Monday, March 28, 2011


As I started into my day, I ran across the following piece by Bill C. Konstantopoulos, whose story I will share in the next few days. This piece came from a compilation Bill put together called Piercing the Darkness With Rays of Truth, to be introduced by Reformation Publishers at Winchester, KY in May.

Most readers do not likely attend the Winchester meeting, but when you move beyond labels et al you find surprisingly good things most every place. At any rate, this short op-ed makes an important point, and it is a point that the average pastor in the Church of God, Anderson is rather oblivious to today. See what you think of the point that Bill makes.I have to agree ...

We live in a society that is highly competitive and success-oriented. Each one of us has dreams and aspirations,and the me-ism philosophy motivates a lot of people.
Sometimes the me-ism attitude is manifested in the Church.How often do we hear people in the Church say, “my ministry,” “my church,” “my talents” projecting the kind of attitude that says, “Everything that God is doing revolves around me.”

But the Apostle Paul tells us that both our life and ministry is inter-dependent. “For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building.” (I Corinthians 3:9). Again he says, "We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain” (II Corinthians 6:1).

In the first verse Paul tells it is because of God that we are workers together or “fellow-workers”. It is the same enabling grace of God that has thrust us into the ministry,therefore we must consent one to another, we must cooperate one with another, and we must be committed one to another. If it is God who works in us and through us all, then our ministry is supportive and submissive and not subversive or seclusive. In the second verse, the Apostle tells us that we are literally “workers together with God”. He is by our side and we are by His side. We are not labouring on our own strength or following our own dreams.

Next time when you are down or discouraged, think of that and meditate on Arthur Gossip’s experience. Arthur Gossip, a hard-bitten pastor in a slum church in Glasgow, tells of how, at the end of a long day of visiting his parishioners, he arrived late in the afternoon at a five-story tenement where the last family on his list for that day lived at the very top. He was done in and said to himself, “It’s
too far up. I’ll come tomorrow.” He was about to turn away when a pair of stooped shoulders seemed to brush past him and start up the stairs with the words, “Then I’ll have to go alone.”

Arthur Gossip added, “We went together.” Either way you look at it, we are labourers together with God.

I think Bill nailed this one down right and proper. The person that tries to make this journey by himself is only fooling himself or herself. It is a fact that we do need each other, and we ought to act like it.

From Warner's World, I find the journey more comfortable knowing you are part of the journey (regardless of your agreement or disagreement). Me-ism has no place in church ministry.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Church Vision

You will find the following of interest in keeping with your varying degrees of concern for today’s church. What follows are a few paragraphs of a manuscript I am proof reading for the author, with a view toward publishing at Reformation Publishers.

The writer is foreign born, a Christian and a churchman with the utmost integrity. He views life through the lenses of the bible he learned as a boy in a small village in Greece, when introduced to a more personal faith than that offered him by his Greek Orthodox connections.

Now retired in America after a successful and extensive global ministryof preaching and teaching, he continues to fill pulpits wherever invited, to write, and to just simply love people.

I don’t ask that you agree with him, or disagree, but I invite you to open your heart to the passion of one man’s life as he writes about a subject I deem of great value.

Allow me today to talk to you a little about CHURCH vision. All of us know how important vision is in all aspects of life. The Bible says so plainly, “where there is no vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18). Can we imagine ourselves endeavoring to cope with the demands of life without natural vision?

Doing so would be difficult. We would never be able to see the opportunities, challenges, and possibilities before us, and as a result, we would never take advantage of them. At the same time we would not be able to sense the dangers before us and thus be unable to escape them. Vision is very essential in life.

It is also essential in the church. In fact, the church needs more than anything else, people who have a burning vision, a vision that compels and draws them, a vision that magnifies possibilities and not problems, a vision that calls for monumental efforts and not murmuring expressions, a vision that challenges the heart to commitment and does not wander in grumbling and complaining.

Quite often in the church, we have a number of people who see the church as it used to be, and as it is, but very few have a vision of the church for what it could be and what God wants it to be. In studying the prophets or the apostles, we will notice that their vision was not so much in retrospect but in prospect. They always pointed to that which could be. Moses pointed to the Promised Land. Amos pointed to righteousness and justice. Isaiah pointed to Emmanuel, God with us. The Apostle Paul pointed to Macedonia. John the Revelator pointed to the final triumph of the Church.

