My Interview With Bishop T.L. Craft

Life Impact

It’s impossible to adequately articulate how Bishop T.L. Craft has impacted my life and ministry. He is best known around the world as the Bishop of First United Pentecostal Church of Jackson, MS. To thousands like my mother, who attended Jackson College of Ministry, he left an indelible imprint as JCM’s founder and president. Many think of Bishop Craft as a pastor’s pastor and a friend’s friend. He’s the definition of a scholar and a gentleman. Untold numbers of ministers, preachers, teachers, pastors, evangelists, and missionaries found their start under T.L. Craft’s kindhearted tutelage. Furthermore, hundreds of dynamic women of God, like my precious wife, credit Bishop Craft as the pastor that enabled them to launch out successfully into life and ministry. But if you ramble past the thick haze of accolades and success, you see a man who is steadfastly apostolic, warm, sincere, and imminently approachable.

90

Bishop Craft recently turned ninety, although he seems much younger. His mind is sharp, and his thirst for knowledge remains unquenchable. When I walked into his home a few days ago for a podcast recording session, he was well-dressed and just as dapper as always. The only hint of aging was the residual pain and mobility issues associated with a minor stroke. While talking with or observing Bishop Craft, I’ve always felt that he could have been wildly successful within any vocation. He has an enviable knack for making anyone feel totally at ease within seconds. It’s not a show or a put-on. It’s just who he is at the core. He genuinely likes people, and they really want to like him right back because of it. His consistent, approachable demeanor is a refreshing departure from the unfortunate arms-length attitude many high-profile preachers adopt towards people outside their inner circle. After spending just a few minutes with Bishop Craft, it’s easy to see why he’s had to build lots of new buildings over the years to accommodate church growth.

Season 2, Episode 6

The other day I had the opportunity to sit down in Bishop’s home and record a conversation for Apostolic Voice (listen to the whole conversation below or wherever you enjoy podcasts). But I wanted to give a few highlights from that conversation and links to books Bishop mentioned during the episode. As always, if you’d like to support this ministry, please leave an iTunes rating and review. And if you’d like to help financially for as little as $0.99 per month, follow this link.

The Criticism Flip

Christians, especially ministers, tend to feel above criticism. Or at least, we avoid criticism like the plague. I think that’s universal to the human condition. Even “so-called” constructive criticism hurts, particularly when it’s given without an invitation. However, Bishop Craft echoes the sentiment of the CEO of Tesla Motors, Elon Musk, by inviting criticism from outsiders and insiders alike. Bishop Craft smiled and said, “You’ll never hear more honesty than when you invite a visitor to give you honest feedback about things you’re church could be doing better.” “Ignore that honest feedback to your detriment,” he said somberly. He continued, “Inviting criticism is a great way to witness and teach a Bible study.” “You wouldn’t think so,” he said wryly. He explained with a twinkle in his eyes, “By giving them the upper hand, they don’t feel defensive, and you can defend your faith without seeming pushy or overbearing.” You can invite criticism and flip it to your advantage with kindness and open dialogue in countless areas of life.

Advice to Ministers

I’m adding a few bonuses that Bishop Craft mentioned when the microphones were off. I specifically asked Bishop for some ministerial advice. I’m summarizing it in bullet points for quick reference:

  • Always be in service. Don’t miss church.
  • If you’re traveling, let people know where you’re going and what you’re doing.
  • Read voraciously.
  • Be a well-rounded reader by engaging in books on theology, Christian living, history, philosophy, leadership, business, biography, science, culture, and politics.
  • Give your phone number to everyone.
  • Don’t prioritize a secular job over the work of ministry. If you must work a secular job, don’t allow it to become your first priority and define you.
  • Take vacations.

Book & Commentary Recommendations

Apostolic Voice

Breakers, Takers, Givers, Makers – What Kind of Saint Are You? (Article + Podcast)

Called to Be Saints Together

When the apostle Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, he referred to them as “those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 1:2, ESV).” I’m taking a slight liberty with the text, but I like the English Standard Version in this particular verse because it emphasizes that we are “called to be saints together.” We are together in our local church and with our brothers and sisters worldwide. And that’s the beauty and the beast of the situation. When things are as they should be, “togetherness” is beautiful, unifying, and extraordinarily powerful. But when things aren’t right, “togetherness” is beastly, gnarly, disunifying, and destabilizing. And even though this is most visible in our local churches, the ripple effects of a disunified local church negatively impact the global Church.

