God even more as I watch each of us in the church be transformed by the Spirit’s power through the washing of the Word. If you know someone in Central Vermont who cannot find a church that will take them as they are, send them our way. But do not expect them to be the same when we send them back to you!

I pray that this “terrible” rumor about our church continues. I pray that this rumor begins to be whispered about more churches in our little state. When that begins to happen, we may yet see another great spiritual awakening sweep across our land.

For more devotionals like this one, consider Touching the Footprints of Jesus

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Draw Near to God – A sermon developed by Dr. Terry W. Dorsett based James 4:1-10

James 4:1- What is the source of the wars and the fights among you? Don't they come from the cravings that are at war within you?

• James asks what the source is of the “wars” we fight.
• James is not talking about actual wars with armies and airplanes and bombs.
• James is talking about the fights, feuds, conflicts and struggles that we have on a daily basis with other people.
• James then uses a second question in a rhetorical way to answer to his first question.
• James identifies that source of these conflicts as the internal “cravings” that we all have.
• Another translation uses the word “passions.”
• We all have internal cravings and passions which fuel external fighting and discord.

James 4:2 - You desire and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. You do not have because you do not ask.

• The internal struggles that we face often come from unfulfilled desires in our lives.
• We desire to be loved and accepted by others.
• We desire to have a good (and long, and healthy) life.
• We desire for our kids to be happy and comfortable.
• We desire the material possessions necessary to provide the things we just listed.
• And our desire for material stuff is seldom satisfied.
• If we were honest, we would also admit that we desire pleasure.
• Our lust for pleasure is seldom satisfied either.
• Though we do not like to admit it, our desire for “stuff” and our desire for “pleasure” are often driving factors in our lives.
• James uses hyperbole to make his next point.
• Hyperbole is when a statement is EXAGGERATED on purpose in order to make a point.
• James says that we murder in order to obtain our desires.
• Though in some rare cases people have actually committed murder in order to fulfill such desires, most would never go that far.
• But we will destroy someone’s reputation or their hopes and dreams if they get in our way.
• But such desires will never be fulfilled because they are like a cancer that keeps growing.
• In our human depravity, we will never have enough pleasure, or possessions, or love.
• If we need more fulfillment in life, we need to seek it in our relationship with God.
• Have we asked God to meet our inner needs?

Psalm 42:5 - Why am I so depressed? Why this turmoil within me? Put your hope in God, for I will still praise Him, my Savior and my God.

• When our inner longings begin to push us to take external actions that are inappropriate, instead of ignoring those longings, we should talk to the Lord about them.
• We should ask God to meet our inner need and then we should refocus our external activities on praising God.

James 4:3 - You ask and don't receive because you ask wrongly, so that you may spend it on your desires for pleasure.

• Some might argue that they have asked God to meet their innermost needs and God has not done it.
• James points out that when we ask God for help, it is often for selfish purposes.
• When we ask selfishly, God seldom gives us what we want because it would cause us to become even more selfish.

James 4:4 - Adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? So whoever wants to be the world's friend becomes God's enemy.

• There are few things in life that hurt more than when one spouse cheats on another.
• Though the pain of adultery can be overcome, it is very difficult and takes a long time.
• James uses the word “adulteresses” to illustrate how God feels when we are more concerned with getting our desires met than in communing with Him.
• Friends are the people that we enjoy being around and whom we often have things in common with.
• When we enjoy being in the world more than being in the spirit, we are committing spiritual adultery against God.
• When we make a conscious choice to have more in common with the world than we do with God, we have made the choice to be God’s enemy.
• While that may be an acceptable situation for non-Christians, believers are supposed to be on God’s team, not warring against Him.

James 4:6 - But He gives greater grace. Therefore He says: God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.