What kind of vision do you have for the church? How committed and involved are you for the fulfillment of such a vision? Do you have a vision for a church that is alive in the Spirit both in worship and service? Then you must be involved in both, because there cannot be worship without service and there cannot be service without worship.

Do you have a vision for a church that grows by holiness and healing? Holiness creates wholeness for the church, and healing is its divine ministry in touching the children, the young, the elderly,
the homeless, the outcasts, with the healing touch of the good
news of the gospel of Christ. What kind of vision, goals, and
dreams do you have for the church? You see, if you are part of the church, then it will never become any bigger than your vision, your dream and your goals.

God wants us to have some dreams and some visions for His church. For too long we have been sitting on the chair of apathy; we must transfer to the chair of aspiration. For too long we have seen the obstacles; we need to see the opportunities. For too long we have majored in weaknesses; we need to major in strengths. For too long we have been looking in us; we need to look in Him. For too long we have been satisfied with the mediocre in faithfulness, love, obedience, commitment, and ministry; we need to rise to the level of a visionary people who are intoxicated with the Spirit of Christ.

I invite you to get a church vision in prospect.

From Warner’s World, we are

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

God's Characteristic Goodness

I am still reading, when I can find the time, that massive volume Preaching With Sacred Fire. It is interesting what you can find in a public library. I think we have an especially fine library in our city, especially as compared to some cities in which I have lived and visited. We have a great section for local historians. I’ve read all manner of historical volumes, the battles of Native American heroes, biographies of black Americans, and all kinds of contemporary biographies and politically related books.

Recently, I decided I needed to explore again the religion section. It isn’t quite like browsing through a seminary library, or like my former alma mater at Southwestern Baptist Seminary in Fort Worth with its hundreds of thousands of volumes, but you never know what you will find in a public library. Thus, I was a little surprised to discover this 960 page anthology on black preaching.

Reading it, I have learned, among other things, that by 1650 more than one million slaves were brought to North America. A completely new thought to me was this idea: Muslims have been part of American history since its very beginnings, if for no other reason than that they came in as invited guests via our slave ships. Moreover, I discovered that between 1650 and 1789 there were more than two hundred slave-ship revolts. A quote that spoke to me was this word: “A continent not a country was pillaged of its most valuable assets: its youngest and healthiest, along with some of its most talented people” (Preaching With Sacred Fire, p. 16).

But I want to think about the attributes of God. Think with me for a moment. Webster’s New World Dictionary suggests an attribute means something we think of as belonging to, or coming from, a particular person or thing. It can be some feature, or quality. Freedom of speech is an attribute of democracy. There is a verse in the Bible that says, “I will sing of mercy and judgment: unto thee, O Lord, will I sing” (Psalm 101:1). Mercy is an attribute of God.

We hear a lot about God’s judgments. Yet, if we talk too much about God’s mercies, people say we’re being soft on God. However, if I focus on the water that is in a half-full glass of water, that does not mean I do not know it is also half empty; it only means I choose to focus on the more obvious positive. With that, allow me to share a word picture of God’s mercy, as painted by Lucius H. Holsey, a light-skinned, red-headed former slave become Methodist (CME) preacher. It comes from a sermon called “The Song of Believers” delivered about 1896.

Under a heading of “But What is Mercy?” Holsey tells us “… Mercy, like an archangel, wrapped in the seven colors of the rainbow, stood before God with pacification written on her brow. A tablet of solid carbuncle fringed with purest gold covered her heart, and in bold letters set with diamonds and engraved with the signet of love, was written ‘Melting Pity.’

“Around her golden-crowned head flashed a halo of heavenly light, as if the graces of a thousand queens had gathered about her to beautify her glorious self. Her feet were covered with amber sandals as if electrified by the affinity of powers that continued to move while she stood. Her wings of fire were outspread, ready to fly at God’s command.

“The thunders of wrath are hushed. Justice half sheathes her bloody sword. Angels and all the ranks and files of the heavenly world crowd about her to wonder and admire. There stood Mercy. Who is she? She is the queen of heaven, the gift of God to man, the grandest contrivance and the crowning conception of Deity. Slowly, but surely, through all the sinful ages of man she has gathered up the tears, the woes and sighs of men, and carries them to heaven, and to God.