Three Types of Togetherness

We Pentecostals have all heard plenty of sermons about the importance of unity. We know they were in “one accord and in “one place” on the Day of Pentecost. Physical, spiritual, and emotional “togetherness” was vital to the first outpouring of the Holy Ghost, and the same is true today. Satan knows this as well. So, he is constantly attacking those three types of togetherness. He’ll either try to keep you from physically being together with other saints, spiritually disunified with other saints or emotionally disconnected from other saints. Revival becomes impossible if he can destroy any of those three types of togetherness among saints in a local church. If disunity becomes malignant in a church, it takes painful emergency surgery to fix it. Otherwise, the church will suffer a slow, agonizing death. In plain terms, spiritual surgery involves one of two things: Radical miraculous heart transplants among significant sources of disunity or those sources of contention leaving the local church permanently.

Physical, spiritual, and emotional togetherness was vital to the first outpouring of the Holy Ghost, and the same is true today. Satan knows this as well. So, he is constantly attacking those three types of togetherness.

Revival Begins with Decrease

If you understand that God is serious about cutting out cancerous growths of disunity, you’ll realize that not all “growth” is healthy, and not all “decrease” is unhealthy. If a doctor cuts a cancerous growth off your body, you wouldn’t consider that a loss. And when disunifying people leave a local church, that shouldn’t be considered a loss either. Instead, it’s God’s way of cleansing and positioning a local church for unity and revival. Most of the dynamic church growth I’ve witnessed in churches began with a numerical decrease before the increase was seen.

If you understand that God is serious about cutting out cancerous growths of disunity, you’ll realize that not all growth is healthy, and not all decrease is unhealthy.

This principle is on full display in the story of Gideon leading a ragtag army to fight the oppressive Midianites (Judges 7:1-24). Gideon had 32,000 men, which was still a tiny number compared to the massive Midianite army. But God was looking for unity in the camp. So, he told Gideon to send the men who were fearful back home. And boom! Twenty-two thousand men left, leaving just 10,000 soldiers. But God wasn’t done cutting the problems out of that army. The Lord instructed Gideon to take his army to the water and make them drink, and whoever got on their knees with their faces in the water could not fight the Midianites. One commentary gives an interesting take on why God would demand such a strange thing:

Those who drink water in a kneeling position with their heads in the water to lap it up are (1) easy targets, (2) unaware of any enemy movement while they drink, and (3) susceptible to leeches. The alternative is to lie down flat (where one presents less of a target) and to keep alert, bringing water to the mouth while continuing to look around.[i]

The men who put their faces in the water weren’t fit for the victory God was about to give. They weren’t alert enough to be unified with God’s plan, and they were vulnerable to leeches and disruptive diseases that endangered the camp. In the end, Gideon’s army was whittled down to just 300 men. That must have felt like a terrible loss to Gideon at the moment before the victory finally came. But it was God’s way of getting the glory and keeping that ragtag army unified and humble.

Three Kinds of Church Members

Recently, I ran across a comment describing three kinds of church members: Browsers, Customers, and Shareholders. Some people are chronic church “Browsers.” When someone approaches and says, “Can I help you with anything?” they respond with, “No, thank you, I’m just browsing.” Browsers are looking for the perfect fit before they commit. They have an idea of something they want in their minds, and they’re not sure if they’re buying yet. It’s understandable to be in this group for a little while. But if a person stays “browsing” a church for too long, it can become an excuse to attend without commitment or submission, which eventually leads to spiritual bankruptcy.

If a person stays “browsing” a church for too long, it can become an excuse to attend without commitment or submission, which eventually leads to spiritual bankruptcy.

There’s another category of church members called Consumers, and they are often the majority of people in a local congregation. They attend with the sole purpose of consuming from the church. They come because of the music, the kid’s program, missions, the Bible teaching, the great preaching, the active fellowship, or the convenience of the location, but if you take any of those things away, they leave. If the Consumers stay around long enough, they might be mistaken for a worker and asked to do or sacrifice something, but they’ll quickly remind you that “they don’t work here.” Ironically, this group of people is usually the most vocal about their opinions, dislikes, complaints, and gripes. They have an “it’s all about me” mentality that makes them very vocal about their wants. If they give financially (they often don’t), they do it as a consumer expecting a particular product or program in return for their payment. If they don’t change, they become a drain rather than a gain to the church.