• God knows that we are only human and that we make mistakes.
• That is why God gives us grace.
• Grace is the undeserved favor or blessing of God.
• Every good thing in our lives is a gift of grace from God (James 1:17).
• Proud people do not think they need God in their lives. They think they can do it on their own.
• When we try to do it all on our own, we tend to make a big mess of things.
• If we could fix all the mess on our own, we would have already done it.
• But James takes it one step further by saying that God “resists” the proud.
• God is actively working to help proud people see their weaknesses and learn humility (James 1:9-10).
• If God is against us, there is NO CHANCE for us to be successful!

James 4:7 -Therefore, submit to God. But resist the Devil, and he will flee from you.

• Since we obviously want our inner desires to be fulfilled, and cannot make that happen without God’s help, then we MUST submit to God.
• The word “submit” comes from the Greek word “hypotasso” which means “to place under.”
• When we submit to God we place ourselves under Him.
• That might sound overly simplistic.
• But far too few of us have actually placed ourselves UNDER God.
• Most people have placed themselves OVER God by choosing their desires over God’s desires.
• Some have removed God completely from their lives leaving only their own desires to guide them.
• Learning to submit to God is far more challenging than we realize.
• One way we learn to submit to God is by resisting the Devil.
• The word “devil” comes from the Greek word “diabolos” and means “accuser.”
• The Devil delights in reminding us how our inner needs have not been met and that it is our fault. He accuses us of being failures.
• We must resist Satan’s attempts to convince us that we are failures at the things we desire most.
• We must instead receive the grace of God afresh and anew.
• We may have some failures in our lives, but we’ve read the last chapter, and in the end, we win!
• Romans 8:28-30 reminds us that ALL things work together for good, even our failures, to make us more like Jesus and one day we WILL BE what God wants us to be.
• When we resist the Devil, he WILL FLEE from us. Why? Because he has read the last chapter too!

James 4:8 - Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, sinners, and purify your hearts, double-minded people!

• We must not only resist Satan, but we must draw near to God.
• There are many ways to draw near to God, but the best part is that once we start heading His direction, He runs out to meet us!
• For those who do not know how to start heading God’s direction, we can try confessing our sins (cleansing our hands) and reflecting on our motives (purifying our hearts).
• We can try having a single focus in life, which is to glorify God in EVERYTHING we do.
• That eliminates a lot of inner conflict.

James 4:10 - Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you.

• When we make Christ our single focus, then God begins to meet our inner needs.
• Once our inner needs begin to be met, we have fewer external conflicts.
• When we have fewer external conflicts, we tend to gain more of the things that we wanted but could not attain on our own.
• It is through humility that we are lifted up (exalted).


• Unfulfilled desires cause us internal struggles which often result in external conflict.
• We should ask God to meet our internal needs in a supernatural way instead of trying to meet them ourselves in merely human ways.
• God will not do that unless we draw near to Him through confession and spiritual reflection.
• When we draw near to God, Satan no longer has the power to remind us of our failures and life gets better.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Using Music to Reach the Next Generation

In my efforts to reach the next generation for Christ, I have found music to be a powerful tool. Music is the language of the next generation. When the lyrics of a song are biblically based and it has a great musical score, a song is transformed into a sermon that young people can grasp.

Sadly, many churches that I interact with fail to grasp this important truth. Somehow they equate “church music” with “funeral music.” While there are appropriate times for “funeral music,” I can think of many times in which that genre would not be the best choice (for example: weddings come to mind!).

Though in the 1970’s and 80’s “modern” Christian music tended to be five words sung fifteen times, contemporary Christian music has come a long way since then. Many “modern” Christian songs are actually based on various Psalms. The book of Psalms was the “hymn book” of ancient Israel and the early Christian church. This means that many “modern” Christian songs are merely adaptations of ancient biblical worship.

Though many churches have become accustomed to having only a piano and/or organ accompany their music, this has not always been the case. Jewish worship as described in Psalms was quite robust and utilized a large number of instruments that were to be used for worship.