“The whole earth with its crowded intelligences once cried and travailed in pain to be delivered and saved. Through all the arteries of the human heart and soul, death, eternal death, pulsated in every flowing current, planed on every string, gnawed asunder every silver cable and golden thread that ramified and cemented the entities and eternity of man with God. The night of the world was long, dreary and dark.

“A heavy leaden cloud in with the slow, dull mutterings of wrath were heard threw its dark shade of death and ashy penumbra athwart the space in which revolved the mental and moral hemisphered globe. Now and then, a red current of flame would leap from the darker center and flash across the leaden zones only to exhibit the stronger and sabler bands that held in awful solitude the pent-up wrath of the angry storm. Should God touch one wire, or send a flash of fire through the whole, like a cloudburst, his wrath would deluge the moral sphere and sink the sinning race to ruin.

“But mercy stands before the throne of God and waves the white flag of peace and a true intervenes. Then stretching her golden pinions she views the leaden cloud of wrath, and death, as with steeds of flame and chariots of fire, she sweeps on and down from the throne of the great king. But in mid-air she seems to pause for a moment to survey the continents and islands, to count the slain millions and the dying thousands, to measure the depths of sorrows, and the exceeding sinfulness of sin.

“Her chariot wheels roll along the defiles of blood and death, where the prisoner dragged his chain, where mothers wept for their slain sons and daughters, and starving children cried for bread because their fathers and brothers fell in battle. She stands by dying man and his ruined race. Over his bleeding corpse she spreads her mantle of grace, recovers him from his sins, and establishes him in the Eternal, reconciled, sanctified and saved.”

What a picture! I am indebted to that black preacher that I never before knew existed. He paints a picture of God’s goodness and mercy in which I take comfort, beyond the mere beauty of his words. On other occasions, I take comfort in the words John W. Peterson put to music (v2, “Surely Goodness and Mercy”):
He restoreth my soul when I’m weary;
He giveth me strength day by day,
He leads me beside the still waters; He guards me each step of the way.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days, all the days of my life.
And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever,
And I shall feast at the table spread for me.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days, all the days of my life.

From Warner’s World,
I am

Sunday, March 13, 2011

How Would Jesus Read the Constitution?

I am reading a new volume from Willard Library, a “preacher book: about what preachers say: Preaching With Sacred Fire: An Anthology of African American Sermons, 1750 to the Present. (Simmons & Thomas. NY: WW Norton, 2010). My friend James Earl Massey is a contributor to this 800+ page volume from America’s black pulpit.

Frederick Douglas (originally Nathan Johnson) is but one that captured my thinking. If you remember, Douglas was sired by a white man rumored to be his master, and birthed by a black slave woman. The slave boy copied from the Bible, learned from a Methodist hymnal, speller, and other books he accessed, and became attached to an older black man that led him to “preach the gospel”.

This brilliant, self-educated, highly articulate communicator and ex-slave served his church and country well. He began preaching in 1840; he supported Abolition and pursued a publishing career. Having already served as a U. S. Marshall under President Hayes, in 1889 he accepted appointment as Consul General to the Republic of Haiti.

On July 5, 1852, Douglas delivered a Community July 4th oration, by request. He chose as theme: “What, To the Slave, Is the Fourth of July?” It is a stunning indictment of the support of slavery by his church and nation. I quote from it for what it contributes to our contemporary thought.

Speaking against the recently passed Fugitive Slave Law, Douglas declared “I take this law to be one of the grossest infringements of Christian Liberty, and, if the churches and ministers of our country were not stupidly blind, or most wickedly indifferent, they, too, would so regard it. . .”

He continued; and here, I quote to give you a feel for his argument …
“For my part, I would say, Welcome infidelity! Welcome atheism! Welcome anything! In preference to the gospel, as preached by those divines! They convert the very name of religion into an engine of tyranny, and barbarous cruelty, and serve to confirm more infidels, in this age, than all the infidel writings of Thomas Paine, Voltaire, and Bolingbroke, put together, have done!

“These ministers make religion a cold and flinty-hearted thing, having neither principles of right action, nor bowels of compassion. They strip the love of God of its beauty, and leave the throng of religion a huge, horrible, repulsive form. It is a religion for oppressors, tyrants, man stealers, and thugs. It is not that ‘pure and undefiled religion’ which is from above, and which is ‘first pure, then peaceable, easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.’