There’s another category of church members called Consumers, and they are often the majority of people in a local congregation. They attend with the sole purpose of consuming from the church.

Finally, there are Shareholders in every church. Sometimes we call them the “core” or “backbone” of the church. These are the ones who show up to a workday. They give of their time, talent, and treasure without strings. They have invested in the kingdom of God, and they take ownership and responsibility for their involvement. They pray, work, and long for the spiritual success of the church. It’s “their” church. Not in the wrong way. They know ultimately that it’s God’s church. They speak that way because they’ve invested and bought into the vision and purpose of their local congregation. They are true saints of God. Most Shareholders began as Browsers or Consumers but somehow caught the vision and grew into what God intended for them to be all along.

There are Shareholders in every church. Sometimes we call them the “core” or “backbone” of the church. These are the ones who show up to a workday. They give of their time, talent, and treasure without strings.

Breakers, Takers, Givers, Makers

Personally, the Lord gave me a vision years ago of four types of people in a local church. The first two are harmful because they are Breakers and Takers. The last two are positive because they are Givers and Makers. The Lord showed me people who were physically breaking things in the church. God was showing me physically what Breakers do spiritually. They tear things apart and cause brokenness all around them. They engage in gossip, backbiting, and leadership bashing (almost exclusively in private). Breakers sow discord, engender strife, resist all healthy changes, and refuse responsibility for their actions. They hurt vulnerable new believers and discourage seasoned saints. Breakers are responsible for the failure of programs and hinder progression of their local church when left unchecked. Confusingly, they usually portray themselves as Shareholders, but they are toxic Consumers. Or, as Jesus said, “wolves in sheep’s clothing.”

Breakers sow discord, engender strife, resist all healthy changes, and refuse responsibility for their actions. They hurt vulnerable new believers and discourage seasoned saints.

Takers aren’t as toxic as the Breakers, but they aren’t where they need to be either. Sometimes they’re very kind, friendly people. However, they do have a deep flaw. Takers are selfish. They take far more than they give. Not just financially, they take in every area from the church. They come to be fed, but they never do any giving of their own. Takers watch while others work their fingers to the bone without feeling any desire to help. They’re not invested in the kingdom; they’re invested in themselves. Takers think it’s more blessed to receive than to give. They enjoy the benefits and comforts of the church without making meaningful contributions of their own time, treasure, or talent to bless others.

Takers think it’s more blessed to receive than to give. They enjoy the benefits and comforts of the church without making meaningful contributions of their own time, treasure, or talent to bless others.

One quick caveat about Breakers and Takers might seem like a paradox. They will work if given a level of power, leadership, or authority. Sometimes they will even work very hard and have the appearance of Shareholders because of their efforts. However, because their motivations are selfish ambition, self-promotion, or the love of influence and power, their work ultimately becomes destructive and draining to the church. Any apparent good they do is outweighed by the bad. God will not bless selfish efforts regardless of how noble they seem on the surface. Even worse, if they gain notoriety, their spirit becomes contagious to others. Correcting or removing them becomes a nightmare. Many churches have been destroyed because a Taker or a Breaker gained too much influence.

God will not bless selfish efforts regardless of how noble they seem on the surface.

Givers and Makers are the opposite of Breakers and Takers. Givers and Makers make things happen with their own sacrificial blood, sweat, and tears. They give generously and work graciously. They never tear down but strive to build others up continuously. They’re supportive, selfless, kingdom-minded, concerned, compassionate, caring, loving, devoted, faithful, hardworking, sacrificial (when needed), and committed to the greater good. They prefer others before themselves (Philippians 2:3-4). They handle it with a godly, peacemaking spirit if they are hurt, disappointed, or upset. They’re slow to anger, slow to speak, and quick to listen (James 1:19). Makers and Takers are passionate about their church’s physical, spiritual, and emotional unity.

Givers and Makers make things happen with their own sacrificial blood, sweat, and tears. They give generously and work graciously. They never tear down but strive to build others up continuously.

What Kind of Saint Are You?

It’s hard to admit it, but we’ve all had a little of the Browser or Consumer mindset as saints. It’s even possible we’ve been a Taker or a Breaker at some point or another. It takes real courage to examine our hearts to see what kind of saint we really are in God’s eyes. Hopefully, we all attain Shareholder status. To be a Giver and a Maker in the kingdom of God comes with tremendous benefits and privileges. It’s contrary to our fleshly understanding, but selflessness produces lasting satisfaction. Our flesh wants to fight and scrape for “our way” and “our stuff” and our “opinions,” but that only brings heartache. Maybe, just maybe, God reversed the order and decided the least will be the greatest and the greatest will be the least (Matthew 5:19). That’s how God operates. He loves to make the last become the first and send the first to the back of the line (Matthew 20:16).