Consider this list of biblical worship instruments:

1. Castanets – two chestnuts attached to the fingers and beat together – Psalm 150:5
2. Cornet – hollow, curved horn – Psalm 98:6
3. Cymbals – two concave plates of brass where were clanged together – Psalm 150:5
4. Drum (also called timbrel or tambour) – wooden hoop with animal skins pulled across the frame – Psalm 68:25
5. Harp – a wooden device with strings attached that made music when the strings were plucked – Psalm 33:2
6. Organ – reed instrument made of wood, ivory or bone that was similar to the modern oboe – Psalm 150:4
7. Psaltery – similar to the harp but was bottle-shaped with strings – Psalm 71:22
8. Trumpet – made from the horn of ram or goat – Psalm 98:6
9. Zither – ten-stringed instrument – Psalm 144:9

God created music. God wants us to use music to connect our hearts with His. If we desire to impact the next generation for Christ, we will want to work through this issue and come to biblical conclusions instead of human preferences. It may be delicate, but it is also important. Lord, give us Your wisdom in how to use music to honor, worship and glorify You.

The list of musical instruments above was adapted from:
Willmington, H. L. Willmington’s Book of Bible Lists (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1989), 213.

Monday, May 16, 2011

A Lesson in Rudeness

I was at McDonalds today and in less than an hour watched two different arguments between complete strangers. Both started with one person being extremely rude to another.

ImageIn the first situation a young man was in line ordering. He had his ears gauged but had taking the gauges out. This left a huge hole in his ear lobe. Though I do not find that particular style of body piercing to be particularly attractive, it's his ear so I just decided to look elsewhere. The man in the next line over decided to make a rude comment. He said that he found the boy's ears "disgusting" and then went on to say that he thought it was "unfair" that the boy would come into a place with "gross ears" and expect us to eat. The boy made some comments back. I thought for sure the two were going to come to blows. Finally, the boy took his order and left in anger. I am sure he was embarrassed. Though I did not care for his ears either, I thought it was rude for a stranger to comment publicly on them and speak negatively to others about it.

The second situation happened about 30 minutes later. Two older ladies were having a conversation between themselves and said something negative about a politician. In my opinion, the statement was accurate, but I was not a part of the conversation so I just kept eating my salad. They were talking quietly between themselves, not loudly or addressing any of the other patrons. But apparently one fellow three tables away heard it because he suddenly jumped up and ran over to the ladies screaming at them about how the previous politician in that office was far worse than the current one. The ladies were quite taken about by his brash interruption into their private conversation. They responded by saying they disagreed with the young man. But he want on and on, berating them for their opinions. Finally two older men nearby told him to sit down or they would intervene. He sat down but kept making comments. Being a bit frustrated by his rudeness, I snapped a picture of him having his tantrum. He saw me take the picture and stormed out angry. (It occurs to me that it was rude of me to take his picture without his permission, so I'm guilty of rudeness too!)

As I reflect on this experience, it just seems so odd that complete strangers were all so rude together. Why did they feel so compelled to speak their opinions publicly to people they did not know? Why did they cause a scene? What has happened to our society when such behavior has become acceptable?

Lord, help us all learn to respect each other more.

For more devotionals like this one, consider Touching the Footprints of Jesus

Monday, May 9, 2011

Benefits of Being Bivocational

“But I don’t want to be bivocational.” That was the declaration of a young man whom I recently talked to. He was nearing graduation from seminary and felt led to do ministry in a lesser reached area of the nation. Vermont, which is the least churched state in America, definitely fits the bill for being lesser reached. As the Vermont director for the efforts of my denomination, I have plenty of openings in which he could fulfill his calling to a lesser reached area. But when he found out that most evangelical churches in Vermont have less than 100 people in worship on a typical Sunday morning and that few could sustain a fully-funded pastor, he was discouraged.

I can certainly understand his frustration. After all, he had invested a significant amount of time and money in seven years of schooling in order to gain his Master of Divinity degree from an accredited seminary. In any other field, such an investment of time and money would likely produce a lucrative career. But if a person feels a calling to ministry, and wants to do that ministry outside the Bible belt, the likelihood of finding a fully-funded position drops significantly.