“But a religion which favors the rich against the poor; which exalts the proud above the humble; which divides mankind into two classes, tyrants and slaves; which says to the man in chains, stay there; and to the oppressor, oppress on; it is a religion which may be professed and enjoyed by all the robbers and enslavers of mankind; it makes God a respecter of persons, denies his fatherhood of the race, and tramples in the dust the great truth of the brotherhood of man.

“All this we affirm to be true of the popular church, and the popular worship of our land and nation--a religion, a church, and a worship which, on the authority of inspired wisdom, we pronounce to be an abomination in the sight of God. In the language of Isaiah, the American church might be well addressed, ‘Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me: the new moons and Sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity even the solemn meeting. Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth.

“They are a trouble to me; I am weary to bear them; and when ye spread forth your hands I will hide mine eyes from you. Yea! When ye make many prayers, I will not hear: Your hands are full of blood; cease to do evil, learn to do well; seek judgment; relieve the oppressed; judge for the fatherless; plead for the widow.’ . . .”

“Americans! Your republican politics, not less than your republican religion, are flagrantly inconsistent … You can bare your bosom to the storm of British artillery to throw off a three penny tax on tea; and yet wring the last hard-earned farthing from the grasp of the black laborers of our country …”

Let us throw off the bondage of party spirit and politics of race and religion, and let us be consistent with the common good as we “hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; and are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; and that, among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

In holding our entrenched positions, let us not “hold securely, in that bondage which, Thomas Jefferson described as “worse than ages of that which your fathers rose in rebellion to oppose…”

In Frederick Douglas‘s mind that was “a seventh part of the inhabitants of your country” (slaves). In our case, it may be people we “subject” in different ways. Douglas, nonetheless, took hope in the American Constitution as a “glorious liberty document.” Go a step further and read that document with the eyes of Jesus when he considers judging the nations:
Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: ‘for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me . . .” (Matthew 24:34-46).

Jesus calls us to re-assess our social and political views and align them with his love for a suffering and confused world, rather than subject them to our political machinations, be they whatever they are.

From Warner’s World,

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Regarding Fundamental Religion

Religion plays a significant role in many people’s lives. Nonetheless, we live in a world filled with greed, violence, hatred and destruction. Public conversation reveals much talk about religion and the current revival of religious fundamentalism. In every direction, people search for meaning and core values. Especially is this true in the middle East and Islamic countries with the rise of terrorism.

Thus, religious fundamentalism offers a significant issue for interesting conversation. The following story somewhat illustrates a point I want to make. It seems two war correspondents were abroad, visiting together. One was an American journalist, and the other a Chinese writer.

“I am a Buddhist, and my religion is so much better than yours,” opined the Chinese correspondent to the American. “I have a happy religion, and I worship a happy god. Your religion is full of blood, suffering, crucifixion, and death, and when you come before your God, He is dying in shame on a cross.”

The American had never heard Christianity described that way before and scarcely knew how to respond. Later, when he saw a starving Chinese man alongside the road, he felt compelled to stop and assist the dying man. He called other Chinese people to help the victim. Instead of stopping, they looked on him with contempt and disdain, and hurriedly passed on.

Realizing he already knew the answer, the American Correspondent held the dying man in his arms. “Tell me,” he asked passers-by, “where would you take him, if you held in your arms a dying man, a victim of starvation and exhaustion? Would you take him and carefully place him before the fat, affluent, happy, smiling god called Buddha? Or, would you take him to an Imam that preached death to the infidel and shouted “Allah Akbar?”

Or, would you tenderly and compassionately take him and lovingly place him at the feet of One who knew what it was to be hungry, poor, in need, and in want?“

God has no answer to the needs of our hurting world quite like the friends of Jesus.
From Warner’s World,

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Random Thoughts on Our Mission

Warner and wife Tamzen shown at right.

I was a rooky pastor when reading Harold Phillips 1953 editorial in Vital Christianity describing the Church of God Anderson as the fastest growing Church Body in America. He acknowledged a changing trend in Sunday school attendance and wondered if was prophetic of a downtrend in church growth. Bingo! BULLS EYE!

A few years later, E. E. Wolfram chided us at preachers meetings over our poor batting average. He ran the Yearbook Office and understood that we needed an average of 38 members to win one convert to Christ. Using that formula today, it would seem to take--well, I don‘t even want to go there.

