Fletcher, I’d like you to reconsider.

You wrote an article for The Gospel Coalition where you shared about your church closing on Christmas. I would like you to reconsider. You don’t know me and I don’t know you so I’d like to introduce myself to you.

We went to the same school, have mutual friends, and even share the Send Network. What you need to know is I’m committed to seeing churches flourish in New England, especially in the Boston area.

I was born and raised in Florida but I have New England blood. Steve Grogan was my favorite Patriots QB until Brady brought us back from being down 28-3. For years, my grandparents would bring Fluff to us so I was able to trade Fluffernutters in elementary school at the lunch table. I may even consider church discipline if someone says marshmallow creme is the same as Fluff. I hate the Mets and the Jets. I am still trying to forgive Billy Buckner for 1986. Anytime someone says, “Number Four” I reply with “Bobby Orr.” I don’t care what anyone says, Bill Russell is the greatest champion and Larry is still underrated. The only proper donut is from Dunkin, sorry Krispy Kreme.

Steve Grogan the neck roll-wearing Quarterback of the Patriots.

I thank God for the work that is going on with Send Boston and the other networks of churches in the area. You started your article disagreeing with Kevin DeYoung. Usually, that’s not a good starting point. Sadly, I think it may be the strongest part of your article. Here’s why you should reconsider and meet on Christmas Day this year.

First, the counter to your argument is written by Dustin Messer, an Anglican. Both DeYoung and Messer are meeting on Christmas Day. Since you are a Baptist, I would encourage you to have better ecclesiology than them! Ha!

Secondly, you should meet on Christmas Day because it simply is what Christians do. In your article, you mentioned two reasons to not meet. You mentioned that 80 people in your church would be traveling out of town and the set-up would be challenging. You then mentioned the highly secular area of your church would not lead you to believe any neighbors would be joining for worship.

You gave a great counter to your arguments when you said if you had a service your members would attend. I’d like to look back at your points and think differently about them. Hopefully, by the end, you’ll have reconsidered.

Your church, mine, and every other church do not exist for their neighbors. We exist for the glory of God as the body of Christ. You have 20 people who would “almost certainly come to any service we (you) put together.” Brother, you have 20 people ready to worship King Jesus on his birthday!

Also, let’s think about the set-up and takedown.  I served for years at a church plant. Set-up and takedown are tough but it doesn’t have to be for 20 people. You don’t need smoke and lights. You don’t even need mics. You need a Bible and 20 chairs. I get that it is “uniquely difficult” but difficult isn’t impossible.

Thirdly, you mentioned the context of your situation and the context of Hebrews 10:25 and here I think you are mistaken. Hebrews 10:25 says, “not neglecting to meet together” you focused on the habit aspect of not meeting together. The problem is not meeting together, habit or not. The church in Hebrews and yours are neglecting, forsaking, and abandoning meeting together. I want to encourage you to meet. I think your context demands it. The spiritual darkness of Somerville needs it.

The last time Christmas was on a Sunday was back in 2016. I was a missionary in Ecuador at that time. I preached that morning and as I did, I looked out to an older lady who was fighting sleep. She was there though and I appreciated it. After service, I learned she traveled 8 hours on a bus overnight so that she could be in service that day. For the sermon, I dressed up like Joseph and ran into the church yelling, “I’m a father, I’m a father!” It was my favorite service I ever preached in Ecuador, maybe ever. The service was great. I was happy, we had about twenty that day.

If you don’t meet for worship this Christmas Day, maybe you will next time. The next time Christmas is on a Sunday is in 2033.

Fletcher, I’d like you to reconsider.  

Missions History Uncategorized

mission killers: man-centered missions

It seems odd to think that a missionary or pastor can do man-centered ministry. What is man-centered missions? Man-centered missions sound like some of my old sermons and college papers. It all changed when I heard a sermon by Paris Reidhead entitled, Ten Shekels and a Shirt.” The sermon changed my life. I listen to it regularly. What is the big take-away? Do missions for God’s sake and not for man’s.

What is the difference? Metrics. It’s all about metrics and how we consider something a success. Man-centered metrics look at two things, attendance and response. If these are the metrics by which you measure success, then you will conduct your ministry to these two ends.

How to gain a boost in attendance: Make church as little like church as possible. Give away anything you can. Make the music as much like what you hear on the radio as much as possible. Find a song, some skilled musicians, and play some of the most popular songs. Make the message as application-heavy as possible. As a speaker, be funny, give great stories, and don’t get real “preachy.” People don’t like that stuff. Let the people feel good.

For a boost in your response, make it easy for people to respond. Just take a show of hands, count those up and then report the raised hands. If you want people to respond, offer them the deal of a lifetime. To kids, have them repeat a short prayer. Promise them unlimited ice cream in heaven and let them know they will see their grandparents there. To adults, let them know heaven will be full of streets of gold, six-pack abs, and a mansion. You can relax at the heavenly beach home that you have always wanted. All you have to do is repeat this short prayer.

Other ways of man-centeredness are not so blatant. Before you completely dismiss the above methods, I’ve heard them all. I haven’t embellished. I remember them because they are so outlandish. I am not as worried about the crazy ice cream promise to kids. I am worried that someone said it but it isn’t as common as much as the other ways we do man-centered ministry.

When we make the success of our ministry man-centered, we operate with the goal that someone leaves happy. We want them to come back. We want them to respond. So we minister in such a way to find a way to give a man what he really wants.

We are the prosperity gospel preachers but we just make the payoff in heaven and not on earth.

Do we want people to attend? YES!

