Obligatory New Year’s Resolution Sermons

obligatory-new-years-resolution-sermons

In fundieland, new years’ resolution sermons are as predictable as a new calendar itself. But in some cases, calendar reading will be more inspiring.

Since IFBs follow no acknowledged liturgy, and since next Lord’s Day is also New Years’ Day, in addition to prayers that Emperor-elect Caligula will make Babylon great again, I expect more than a few IFB New Years’ Resolutions sermons of varying quality will be heard. To my knowledge, there is no exegetical basis for linking calls to deeper commitment to God with the secular calendar. This doesn’t mean that IFBs won’t ‘find’ them.

No IFB pastor I know says that we can be perfect. But I’d guess that more than a few secretly believe we should be striving for it anyway. And as there is always room for progress, so there is always room for ‘guilt’ because we’re less than perfect. So you have a basis for a resolution! And if not for the new year — when? Can you think of a better time?

New years’ resolutions sermons needn’t name specific sins. Hearing the MoG say ‘YOU know…’ is enough to free the imagination to embrace all kinds of resolutions. And if you don’t adopt at least a few, you clearly lack any sense of resolve. So again, And you have a perfectly fine resolution!

A standard Pauline list of vices also gives plenty of material to coax or direct the law/guilt ridden member. And with youths just entering puberty, there is always:

How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Your word. With all my heart I have sought You; Do not let me wander from Your commandments. Your word I have treasured in my heart, That I may not sin against You’ [Ps 119:9-11].

YOU know…

Oh, and don’t leave out the women either. Some of them can be desperate sinners! Then there are the ghosts of failed New Years past resolutions. Thankfully, IFB pastors will never lack abundant issues about which to make the dirty feel dirtier and the guilty, guiltier.

Friday Challenge:

Since IFB pastors are so good at dishing out new years’ resolutions, they should have some fortitude to hear a few of their own. And since local IFB preachers are often inclined to ‘guide’ you to find the resolutions which must suit you, YOU get to design some resolutions for your fundie pastor.

This can concern professional issues such as how he uses his time, how he practices accountability in the congregation, how he serves God in calling, doing general pastoral work, calling on the sick and dying, ministering to the bereaved, relates to the community, etc. Or address his relationship to his wife and family and/or young women in the faith community.

Also fair game is how gracefully pastor accepts criticism, or whether he accepts criticism, how he responds if challenged on a point of theology or practice or politics. It can even be on how pastor represents Christ to the community, including how he addresses identity issues such as gender, race, origins or employment status.

This year, pastor should resolve …

Let him have it … er … have at it!

Apocryphal Illustrations

Apocryphal Illustration

The Tale is Told

A preacher ascends to his pulpit to tell the story of a missionary.

A young man answered God’s call to preach the gospel in foreign parts. The congregation was ecstatic. God’s praises were proclaimed loudly. He enrolled in Bible School, took the required courses. He built his life on prayer and study of the word. On completing his studies, he returned to his home. Again, it was all celebration. A week of food and festivities.

On the eve of his departure, there was a final service of prayer. He was commissioned with the laying on of hands. This young man implored the home congregation to prayer for him — every day, and every Sunday. Pray specifically for him, his ministry, and the tribe with which he would work. Promises of faithfulness in prayer were made. And with that, he left.

Ten years later, an unknown man visited this place for a prayer meeting. His breathing was haggard, he coughed frequently. Like his health, his body was broken. He walked with a limp. After service, he stood and in a rasping voice asked to address those gathered. He explained.

‘Ten years ago, I left this place with promises that you would pray for me and for my missionary labors in a far-off tribe. Now I have returned. Tonight, I heard my name mentioned not one time. There were no prayers for me, for my health, my ministry, or the people among whom I labored.’

His disfigurement made him unrecognizable, and when he told them his name, the congregation was stunned. Weeping followed. Many confessed their prayerlessness. Revival broke out all over again.

Apocryphal Illustrations

An apocryphal illustration is a fictitious story that is told as though it were true in order to achieve a spiritual end. Some may call this manipulation, and others may call it lying. But in fundamentalism, it is beyond doubt that apocryphal illustrations and stories get people recommitted to the Lord and perhaps even outright saved.

If your heart is right with the Lord, who is going to complain about that?

Our All-Sufficient but Needy God!

!God Needs You
Reach out and give God a Hand!

In the Independent, Fundamental Baptist movement, any number of ideas interplay in curious ways.

God’s All Sufficiency

On one hand, God is the Creator and Preserver of the universe and all things in it. God appoints the times and seasons for people and nations. God decides who lives within what borders and under what conditions. God owns the cattle of a thousand hills, and the wealth of every mine. Sun, moon and stars in their place? That’s God’s doing! Tides come this far and then stop? God is at work again! Day turns to night and night to day. Same story! And if an eclipse brings dark sooner, that is still God behind all these things. Death and birth, the raging typhoon, the tiny insect that chirps in the dark — God does it all. Deserts and oceans, mountains and valleys are all God’s prime real estate.

Our Needy God

How often have we heard that God can do nothing without you. God has no hands but your hands. God has no feet but your feet. How many motivational [read ‘manipulative’] sermons have we heard on Isaiah’s willingness to ‘go’ when God asked, ‘who will go for me!’ Application can be wonderfully broad. This sermon might mean, ‘answer the call to serve God in Malawi!’ More likely, it means you are to volunteer for early room duty at the church run school.