Young people who enter the ministry today are simply going to have to come to grips with the reality that most of them will spend a portion of their career in a bivocational situation. For those who may not be familiar with that term, it simply means that the minister must work a second job in addition to serving a church. It does not mean that the minister is “part-time,” it simply means his ministry position is not fully-funded and therefore he must find additional income from some other source.

The reasons that people want to avoid this situation are numerous, but the most obvious is that it is a lot of hard work. Balancing two jobs and a family is a challenge. Pastoral burn-out among bivocational pastors is notoriously high. Unfortunately, bivocational ministry is a reality that is not going away anytime soon. Both the current economic situation in the nation, as well as the giving trends of younger generations, indicate that churches will continue to struggle to fully-fund pastoral positions for some time.

However, just because there are challenges to bivocational ministry does not mean that such situations should be viewed in a negative light. There are actually a number of advantages that bivocational pastors have over their fully-funded counterparts. Before dismissing bivocational ministry, pastors should consider these advantages:

1. Bivocational pastors are not as dependent on the church for their financial support as fully-funded pastors. This relieves them of the stress of what might happen to their families if they were dismissed from the churches they serve. In some situations, bivocational pastors actually have more personal resources than fully-funded pastors because they have two sources of income.

2. Bivocational pastors often find more opportunities to witness to the lost than fully-funded pastors because they spend more time with non-Christians through their secular employment.

3. Bivocational pastors seldom live in a “pious bubble” that only church people inhabit. Their secular employment requires them to interact with and understand better the needs of non-Christians. Therefore, they frequently feel they relate to the people in their congregations better than fully-funded pastors because they “work” just like the laypeople do. These frequent interactions and the increased sense of relating to laypeople often help bivocational pastors have more realistic sermon illustrations and greater credibility in the pulpit.

4. Bivocational pastors have the ability to serve a larger number of churches because they can serve churches that cannot fully-fund pastors. They also get to experience the joy of allowing churches to fund other needed ministries instead of so much of the churches’ funding going to support their own salaries.

5. Bivocational pastors feel they are better able to encourage the churches they serve to create a culture of the laity using their gifts and the laity devoting more time for ministry since there were no fully-funded pastors “paid” to do “everything” for congregations. Most bivocational pastors feel this creates healthy churches over the long term, though it sometimes creates more stress in the short term.

6. Bivocational pastors often feel it is easier to teach about financial stewardship and/or to solicit contributions from church members. This is because so little of the churches’ funds are spent on the pastors’ salaries that the pastors asking for money is not perceived as being “self-serving.”

7. Bivocational pastors frequently express that they feel more dependent on the Holy Spirit in their sermon preparation and less dependent on their formal theological training or on their elocution or research skills. This greater sense of dependence on the Spirit is perceived as a positive thing by most bivocational pastors. It is interesting to note that the bivocational pastors who expressed this the most strongly had often previously served larger churches in which they had been fully-funded.

8. Bivocational pastors sometimes say that being bivocational gives them valid excuses not to attend denominational meetings that they perceived as irrelevant, uninteresting, and/or promoting things that are not helpful to their own ministry. This does not mean they never attend meetings, but that their bivocational status makes them feel more comfortable attending only the meetings that they perceive as being more applicable to their situation. If those same pastors had been fully-funded, they would have felt a greater obligation to attend meetings that they did not think would be beneficial anyway.

While bivocational ministry has many challenges, it also has many advantages. Learning what the advantages are can help bivocational pastors, or those considering bivocational ministry, feel better about their ministry. When bivocational pastors feel more confident about their roles, they tend to be more effective in their ministries. Churches and denominational leaders need to look for ways to help bivocational pastors celebrate the advantages of bivocational ministries since it is a growing reality in North American church life.