It’s contrary to our fleshly understanding, but selflessness produces lasting satisfaction. Our flesh wants to fight and scrape for “our way” and “our stuff” and our “opinions,” but that only brings heartache.

God reversed the order and decided the least will be the greatest and the greatest will be the least. That’s how God operates. He loves to make the last become the first and send the first to the back of the line.

If you’ve felt a twinge of conviction, don’t worry, God can give you a heart transplant if you ask for it. You can be everything God has called you to be. If you’re honest with yourself, you’ll realize the browsing is tedious, and the consuming never fills you up. The breaking hurts you the most, and the taking leaves you with less than you had in the first place. Let God give you peace. For all the selfless Shareholders out there, please know that you are precious beyond compare. Your sacrifice is not in vain, and it doesn’t go unnoticed. You have great treasure stored up in Heaven. Let me say “thank you” for everything you do. I need you. Your church needs you. God is for you. Nothing can stand against you. And no weapon formed against you can prosper.

Church browsing is tedious, and the consuming never fills you up. The breaking hurts you the most, and the taking leaves you with less than you had in the first place. Let God give you peace.


[i] John H. Walton, Victor H. Matthews, and Mark W. Chavalas, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament, Accordance electronic ed. (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 255.

The Anatomy of a Failure (A Scriptural Survey of Why Sincere Souls Fail God) – Article + Podcast

The Anatomy of a Failure

During several formative years of my life, Bishop Douglas White ministered to my soul at camp meetings, conferences, and seminars. Time and time again, his stirring sermons send me running to an altar to touch God. His dynamic preaching ministry is in constant demand and has been for as long as I can remember. He has a way of preaching hard truths with love and urgency that compels you to respond. I’m grateful for his ministry. So, when I discovered his newest book, The Anatomy of a Failure: A Scriptural Survey of Why Sincere Souls Fail God, I purchased it faster than you can say “Visa.” Links to buy The Anatomy of a Failure are listed below. I suggest ordering several of them to give away.

Common Heartache

Every Apostolic reading this shares the familiar heartache of knowing friends and family members that have forfeited their salvation. And for those of us who genuinely believe what the Bible teaches about salvation and Hell, we agonize over the condition of their souls and the wasted earthly potential. We’ve all seen as White says:

A beautiful soul rushing back to a hideous condition. A victorious spirit tumbling back to a tortured existence. An honorable life stumbling to a dishonorable lifestyle. A blessed home collapsing into a cursed abode.

How does this happen? That’s the question White strives to answer in The Anatomy of a Failure. The book is a spiritual autopsy. A posthumous examination of dead souls that once thrived in the Spirit. More than that, however, White somberly reminds us that we too have the potential to fail God. This book equips us with defensive weapons and understanding that might be vital to finishing the race. Another byproduct of this book is the light it sheds on the process of backsliding. I finished reading The Anatomy of a Failure with a greater understanding of why good, and I mean “genuinely” good people, abandon Truth. My prayer is that by understanding backsliders better, I might assist them in finding restoration.

Losing Salvation is Possible

Grace is probably the most misunderstood, misconstrued, and misused doctrine in the Bible (I’ve written more about that here). It’s at least up there in the top five. With that in mind, White tackles that issue in the prologue titled The Fallacies of a Failing Soul. In what becomes the underlying text for the entire book, White cites Hebrews 12:14-15:

Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God.

Because grace is often tragically misrepresented as a Divine blank check enabling us to sin freely without consequence, White doubles down on the meaning of Hebrews 12:14-15, saying, “God’s grace never fails – but people can fail.” And he continues:

Nobody will ever stand before God, look Him in the eye, and say that His grace was anything but glorious and forgiving. However, when an individual spurns the grace that God is offering and continues in his sinful lifestyle, it is he who is failing God’s miraculous grace. It is one of the fallacies of a failing soul to think otherwise.