Two factors hinder us today, that especially concern me. One is our self-identity. The other is the bias that tilted us toward being “anti-organization” and “anti-denominational.” Neither is without biblical basis. The church is, I believe, a spiritual organism, and found wherever “two or three” are gathered in Christ‘s name. The church is more than a merely human organization (institution), and extends beyond the place where I happen to meet with the church.

To fulfill its commission, the church needs to organize to the best of its ability and fulfill that biblical commission as best able. On one hand, when we organize around doctrines, creeds, and organizations in ways that close others out of Christ’s family circle, we sin. On the other hand, a denomination functioning as a closed fellowship, is as sinful as replacing “church joining” with experiencing spiritual transformation (John 3:3).

Confusion with these two issues allowed us as a Movement to grow up as a spiritual adult-child. This left us an immature Movement trying to cope with being developmentally challenged. We have overcome some of our organizational bias. On the other hand, we have more than enough denominational paraphernalia to do all the wonderful works that many denominations do, and we experience blessed fellowship. We nonetheless, lack maturity and self-understanding for fulfilling our adult role as a Faith Family that is responsible for procreating children into the Kingdom of God.

Since D. S. Warner was our spiritual mentor, I value his ministry model. During his first ten years of ministry, he was a successful pastor-missionary, and especially known for his gifted evangelistic efforts. I see this expressed when his Winebrennarian Eldership commissioned him to go to Nebraska Territory as a missionary church planter. He and his new bride suffered in this effort, but they proved faithful and he succeeded both in winning converts and in planting new churches in that pioneer region.

When I follow his early writings in the Church Advocate. I see him holding successful revivals, and establishing congregations. I see him totally engaged in transforming the culture in which he lived and individual he confronted. I am reminded of this every time I drive through the village of Neptune, Ohio, on highway 33.

There, I pass a small Winebrennarian Church where Warner long ago held a successful revival that birthed that village church. It reminds me that passionate evangelism characterized Warner’s ministry wherever he went. At Grand Junction, one of his early decisions was to enlist young Enoch Byrum as Manager-Editor of the Gospel Trumpet. That freed him to depart on a ten month evangelistic crusade across the Southland.

Imbued with this same vigor, the growing Trumpet Family worked feverishly enthusiastically preparing and packaging tons of tracts, books and multi-language literature for shipment around the globe. The Book of Noah details the day by day efforts of those volunteers team of publishers, intent on sharing the message of Warner and his cohorts and fulfilling their Biblical mandate.

Warner took delight in joining G. T. Clayton aboard the Floating Bethel as Clayton’s transformed barge offered entre into villages and hamlets up and down the Ohio River. Clayton & company proclaimed the gospel, and sang their way into the hearts of people, as they planted congregations up and down that valley. It remain a vibrant center of proclamation to this day.

I. K. Mast was another visionary. He had his own version of Clayton’s “Floating Bethel,” touring other water ways. J. H. Rupert went to England and made unique use of a horse-drawn Gospel Wagon for distributing literature.

Warner floated numerous schemes for evangelizing the country, always planning and plotting, always searching avenues for achieving his objective. And always, he needed assistance for evangelizing the country, organization was merely means to an end.

On multiple occasions Warner wrestled with concepts of a traveling train car, or Gospel Trumpet Train for carrying a ministry team, even a traveling press for publishing en route. He envisioned touring the country preaching, publishing and distributing gospel literature.

Through the years, other visionaries have tried to rally us (dear brother W. E. Reed would have challenged us to win “one million“ souls). Ahh, but I fear we are too deeply mired in the status quo and have lost sight of where we were going. We thought restructuring would make us more efficient, better organized, lean and mean. However, our purposeful vision had evaporated. As a result, we cut loose our first newly-elected General Director (too far out) and found one more in tune with our Movemental mood.

Since then, Dr. Duncan, bless his heart, has done a good job, trying to rally his troops, but many view him as too “denominational,” too hierarchical, to out of step with where we are out in the trenches. Well! For one thing, we have followed cultural individualism until we have lost our biblical sense of “Body” or “family” (to use Gaither’s term for it). So, we’ve become a bunch of Lone Rangers traveling with out sidekick Tonto---mostly because we are SCARED TO DEATH of organization and denominationalism …

This needs a fresh start to develop further …….Madison Park Church, Anderson, IN.

From Warner’s World,
let’s see if we’ve kicked any sacred cows, riled any critics, or found any encouragers before taking another go at it while ...
walking with