Dr. Terry Dorsett serves as the Director of the Green Mountain Baptist Association and is the bivocational pastor of Faith Community Church in Barre, VT. He is the author of Developing Leadership Teams in the Bivocational Church, as well as numerous church growth articles, and is a frequent contributor to Baptist Press. His blog, Next Generation Evangelistic Network, is read by over 1500 people a month.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

More Than A Ritual – A Mother’s Day Sermon Based on Luke 2:21-40 About the Importance of Dedicating Our Children to the Lord

History of Mother’s Day
• The first North American Mother’s Day was conceptualized with Julia Ward Howe’s Mother’s Day Proclamation in 1870.
• Howe was distraught by the death and carnage of the Civil War so she called on mothers to come together and protest what she saw as the futility of their sons killing the sons of other mothers.
• Howe’s idea never really caught on but it did plant the seed for others who also wanted to honor mothers.
• In 1908 Anna Jarvis petitioned the leaders of the church where her mother had spent over 20 years teaching Sunday School to create a day to honor mothers and to celebrate world peace.
• Her request was granted and on May 10, 1908, the first official Mother's Day celebration took place at Andrew's Methodist Church in Grafton, West Virginia and at a church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
• After this Anna Jarvis devoted herself full time to the creation of Mother's Day, endlessly petitioning state governments, business leaders, women groups, churches and other institutions and organizations.
• In 1912 West Virginia became the first state to officially recognize Mother's Day, and in 1914 Woodrow Wilson signed it into national observance, declaring the second Sunday in May as Mother's Day.

Luke 2:21-40 – Mary and Joseph Dedicate Baby Jesus

Verse 22 - And when the days of their purification according to the law of Moses were finished, his parents brought Him up to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord.
• Parents have been dedicating their children to God for centuries.
• It is the obligation of parents to teach their children about the Lord.
• The church should help, but ultimately the responsibility falls to the parents to make sure their children learn spiritual values.
• While no parent can force a child to believe, a parent can create an environment where a child has the opportunity to come to know the Lord.
• This is why dedicating a child to the Lord must be more than a ceremony, it must be a lifestyle.

Verses 25-26 There was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, looking forward to Israel's consolation, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he saw the Lord's Messiah.
• Simeon was a godly man.
• God had told Simeon that he would see the Messiah before he died.

Verse 27 - Guided by the Spirit, he entered the temple complex.
• One day Simeon sensed the Spirit telling him to go to the temple.
• He arrived just as Mary and Joseph were bringing Jesus to be dedicated to God.
• Imagine if Simeon had ignored the Spirit’s leading, or even if he had delayed in obeying.
• He would have missed seeing the Messiah.
• If we want our children to grow up in the faith, we must set an example of being sensitive to the Spirit and obeying God in a timely way.
• Though it is never too late to start setting that example, the earlier we begin to train our children, the easier it will be for them to learn the values of our faith.

Verses 28-30 - Simeon took Him up in his arms, praised God, and said: Now, Master, You can dismiss Your servant in peace, according to Your word. For my eyes have seen Your salvation.
• Simeon held baby Jesus in his arms and realized that Jesus was the Messiah even though Jesus was still so small.
• When we hold a small child in our arms, do we grasp all that God may do through the life of that child? Do we pray for God’s blessing on that child’s life?

Verse 33 - His father and mother were amazed at what was being said about Him.
• Mary and Joseph were amazed by Simeon’s words. Though they had heard angels talk about their baby, and had been visited by shepherds and wise men and seen stars pointing to Bethlehem, they were still amazed at what others said about their little boy.
• Parents love their kids and like to think good things about them. But it sure is nice when someone else brags on them too!

Verses 34-35 - Then Simeon blessed them and told His mother Mary: "Indeed, this child is destined to cause the fall and rise of many in Israel and to be a sign that will be opposed and a sword will pierce your own soul—that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed."
• This must have been a challenging blessing to hear prayed over one’s child.
• Simeon said Jesus would cause the “rise and fall” of many people.
• Simeon also said that Mary’s soul would be pierced by what happened in this child’s life.
• Simeon’s blessing was clearly prophetic, because these things happened as Jesus grew.
• Jesus did cause many lowly people to be raised out of despair as they found new faith to sustain them in hard times.
• Jesus still does this today.
• Jesus did cause many arrogant people to get knocked off their pedestal as they repented of their sins and committed their lives to Him.
• Jesus still does this today.
• Mary must have been thrilled when she saw Jesus do miracles.
• But imagine her pain when her son was betrayed and abandoned by friends and unjustly executed in such a cruel way as the cross.
• Parents are always proud of their children’s accomplishments, as they should be.
• Parents always hurt when their children are treated unjustly.
• Parents hurt just as much when their children suffer the consequences of bad choices and experience pain they could have avoided.
• That pierces the soul just as much as anything.

