Church Attendance (No. 1 in Series)

I have noticed a tendency for attendance to fluctuate back-and-forth from week to week in most churches.  There will be a decent attendance one week and, when the next week comes, there will be something like a 20 person drop-off.  This back-and-forth issue has been going on for a long time in most churches.

I started researching this issue in other sources.  I have learned that this is not only an RHCC problem, but it is an epidemic in American churches across all denominations and traditions.  For example, one friend from a United Methodist, city church of decent size said that the average attendance for their young adults is 1 of 4 Sundays per month.  Another friend from a Southern Baptist, rural church with an attendance of 1,400 per week said that folks come 2 of 4 Sundays per month.

Now, I have already presented this attendance issue as a “problem.”  Over the next several weeks, I plan to write articles addressing this issue and why I think it is a problem that must be fixed.  I am not concerned about this out of impure motives, I do not think, and maybe I can prove that in these articles.  I do not want to be legalistic or judgmental about attendance.  Attending church does not get someone to heaven, at least not directly (more about that later); and I am not one to only focus on “the numbers.”  Attendance, I will say from the start, is vitally important to the life of the Christian and the Christian community, and it must not be neglected or abandoned.

Can this problem be fixed?  I do not know.  It takes a lot to undue a culture that has been cultivated for decades.  Yet, my task as the pastor-teacher of the church is to share with you what the Bible says about the Christian life.  I figured that I had three options: continually stress over the issue; learn to ignore it; or tackle it head-on.  I am not one to shy away from a challenge, so I have decided to tackle the issue head on.  I will do what I can to teach our church what the Bible says about these things and to encourage everyone in their Christian Faith.

The go-to passage for church attendance is Hebrews 10:24-25.  There will most likely be many other things that I will share outside of this passage, but let us park here for a few weeks.  The author begins his final commands with the words, “Let us consider one another. . . .”  The term “consider” is the controlling verb for these two important verses.  The word means “to take notice;” or “pay attention to;” or “look closely at;” or “concentrate by fixing one’s thinking on something.”  What is it that we are to concentrate on?  Well, it is actually a Who.  We are to consider “one another.”  Christians are to set their minds on other Christians.  We are to look out for the well-being of fellow believers.  The Christian life is not an isolated life.  It is not an independent life.  We should not, and really cannot, go at it alone.  We need to pay attention to others, and, wait for it, we need others to pay attention to us.  This is where we start, “Christians, let us consider one another.”

Moving On to Maturity

Moving On to Maturity

In Hebrews 6:1, the NKJV says, “Let us go on to perfection.”  Many other modern translations probably convey the meaning more clearly by using the word, “Maturity.”  So, the NIV says, “Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity.”

Let us start with the subject of what this verse does not mean before moving to its actual meaning.  When the writer commands believers to leave behind or move beyond the elementary doctrines concerning Christ, he does not mean that we are to move on to something different.  We do not become Christians one way and then remain Christians in an entirely different way.  No, we are converted by faith, and we continue in our salvation by faith.  Justification (being made “right” with God) and sanctification (progressively becoming holy) are both by faith.  The Scripture says in multiple places that the just shall live by faith.  Salvation is from faith to faith.  Faith in the beginning; faith in the end; and faith everywhere in between.  One does not move beyond salvation by grace through faith.  One does not move beyond Christ.

Heb 6:1 is an exhortation to Christians to grow in their faith and in the Faith.  To do so, we must move beyond the elementary teachings of Christ in the sense that we must build upon the foundational principles that we have learned in our walk with the Lord.  We should not become stagnant by only teaching and discussing the same old things all the time.  We should be able to build upon the simple Gospel message that we heard in the first place.  We do not move beyond the Gospel, but we can progress much farther in our understanding of that wonderful message.  We can grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord.

Why is Christian growth necessary?  Well, for one, it is commanded by the Lord all over Scripture.  This is His will for us.  The Lord is pleased and glorified by our continued progress in the faith.  Also, continued growth ensures the believer that he/she is not going to apostatize, that is, turn away from so great a salvation.  As move grow in our faith, we grow closer and closer to the Lord and farther away from the world.  We move more and more into grace and farther away from Hell as we mature in our relationship with Christ.

