What Are the Top Two Priorities for the Local Church?


English: Church of Jesus Christ (Zion's Branch...

Church Building in Independence, Missouri.

This Sunday, I will finish a 6 week series on the New Testament concept of the church. When Christ sought to establish the instrument through which He would sustain His redemptive work to its completion, He founded the church, called both His body and His bride. Christ’s church must accomplish Christ’s purposes and should honor her Lord. How does she do this properly? What ought to be her priorities?

I am interested to hear some responses. Obviously, because I am preaching on this Sunday, I have my own opinions. I think the two greatest priorities for the church are worship and fellowship, but I understand I have my work cut out for me. There are many other possible answers. Some would hope the Church would first be salt and light, shaping the culture (this would be the Reclaiming America crowd).

Others would argue for the urgency of evangelism. Who could deny the immediate necessity of reaching out to more than 3 billion souls who are presently destined to perish, apart from hearing a word of hope through the gospel of Jesus Christ? What about those who argue that social action is our top priority–feeding the hungry and serving the needy? And still others would say that missions work–sending the gospel to the unreached corners of the globe–is that which is most important. So, what are the top two priorities for the local church?

Aren’t You Ashamed? A Quick Thought on Saving Face


There were many instances from my days of growing up under the moss-laced cypress trees of southern Louisiana that I would be asked by my father or my mother, “Aren’t you ashamed of yourself?” Most of the time, I was not. I was only “ashamed” of getting caught.  Shame is not an emotion we naturally embrace.

I was reminded of our natural desire to avoid shame when I visited China this past summer. It is well documented by missiologists that the oriental cultures in general and Chinese people in particular value “saving face.”  They do not wish to be ashamed. Thus, missionaries learn to tweak their gospel language and tailor their ministry work to avoid shaming the very people they hope to serve.

My reminder came as we tried to order our lunch. We had scoured the streets of Guilin, looking for the best local Shame in Chinese culture saving facerestaurant to explore authentic Chinese cuisine.  When we saw little swimming pools filled with living squid, eel, snakes, turtles, crawfish, and spoon-billed catfish, we knew this was the restaurant for us. If nothing else, the food would certainly be fresh.

Once seated, we began perusing the menu for our palate-pleasing entrees. Delighted, we pointed to the giant bowl of fried rice.  After all, there is a limit to how many noodles a human can eat, and we had eclipsed that limit. Unfortunately, after a flurry of language negotiations with our waiter, we were informed that the restaurant did not have rice–only noodles. Why then was there a picture of a very large, very inviting bowl of fried rice on the menu?

Our waiter was in crisis at the question. He could either be embarrassed and admit the false advertising, or he could attempt a perverted defense of the picture in order to save face.  Choosing the latter course, he replied to our inquisition that the picture of rice is used to show that the restaurant serves noodles.  As contorted and inexplicable as this explanation was, it was his explanatory attempt to save face.

Missiologists in China are pleased to report on the saving face impetus in oriental culture. But, really, Chinese people avoiding shame are no different from American people avoiding shame. When we say, “It’s not my fault”; or “I didn’t mean to”; or “What’s the big deal”; or when we say, “I’m sorry if anyone were offended…”; Are we not doing the same thing as the Chinese waiter? Are we not simply seeking to save face and avoid shame? All these statements are simply different berries from the same diseased plant called “avoiding shame.”

In fact, this natural tendency to save face by avoiding shame goes back to Adam’s finger in the Garden of Eden. When God called Adam to account for sin, Adam responded with “that woman that you gave me, she…” (Genesis 3).  Rather than humbling himself before the Holy One, Adam pointed the finger directly at Eve and (indirectly) back at God.  It’s easier to blame someone else than it is to be ashamed of ourselves, isn’t it?

How have you seen this saving face tendency in yourself and others? What are some other examples I’ve missed? I hope we all will be humbled and accept our part of the blame and, even more, Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf.