Verses 39-40 - When they had completed everything according to the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The boy grew up and became strong, filled with wisdom, and God's grace was on Him.
• Joseph and Mary completed the ritual of dedicating their child to God.
• Then they went back home and raised Jesus in a way that helped Him be wise.
• This is the example Christian parents should follow.
• Dedicating our children to God is more than a ritual; it must be a lifestyle if we hope for our children to grow in the wisdom of the Lord.

• Dedicating children to God has been an important part of faith for centuries.
• Parents should do all they can to create a healthy spiritual environment for their children to grow up in, but we must also keep loving our kids in the painful times of their lives too.
• Dedicating children to God may include a formal ceremony, but it must be more than a ritual, it must be a lifestyle of setting a Christian example for them to follow.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Top Ten Blog Posts

Yesterday I wrote about how many different people had visited my blog in the past twelve months. They were from a wide variety of countries and various denominational backgrounds. As I continue to contemplate what God has done through my blog in the past year, I am intrigued by which posts get read the most. When a post is first published it is almost immediately read by a couple of dozen people. Then over the course of the next two or three days, another couple dozen people will also read it. Though I have no way of knowing exactly who those people are, since it happens in those numbers with regularity, I assume they are “regular” readers who enjoy keeping up with the blog.

For some posts, that is all the “hits” they will ever receive. Other posts will receive a few hits here and there over the course of a few months. But then there are those rare few that seem to connect with people in a much bigger way. Those particular posts are read again and again by people around the world. Sometimes, even months after their original publishing date, certain posts continue to draw a wide readership. I am always surprised by which posts "connect" in such a way. Sometimes they get re-posted on other websites and printed in various news journals. Sometimes people just stumble on them through a google search. But one way or the other, certain posts continue to draw readers long after they are posted.

I thought it would be interesting to post the “top ten” list from my blog. In order of their popularity, here they are:

When Is It Time to Change Churches?

Challenges of Teaching Today’s Teens

How Do Baptism and Church Membership Connect?

The Blessing of Forgiveness

The Organized Church versus Private Religion

Tips for Helping Lay People Make Effective Pastoral Visits

Bivocationalism and Young Adults

Bivocational Ministry is Not Negative

Biblical Baptism

Precious Memories

I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed writing them.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Greater Work Still to be Done

I started writing my blog in January 2009 as a way to share with others what the Lord was teaching me about how small churches could reach the next generation. Since then I have expanded my subject matter to include encouragement and training for pastors and lay leaders who have to work a second job in addition to serving a small church. I am not sure exactly what I thought God might do through my blog, but I was prayerful that God would use it in some way for His glory.

As I look back over the past year, I am amazed by how many people have read something on my blog and how far reaching its impact has been. Almost 16,000 individual people have logged on and read at least one blog in the past twelve months. Many are frequent visitors and read multiple posts on various pages within the blog.

When I consider the fact that I am a relatively unknown pastor serving in a small state not known for producing evangelical leaders, these statistics just amaze me. I am reminded of what Jesus said in John 14:12 “I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father.” Looking over these statistics, I realize that the Internet is a tool which God can use to do greater works than I could have ever imagined. Because of the blog, many pastors and lay leaders contact me for advice about various issues their churches face, and I can often point them to a blog post or two that deals with that subject. Many young people searching for truth, particularly in Central Vermont, frequent the blog in their search for answers. Though the primary focus of my ministry is within my own denomination, I frequently interact with both Vineyard and Wesleyan pastors through my blog. Occasionally a couple of Presbyterians will interact with me as well. These are people I would never be able to encourage and assist if I did not have a blog. Likewise, I would not be encouraged and assisted by them in my own walk with the Lord if it were not for the connection we have through the blog.