Thus, my ministry in the church, from the pulpit, and online (, Midweek eBulletins, Facebook, etc.) is, “For Progress and Joy in Christ.”

1 Thessalonians 1:1-10 Receiving the Gospel

1 Thessalonians 1:1-10 Receiving the Gospel             WC McCarter

I have a scenario that I would like for you to imagine, and some of you may have been in this situation at one time or another.  Imagine that you have an awful, life-threatening disease.  Imagine how desperate you would be.  Now imagine that you have the cure: you have the medicine and the treatments.  You know exactly what it takes to cure the disease, and there are millions of people all over the country and globe that have the same disease.  What would you do?  Would it suffice to think that you could just live a healthy life, be positive and encouraging, and people would see you and discover the cure?  Could you just set a great example of what a cured person looks like?

What if you had a neighbor that lived directly beside your house, a woman who had the same disease that you had?  Would you just smile and wave when you saw her?  Could you love her to the cure?  Or, what if another neighbor had a teenage son who was struggling with the same disease and was on his deathbed?  Would you visit him and show him how healthy you are?  Would you keep your mouth shut and let your life do all the talking?  Or, would you visit the woman beside you and tell her exactly what combination of treatments and medicine she needs?  Would you visit the teenaged boy and his family to tell them how simple the cure is?  Would you lead the way with your life and example as well as with the words and directions to the cure?

I hope that you would open your mouth and share.

READ Scripture- This is the Word of God

Main Point:
The apostolic team greets the Thessalonians and state their practice of regularly giving thanks to God for the church.  The missionaries are confident that the Thessalonians are born again.  They have seen the fruit of it with their own eyes, and their faith was being talked about all over the place.

Faith, Love, and Hope (1-4)
Isn’t it nice to have some Christian friends whom you can be thankful for?  How often do we give thanks to God for those people?  How often do we thank the Lord for our church family?  Paul could not help but remember the wonderful conversion of the Thessalonians and the relationship that he had built with them in only a short time.  When he thought of them, he could not help but be thankful to God for them.

Notice what it was that he remembered.  There is a triad of things in the third verse that the missionary team constantly remembered of them: (1) work of faith, (2) labor of love, and (3) patience of hope.  Here we can see one of Paul’s favorite triads: faith, love, and hope which has been called by another author, “The trinity of classic Christian virtues” (Green, 89).  Chapter three shows us that Timothy returned to Paul and the others with the report of the Thessalonians faith and love and their steadfastness (see 3:6-8).  These three fruits are “in our Lord.”  These are activities that they are carrying out because of their conversion.  They are being changed from the inside-out.  We can spend day-after-day and year-after-year attempting to change someone’s behavior, but only the work of God in someone’s soul can do that.  They may, for a time, be able to get things straight, but it would only be artificial.  Behavior can truly change for the long-term if there is an inner conversion.  That is what happened among the Thessalonians Christians.

It seems to me that these three actions are in a certain order.  Faith comes first.  We must believe that Christ is who He claims to be.  We must trust that what He has done on the cross is enough to bring us into a right relationship with God and to save us.  The next phase in the Christian’s conversion is growth in our love for God and one another.  We may even say that love for our neighbors develops so that we evangelize those around us.  Love is what Jesus said is the fulfilment of all the Law, and it is the theme of the New Testament.  As we continue to develop in our Christian lives, we begin to see more clearly and want more deeply to experience the return of Christ.  Our hope is in Him for the future and for all eternity.  So, these three virtues are not some abstract idea.  These are experienced deep in the soul and effect how we interact with the world around us.  We are not closed off from the world.  We live in the here and now working by faith, laboring in love, and patiently hoping in God.  Paul knew the Thessalonians were the “elect of God” because he could see the work of God in their lives and in their church.  I hope the same is said of us.

The Gospel’s Coming (5)
Another triad is given in verse five.  The Gospel most certainly came to the Thessalonians in words.  The Gospel always comes in words.  We should strive to demonstrate the Gospel in our behavior, but the Gospel must be shared in words.  Think back to our original scenario of being cured from a life-threatening illness.  If we found a cure for cancer, we would broadcast it all over the world, wouldn’t we?  We would write articles about it.  The news would show it endlessly on TV.  We would write books about it.  We would call our friends.  We would post it on the internet and more.  The Gospel must be in shared with words.  It must be shared fervently.  Pulpits may reach a few people.  I may be able to share the Good News with 70 on a Sunday, but if each of us shared the Good News during the week, how many could we reach?