Also overlooked is that Isaiah 6 is the prophet’s unique call to ministry. But we’re supposed to hear that call in a way unique to us. Somehow, Isaiah 6:8 ‘who shall I send…who will go for us’ texts translate easily into ‘we’re starting this new ministry and need a volunteer; I want you to volunteer, and by the way — so does God.’

The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof. Yet churches produce plenty of ministry ideas. Many are vital to community. Others are … well … it’s just vital that you volunteer. Because even if God runs heaven and earth, his ministry won’t happen without you. It makes sense. No?

Maintaining Control in IFB Sects

Control, Maintaining

IFB pastors are legendary for exploiting their position and/or pulpit power to manipulate and control others. It can be subtle or blatant. It can be with good intention or the crassest of motives, such as financial gain or sexual access to young girls.

Control is key, and without it, many independent fundamentalist baptist churches could not continue. Often, control relates to legalistic attitudes. Law is everything. Obedience is everything. Duty is everything. You can never be good enough or give enough. Oh, and I’m here to direct you in your devotion to God. Apparently, deceit is common also.

IFB pastors exercise control over congregations in many ways. Here are a few of them. Perhaps you can add examples of your own.

  1. Nurture spiritual dependence on the IFB pastor.
  2. Portray a dark, spiritual world pastors alone grasp.
  3. Keeping people ignorant of solid Bible study methods.
  4. Keeping people from translations in their native language.
  5. Danger lies everywhere. You’re always one step from disaster.
  6. Promote prideful, exclusive claims to special illumination.
  7. You’re guilty. Always. Especially about your sexuality.
  8. Offer esoteric understanding of unfolding events.
  9. Keep people from any antidote to these things.
  10. If all else fails, I’ll expose your sinful ways.

Sunday Morning Stick-Up

Sunday Morning Stick-Up Money
Racket, Merriam-Webster
Money is an integral part of life. Well … not your life perhaps. But money certainly is integral in the life of the church. Money can be a perplexing subject. You need God’s perspective on your money and what to do with it. But you’re blessed to know that we’re here to help you figure out what to do with your money.

In fact, in the Bible, Jesus spoke more about money than He did about heaven or hell. Nothing is more important than heaven or hell…unless [of course] it is money. That makes money pretty darned important. No doubt that’s why Jesus said so much about it. And since we’re so much like Jesus, we have plenty to say about it also. When you come right down to it, money is pretty darned important. Not to you, perhaps, but to God and also to us.

Yet, the average Christian is misinformed about the real purpose of money. We know this because we are so well informed about the real purpose of money. This means that we DO understand the purpose of YOUR money. Wouldn’t you agree that someone who really doesn’t know the purpose of your money can’t be trusted to do what's right with it? Doesn't it make sense that decisions concerning your money should be made by those who do? The thing for you to remember is that we better than you know what God wants done with your money.

Many feel that money is the solution to life's problems. Do life problems keep you from giving up your money? Know that clutching your money won’t fix those problems. Wealthy people have problems. OK, not economic problems perhaps, but problems. Have you considered that right now, your biggest problem may be that you simply don’t know what to do with your money? God has an easy solution to that problem.

In Principles of Stewardship the reader is presented with a plan of Biblical stewardship, but also the pitfalls of a life dedicated to the pursuit of riches. Biblical stewardship ... pitfalls of life. Biblical stewardship ... pitfalls of life. Biblical stewardship ... pitfalls of life. It's your choice.

This  spoof is based on a title, Principles of Stewardship, once sold by North Valley Publications which peddles Jack Trieber’s material — for money, of course.

Money Matters

Since one of the seven deadly sins became a national virtue, religious quacks have offered somewhat contradictory ideas about money. Biblical stewardship means you work hard to make and save money. But you may not keep it lest you turn to greed. So instead, give that money to us … er … the church. This is called ‘stewardship.’ Rest assured that plenty of plans already exist to do all kinds of good things with your money!

‘Sunday Morning Stick-Up’ is the title of David Lee’s book. If not written in polished, theological language, the Amazon description sums today’s ecclesial milieu, appearance, habits, identity, calling, failures and perhaps some successes with insight that is nothing short of prophetic. And these are exactly the kinds of things which Lee needs to address.

When Jesus Messes our Theology

In context of his summary of our church existence, two remarks struck home to this reader like thunderclaps:

  • My house shall be called a house of prayer.
  • You have made it a den of thieves.

One of the reviewers at the Amazon page states:

The author takes a theological position that Christ became the last final perfect tithe for us on the cross.

I don’t know how to argue against this. Why? For years, I have said:

  • Christ is our circumcision.
  • Christ is our Passover.
  • Christ is our Sabbath.
  • Christ is the law and prophets.
  • Christ is our High Priest.
  • Christ is our altar.
  • Christ is our sacrifice.
  • Christ is our temple.
  • Christ is the land.
  • Christ is the New Israel.
  • Christ is the promise.
  • Christ is the fulfillment.

The list could go on and on. But here I add,

  • Christ is our tithe.

Dumping the Guilt

People have sacrificed and sacrificed and sacrificed and STILL been manipulated into feeling guilty by sermons on robbing God. For them, ‘Sunday Morning Stick-Up’ may be a much needed remedy. But if this is a blessing to you, it may prove just as much a blessing to a church which seriously needs to rediscover the meaning of an economy of grace.

Jesus gave himself on the cross as a living tithe. We still give, and giving is a central norm to Christian existence. We do not tithe. And we ought not to consent to guilt trips because of that. A better church will emerge when believers oblige her to renounce her unseemly attachment to Mammon.

Stick-Up