Then there is the whole “international” aspect of the blog that is only possible because of the Internet. Though the vast majority of my readers come from the United States, people from many other nations also read the blog. Nearly three hundred readers in the past twelve months were from Canada and over 250 were from Great Britain and 80 hailed from Australia. Since those are all English speaking countries, I guess I should not be too surprised that they found my blog.

What is more surprising to me is that just over 200 people from the Netherlands and almost as many people from Russia visited the blog in the past year. Around 150 from both Germany and South Korea read at least one post on the blog. Over 120 from Japan visited the blog as well. As did approximately 80 people from the Philippines. Nearly two dozen people from Finland visited the blog in the span of a few short weeks. A handful of people from Iran, Iraq, and Egypt have read something on the blog in the past three months. Several other countries were represented with a dozen or so visits in the past year. It really is humbling to think that God can use something I wrote from a small town in Vermont to bring encouragement, biblical teaching and practical Christian leadership training to so many people in so many different places.

As I look forward to the future, I have plans to upgrade the blog and add additional features to make it even more usable. I am thankful that God has provided a tool which can be used for His work in greater ways than I could have ever imagined.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Inviting People to Leave - Guest Post by Dave Jacobs

I can remember fishing with my grandpa when I was a little boy. Fred Flowerday, one of nine boys and a girl born to a farmer in Nebraska. Fred knew how to fish. Grandpa taught me about “keepers”. Those of you who fish know that “keepers” are fish worthy of…well, keeping. If the fish was too small or looked sickly, Grandpa would say, “Throw it back.” All others were keepers.

Now if we apply this metaphor to newcomers at your church, it’s easy to sound callous and disinterested. But the fact is that some people will be right for your church, and some won’t. Some will be keepers, and some should be released to go swimming in another pond. It won’t do you any good in the long run to encourage someone to stay and get involved in your church if you know the church will not be a right fit for them. Save yourself, and your new fish, a headache. Be comfortable in saying, “I don’t think this church is a good fit for you.” You’re not being mean (provided you speak caringly), you’re being a good leader. You’re being good to them and good to your church.

If you sense that your new catch has a different agenda than yours…let them go. If your fish is pushing for a different style of worship than you want…let them go. If they want you to be more charismatic than you are or less charismatic than you are, if they want you to be something other than what you are, they will be frustrated with you and eventually you will be frustrated with them. Express to them that it’s okay for them to leave, no hard feelings.

Now I understand that you want to grow your church. You don’t want people to leave, you want them to stay. I’ve been there. I know what it’s like to feel you’ve got a “keeper” because they seem so excited about the Lord, so talented, so experienced, and they believe in tithing. Sure you might have a small check in your gut about them really fitting in, but hey…they tithe. All people have worth, but not all are worth the energy of trying to keep them happy when your church is simply not right for them. It’s not going to be worth it to you to try and fit a square peg in a round hole. You will either damage the square peg or damage the round hole to make them fit. Either way you’ve got damage.

Maybe you’ve been struggling with someone in your church for a long time. They always seem to be kicking against the goads. Maybe your church is not a good fit for them. Have enough integrity and courage to suggest they try someplace else. Be kind, choose your words carefully, and then show them the door. You barely have enough energy to care for those who are a good fit for your church, let alone those who aren’t a good fit. Keep the keepers and be willing to stock someone else’s lake. Who knows, maybe there they will be happy and flourish because they’ve found a church better suited for them.