Excitingly, Paul says that the Gospel came to them not simply in words but was accompanied by: (1) power, (2) the Holy Spirit, and (3) much assurance.  Then, at the end of verse five, we are told that the word also came by example.  We should strive to live a life that exemplifies the Gospel AND to open our mouths and share it.  God uses that testimony and works miracles in people’s lives.  The power comes from Him.  By the Spirit, He changes folks inside-out.

The Marks of True Conversion (6-10)
How does the apostle know that the Thessalonians are the “elect of God?”  He can see their faith, love, and hope.  He can see the fruit of their Christian commitment.  There are marks of true conversion that are showing in their lives and in their church.  The apostle recognizes growth in the believers.

The have become imitators of the apostolic team and the Lord (6).  They received the Gospel in much affliction.  Like their apostle and their Lord, they suffered much, but continued with the joy of the Spirit.  Their church was born into affliction, but they pressed on.

Not only did the Thessalonians receive the Gospel, but, in turn, they became preachers of the Gospel.  Like Paul, they experienced Christ’s redeeming work and wanted others to have the same.  Remember, Paul says in another place, “Follow me as I follow Christ.”  Disciples are disciple-makers.  Disciple-making is a mark of true conversion.

The have become a model for the gospel (7-10).  In every place people were talking about them (7-9a).  Their conversion is exemplary (9b-10).  They welcomed the apostolic team (9b).  They turned away from idols (9c).  They turned to the true God and now await eschatological salvation (10).

Description of Jesus:   God’s Son
                                    from heaven
                                    raised from the dead
                                    delivers us from the wrath to come

Conclusion and Christian Application

(1) What fruits have you seen in your life and the lives of those around you that confirm a new birth?

(2) What kind of example are you setting for those around you?  Should we plan to influence others?

(3) Do you have the Spirit?  He is our only guarantee.

Are Christ's Words Greater Than Paul's?

Are Christ’s Words Greater Than Paul’s?

The argument of Christ’s teachings on forgiveness versus the apostle Paul’s teaching on the same subject once came up in a conversation I had with someone.  Apparently, it is a common understanding among some Christians that Christ’s words are greater than Paul’s or any other biblical author.  I have a few objections to this line of thinking.

First, all Scripture is God-breathed (2 Tim 3:16-17).  From the Old Testament to the New, all of the books of the Bible are uniquely inspired by God.  Now, some books or portions of books may be more edifying to Christians than others, but all Scripture is inspired and authoritative over our lives.

Second, we affirm that all 66 books of the Bible are Scripture, and we even have internal evidence to this fact.  The apostle Peter refers to Paul’s writings “Scripture” (2 Pet 3:15-16).  So then, the great apostle Peter confirms that what Paul writes is from God.

Third, Christians have held for centuries that the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Christ (Rom 8:9; 2 Cor 3:17; Gal 4:6; 1 Pet 1:11).  This is the great mystery of the Trinity.  This is Christian doctrine.  The presence of the Spirit is the presence of Christ (even Christ taught that He would come again to the disciples by means of the Spirit [John 14:15-18]).  The work of the Spirit is the work of Christ.  Jesus also promised that the Spirit would come to teach (John 16:13-15).  We know that the Holy Spirit is the One who moved the prophets of old to write Scripture (2 Pet 1:21), and, based on the passages just seen in John, we believe that the Spirit of Christ inspired the New Testament authors to write Scripture as well.

Therefore, the whole Bible is authoritative because the whole Bible is the Word of God.  The whole Bible has been inspired by Christ.  Thus, Christ and Paul do not contradict one another.  They cannot contradict one another.  There is no scenario where one should say, “I’m taking Jesus’ word on this over Paul’s.”  The two always agree.  Paul, as an apostle, fully represents Christ.  Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, writes Christ’s words.  The whole Bible fits together into a beautiful revelation of God’s will for this world and our lives.