Do we want people to pray and trust Christ? YES!

Do people who have never prayed before need a model to follow? YES!

So what is the difference? The end. The goal.

Man-centered ministry can look like other types of ministry and missions but the goal is not man’s response. The goal is God’s glory. Full Stop. Nothing Further. God is the goal, not man.

We must make a change in our methodology by changing the metrics. The goal must be making much of Jesus.

Jesus says,And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself (Jn 12.32).” If our goal is man’s response


multiple personalities

I celebrate 15 years in ministry this month. I’ve been in various positions throughout those years. The Army and schooling necessitated a couple of those moves. One of my favorite jobs was as a Spirituality Group Leader at a recovery hospital. The hospital had a residency program for those recovering from drugs and alcohol, Soldiers with PTSD, and other patients with a host of mental disorders. It always kept me on my toes leading Bible studies. 

I learned to read the charts of the patients as I made my notes and signed off on their participation. Some of the stories were very sad because the patients struggled with years of abuse which they tried to cover up with drugs and alcohol. There were others who came from great families with great resources. Even though they had the world at their finger tips, they squandered it all away for a substance. It was so very sad. 

Then there were the Soldiers with PTSD. They were angry, struggling to cope with civilian life, and often heartbroken for those that never came back home. I loved these guys. I understood much of what they were going through, though in a lesser degree. 

My most challenging group of patients were those who had various mental disorders. Have you ever tried to lead a Bible study with someone who thinks they are Jesus? Really, there was a guy who thought he was Jesus. Walking on water? Yep he did that. Feeding 4,000 and 5,000? He did that too. Then his medicine changed and he thought he was Judas. Another week went by and he identified with his real self. It was crazy, literally. My heart went out for him as he was struggling to figure out what was real and what was not real. 

There were many like him. I wouldn’t know who was coming each week. Was it their actual self or someone they were pretending to be? It was always the most intense and interesting Bible study times. Typically Junior high boys are the most difficult to lead in a Bible study but they have nothing on mental patients! It was tons of fun as I would lead those Bible studies twice a week and share the gospel with them even. It was way outside my comfort zone but I find those times are when God grows us best. 

This all has me thinking about who we really are as people. We may not have “multiple personalities” but in a sense we do. If we act one way at church and another at home, we do. If we act one way at the ball field and another at work, we do. Even still, as a parent, does my daughter see me as having a loving and harsh side or am I just Dad that is both at the same time? I hope the latter. 

This problem is not new with modern psychology. There were people who were charged to not be double minded. Having two minds isn’t just an issue of not knowing who you are but is ultimately not knowing who God is. Jesus’ brother James instructs the Jews who live abroad to have faith in God with no doubting (James 1:6-8). They needed to have faith in who God really is not who they thought he was apart from true biblical knowledge. He frames this all with the command to ask God for wisdom if you need it. We are to ask without doubting because God is a good God who wants to bless his children with good gifts like wisdom. If we doubt we are like a ship that is tossed by the waves of the ocean. James doesn’t want us unstable with doubt. He wants us to be like a lighthouse, firmly fixed in the ocean withstanding the winds of doubt. We need to do this, not because we have great faith but because our faith is fixed to a sure hold.

Faith is like an anchor. The strongest of anchor, if not secure on something solid will be worthless. I’ve been in the ocean many times with an anchor far too big for the boat only to see us drifting because the anchor is just sliding on the sand. However, I was fishing with a good friend when we donated three anchors one morning because there were rocks and/or structure which were very solid so solid we never got the anchors back.

The strength of faith is not in our faith but in what/who we have our faith in. If we have faith in our ability, when we get tired our faith is useless. If we have faith in our bank accounts then when our money runs out, we are done for. However, if we have faith rooted in Jesus than we are as strong as Jesus is strong. When we are weak, we are actually strong when we are in Jesus (2 Cor 12). 

How can this be? We are like this because God doesn’t have multiple personalities. Depending on your upbringing and who have you have listened to, you may think God does. You may think the God of the Old Testament is about the Law, is angry, and often mad. The God of the New Testament is all about grace, mercy, and love. To be honest, I heard those things and thought them too, though it was a while ago. What really helped me understand who God is was a little book called The Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer. I’m rereading it now and enjoying  it immensely. 

The book is about the attributes of God in other words, it is a book about who God is. There isn’t a better subject for a book in my opinion. It is short enough that it serves as a good introduction for anyone. In the book he shows how God is not segmented like we are. He is not separate in his personality. He is perfectly loving while also showing hatred for sin. His mercy is equal to his wrath. This is helpful to understand. God is not different in the Old and New Testaments. He is always himself and for us, this is for our good. For you today, in your circumstances, it is for our good that God is always himself. Our circumstances need to be informed by good theology that God does not change like a ship tossed by the wind.

He loves us, hates sin, is merciful, and wrathful. If we have Jesus the wrath has been paid, we get the mercy, love, and by God’s grace learn to hate sin like Jesus. Let me finish with a quote from Tozer, “

The divine attributes are what we know to be true of God. He does not possess them as qualities; they are how God is as He reveals Himself to His creatures. Love, for instance, is not something God has and which may grow or diminish or cease to be. His love is the way God is, and when He loves He is simply being Himself.”

God doesn’t change. He is not wrathful without being loving. You can’t get his discipline without also getting his grace and mercy. THIS IS GOOD NEWS! He is always our loving Father. He is always loving and he doesn’t get tired and his love doesn’t run out. So know that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. However, he is working in your life right now, he is working out of love. He does not change.