Nobody will ever stand before God and say His grace was anything but glorious and forgiving. However, when an individual spurns the grace God is offering and continues in a sinful lifestyle, it is he who is failing God’s miraculous grace. -Doug White

White moves on to address the most common objection to the reality that good people can fail the grace of God, “A loving God wouldn’t send anyone to Hell (I’ve written an in-depth study on the biblical doctrine of Hell here).” For me, White’s response was revelatory:

A loving God would not send anyone to Hell. But the moment a person dies, Jesus no longer sees him or her through the eyes of a loving God but through the eyes of a righteous judge that must judge every person by the same standard: Did they walk in obedience to God’s Word?

When a person dies, Jesus no longer sees through the eyes of a loving God but through the eyes of a righteous judge that must judge every person by the same standard: Did they walk in obedience to God’s Word? -Doug White

Ultimately, when sheep refuse to follow God’s ways, they forfeit the benefits and protections of the Great Shepherd. White says it best, “Offering salvation is God’s task; maintaining salvation is our task.” Later he rephrases it like this, “A sinful nature and a saved nature cannot coexist in your life.” It’s important to remember that not every falling away from God is accompanied by a dramatic, loud exodus from the church. Of course, some do, and we remember those moments the best. But more often than not, people slip silently away from God while quietly justifying themselves and ultimately convincing themselves they’re just as saved as ever. That’s the fallacy of a failing soul.

When sheep refuse to follow God’s ways, they forfeit the benefits and protections of the Great Shepherd.

Offering salvation is God’s task; maintaining salvation is our task. A sinful nature and a saved nature cannot coexist in your life. -Doug White

Not every falling away from God is accompanied by a dramatic, loud exodus from the church. People slip silently away from God while quietly justifying themselves and ultimately convincing themselves they’re just as saved as ever.

Four Main Reasons Good People Make Bad Mistakes

Bishop White identifies the initial source or the root of every backslider’s eventual failure. He insightfully leans on forty years of ministry to pinpoint four common trouble areas that fit into the anatomy of a body. The four bodily diseased areas that rip people away from the Body of Christ are feet, stomach, head, and heart. Learning to protect, heal, defend, and cultivate these areas is the key to successfully serving God for a lifetime.

Feet: The Instability of an Unsure Foundation

White reminds us that “the only hope we have of standing firm in living for God is determined by the quality of our foundation.” He makes a classic reference to the parable of the man who built his house on the rock compared to the man who built his life upon the sand (Luke 6:48-49). Everything else in our spiritual life is built on our initial foundation. This is perhaps the most crucial area to get right early on in the spiritual journey.

The only hope we have of standing firm in living for God is determined by the quality of our foundation. -Doug White

Perhaps you’ve heard of the Millennium Tower located in downtown San Francisco. The luxury condominium cost a whopping 350 million dollars to build in early 2002. It’s a beautiful structure, made chiefly of elegant glass that towers high into the horizon, reflecting the radiant hues of the sun. Until 2015 everything went precisely as planned. The building became a status symbol of wealthy city living and garnered several awards. It became the residence of choice for affluent San Franciscans. But that all changed when residents began to report loud popping noises and large panes of glass started cracking unexpectedly. And worse, experts noticed the building was sinking and tilting drastically. So far, it has fallen nearly eighteen inches into the ground and tilted another fifteen inches to the northwest. All that lurching, turning, and twisting is breaking all kinds of things from the top of the structure to the bottom. Even after pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into the effort, the renovations have done little to stop the problem. Groundwater loss from adjacent construction has been blamed for the issue by the tower’s developers, while geotechnical experts say the key is that its foundation is not rooted in bedrock. You see, where I’m going, it doesn’t matter how incredible the exterior looks if your spiritual foundation isn’t rooted in bedrock.

It doesn’t matter how incredible the exterior looks if your spiritual foundation isn’t rooted in bedrock.

White points to three crucial materials that must form every spiritual foundation: The Bible, faithfulness, and integrity. He says:

Far too many individuals walking through those spiritual realms struggle with being ‘tossed to and fro,’ in and out of righteousness because their feet are not firmly planted on the sure foundation that is provided by God’s Word.

Too many individuals walking through spiritual realms struggle with being ‘tossed to and fro,’ in and out of righteousness because their feet are not firmly planted on the sure foundation that is provided by God’s Word. -Doug White

In our podcast conversation, Bishop White made a profound statement, “The person in most danger of failing God in your church is the one who loves the music, loves the preaching, loves the worship, loves the fellowship but never settles doctrinal absolutes in their minds.” Without using the words, White spends a great deal of time pushing back against universalism and ecumenicalism, both of which are prevailing heresies of our age. While there might be room for disagreement on some biblical points, central salvific doctrines like the oneness of God, baptism in Jesus’ name, the necessity of the infilling of the Holy Ghost, holiness, and righteous living must become the bedrock of faith.