This guest post was written by Dave Jacobs of Small Church and can be read at Dave's site at:

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Wit or Wisdom – A sermon developed by Dr. Terry Dorsett based on James 3:13-18

Verse 13 - Who is wise and understanding among you? He should show his works by good conduct with wisdom's gentleness.
  • Many people think they are wise, smart, savvy, and intelligent, but the lives they live do not demonstrate that.
  • What is real wisdom?
  • Wisdom is seeing the world as God’s see it.
  • Wisdom allows us to correctly apply the scriptures to everyday life.
  • Wisdom is not simply an idea, or a concept, but it is a way of life.
  • People who hope to be wise must show their wisdom in how they live.
Verse 14 - But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your heart, don't brag and lie in defiance of the truth.
  • Some people have become “successful” by walking over other people.
  • They may think they have wisdom, but instead they just have selfish ambition.
  • If we have become successful through selfish ambition, it is not something we should be bragging about.
Verse 15 - Such wisdom does not come down from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic.
  • The “wisdom” that comes from selfish ambition is NOT from God.
  • This corrupted wisdom is sensual.
  • Sensual means controlled by the appetites and desires of the body. It is often used in relation to sex, but does not always mean that.
  • This corrupted wisdom is also demonic.
  • Demonic means that it is fueled by Satan and his army of demons.
  • We are sometimes attacked by one of Satan’s demons who put crazy ideas into our heads that sound good.
Verse 16 - For where envy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every kind of evil.
  • Corrupted wisdom that is driven by selfish ambition causes disorder.
  • Disorder simply means chaos and confusion.
  • Satan likes it when the lives of Christians are filled with chaos and confusion because it distracts us.
  • Corrupted wisdom that is driven by selfish ambition produces evil.
  • Evil is the absence of good.
  • When we allow evil actions into our lives, NO GOOD will come from it.
  • Sometimes the results look good in the short term, but that is an illusion.
The World’s Wit says:
Look out for number one. or Me first.
God’s Wisdom says:
Luke 9:22 - Then he said to them all: If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.

The World’s Wit says:
I don’t get mad, I get even. (or ahead!)
God’s Wisdom says:
Matthew 5:43 - Bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you.

The World’s Wit says:
Renew your spirit!
God’s Wisdom says:
Psalm 23:2-3 - He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.

The World’s Wit says:
Get all you can, can all you get and then sit on your can.
God’s Wisdom says:
Matthew 6:33 - But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

The World’s Wit says:
The one who dies with the most toys wins.
God’s Wisdom says:
1 Timothy 6:6-8 - But godliness with contentment is a great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these.

Verse 17 - But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peace-loving, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without favoritism and hypocrisy.
  • True wisdom comes from God.
  • True wisdom is pure, which means holy, or completely right.
  • It is impossible for us to have such wisdom unless it comes from God.
  • True wisdom is also peace-loving.
  • This means that it seeks to create peace in situations instead of strife.
  • Wise people do not seek, enjoy or become involved in “drama.”
  • True wisdom is gentle.
  • This means that is does not force its ideas on others.
  • God’s Word has a lot to say about many issues, but God does not force it on others.
  • A wise person knows how to share an important idea with someone, and then be quiet and let the Spirit work.
  • Gentleness is not weakness, it is strength under control.
  • True wisdom is compliant.
  • This means that it follows the rules.
  • Wise people understand that they are not above the rules. They follow them, even when they do not like them.
  • True wisdom is full of mercy.
  • Mercy means not giving a person the punishment they deserve.
  • A wise person knows how to use mercy as a teaching technique to others.
  • True wisdom is full of good fruits.
  • This means that many good things come out of a lifestyle full of wisdom.
  • There is not just ONE good result of wisdom, but many good results.
  • True wisdom does not show favoritism.
  • James talked about this in chapter 2.
  • A wise person treats everyone the same no matter their race, economic or social status. Everyone has value.
  • True wisdom does not display hypocrisy.
  • This does not mean that a wise person is perfect. It just means that he or she admits their mistakes and corrects them.
Verse 18 - And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.
  • People who are wise tend to also be righteous.
  • Righteous means doing the right thing.
  • When people are wise and do the right thing, it produces peace.
  • Peace includes: spiritual peace, emotional peace, and relational peace.

• Many people consider themselves “wise” by the world’s standards, but they seldom are.
• True wisdom comes from God, and other types of wisdom will only lead to disorder.
• When we live out the principles of godly wisdom, we find real peace.