C. T. Studd


In 1882, Australia beat England in a Test cricket match for the first time on British soil. A satirical obituary was written, proclaiming the death of British cricket. As the legend goes, a cricket bail was burned to ashes and placed in an urn.  Now, each time the two teams play, the meeting is considered a quest to regain the ashes.  Thus, the tradition of the Ashes was born.

One of the best batsmen in England during that original Ashes cricket match was a man named Charles Studd.  Unfortunately for England, Studd’s batting partner, Ted Peate, was bowled out before Studd could get the remaining few runs needed to secure England’s victory, thus allowing Australia to capture the Ashes.

[Click Here] to continue the biography of this fascinating man.

Japan Update on Christian Relief


The Apostle Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 a very simple command to Christians, “Pray without ceasing.”  The attitude of prayer is one that characterizes the believer, even though—to many people—the exercise appears futile if not outright naïve.  Yet, prayer may, in fact, be the most important and most effective thing we can do.  Especially, prayer may be the most important thing we can do right now for Japan.  Going there would only create a further strain on dwindling resources.  We cannot go.  But we can pray.

One Christian lady speaking of the situation in Japan says,

All of us around the world can be there in prayer. Although it doesn’t make sense in human terms, perhaps the way that most of us can make the most significant contribution for the time being is to pray because the lives of others both physically and spiritually depend on it.

She is correct.  We can contribute to the relief of the people of Japan through our prayers.  Because of the work of Christ as our high priest, we can enter the holy place and make our requests known to God.  We must be in prayer for the families who have lost so much—that they might gain the reward of redemption.  Our God who delivered Christ over to the worst sin and death ever executed is able—as he displayed in Christ—to redeem the worst scenario into an eternal victory.  From an eternal perspective, there remains hope.  So, we must pray.

We must pray for the workers who are on the ground, for their strength, their endurance, and their witness.  May the Lord give them strong hands and a mighty tongue with which to serve both physical and spiritual needs.  Let us pray indeed that great love would be poured out through the resources of many nations and—more importantly—many Christians and their churches.

We can also give thanks to God.  According to this article, Baptists are already on the ground in Japan, assessing both the scale of the damage and the scope of the relief effort.  Baptist Global Response is developing a strategy to provide disaster relief on behalf of Christians in Japan. Without ceremony, fanfare, applause, or even thanks, Christians are already pouring out their money and their lives to serve the needy people of Japan.  So, be encouraged. The world may mock us, hate us, disparage us, and demean our efforts to speak—but it does not matter, and it will not deter us from serving others with love. We are free to love God and love others—regardless of whether others ever return love to us. We are free.  For that, we can be thankful.

If you are interested in helping Japan in a way that will use 100% of your donations to relief, then check out the BGR/IMB work that is already unfolding.  Volunteers do all the work. Christians are remarkably efficient at handling disaster relief.  So, keep up with the work we are doing in Japan.  Join in if you can. And, remember, pray without ceasing.

Inside Out


The Nelson Baptist Association is hosting a Discipleship “Inside Out” Conference, February 19-20.  You don’t want to miss this conference.  Dr. Don Whitney, author of 7 great books on discipleship and biblical spirituality, will be presenting sessions on prayer and meditation on Friday night and Saturday morning.  His instruction will lead us to greater depths of inward devotion.  Then, after a noon meal on Saturday, we will learn how to express our inward devotion to the outward work of missions.  Plan to turn your faith inside out.

Inside Out Discipleship Conference featuring Dr. Don Whitney.  Friday February 19 & Saturday February 20.  Contact Cedar Grove Baptist Church for more information.

Fatima’s Tale


Fatima’s story is a good one; it is filled with hope.  However, her story opens a window through which we might see the awful story of human slave trading which is thriving in some parts of the world.  At 14, Fatima was deposited into the sexual slavery machine… (Keep Reading)

About Nigeria


On Saturday, a brother in our congregation is leaving for ministry in Nigeria.  I hope you will take a moment to get familiar with the work going on in Nigeria.  Specifically, I have linked here an information page about Nigeria.  The page tells you about the kind of persecution going on in Nigeria.  Last November, there was a great outbreak of violence against Christians.  You can learn a good bit about Nigeria by clicking here.