The person in most danger of failing God in your church is the one who loves the music, loves the preaching, loves the worship, loves the fellowship but never settles doctrinal absolutes in their minds. -Doug White

The second element in the threefold mixture that forms a sure spiritual foundation is deep, abiding faithfulness. White describes it this way:

It is faithfulness that refuses to negotiate with sin or temptation or even emotional upheavals. Those who live on a sure, solid foundation are the individuals who choose daily to live a life of faithfulness to God: Faithful involvement with God’s kingdom. Faithful gathering together with the saints. Steadfast in our walk with God. Authentic in our representation of God to our world. Regardless of how much you claim to believe in biblical truth, this truth is rendered completely ineffective in your life if you don’t baptize it with faithfulness… Your belief in truth is null and void if you don’t act faithfully upon the principles of that truth.

Regardless of how much you claim to believe in biblical truth, truth is rendered completely ineffective in your life if you don’t baptize it with faithfulness. -Doug White

The third and final element in the foundation mixture is unshakable integrity. White defines integrity as “having the ability to see yourself the way God sees you, not the way you would like to be seen.” A life of integrity is devoid of hypocrisy and infused with humility. I consider this to be White’s most impactful quote in the first chapter:

In most cases pertaining to spiritual stability, if you let your feet provide your direction, you won’t have to worry about problems your head could cause.

In most cases pertaining to spiritual stability, if you let your feet provide your direction, you won’t have to worry about problems your head could cause. -Doug White

Stomach: The Pull of an Unholy Consumption

If you could only read one chapter of The Anatomy of a Failure for some strange reason, it should be this one. I consider unholy consumption to be the primary reason the average person falls prey to the enemy. Because our highly advanced, super technological culture allows for instant and nearly unlimited access to the consumption of carnal things, countless Christians develop a habitual taste for dainties that slowly pushes out their desire for holy things. Just like the eunuch thought Daniel would be weakened by abstaining from defiling foods from the king’s table, society views our restrictive lifestyle of purity as fanatical and unsustainable. But our separated lifestyle is the key to our power. Sadly, some have come to view it as a hindrance because they desire to fill their bellies with unrighteousness. Hungering and thirsting after righteousness includes separation from immodest appearance, fleshly vices, worldly entertainment, and unholy speech. White says:

Hungering and thirsting after righteousness includes separation from immodest appearance, fleshly vices, worldly entertainment, and unholy speech.

While the story of Daniel is old, the principle it promotes is just as true today: The spiritual life of a child of God will either excel or decline depending on what their appetites are… If you fit into the category of someone who constantly struggles in your walk with God, I suggest you take an immediate inventory of what you are putting in your spiritual stomach. Such an inventory is necessary because allowing your spiritual man to exist in perpetual struggle eventually eliminates vital elements like joy, passion, zeal, and even a desire to continue serving God.

The spiritual life of a child of God will either excel or decline depending on what their appetites are. -Doug White

What you consume will affect you spiritually just as surely as the physical things you consume will affect you physically. It’s also important to realize that it’s not just sinful things that can potentially harm you. But if consuming hobbies or benignly distracting things pull you away from faithfulness, you will eventually fail God. White gives a good measuring stick for measuring the quality of your consumption, “Anytime you start feeling a fondness for a former slavery, it is a sure sign of partaking in questionable consumption.”

It’s not just sinful things that can potentially harm you. But if consuming hobbies or benignly distracting things pull you away from faithfulness, you will eventually fail God.

Anytime you start feeling a fondness for a former slavery, it is a sure sign of partaking in questionable consumption. -Doug White

The conversation surrounding what is acceptable for Christians to consume and still be saved is always fraught with disagreement. At the core of this conversation is wisdom. It takes wisdom to know what is healthy, benign, and unhealthy for a Christian to ingest. Sadly, I’ve been around many conversations revolving around how much junk a Christian can devour and still be saved. White mirrors those questions, “How much poison can I consume and still stay alive? How much filth can I eat without getting sick? How much rottenness can I devour without suffering the consequences?” He continues, “Knowing the challenges every individual has to contend with to serve God with integrity, why would anybody challenge themselves further by deliberately empowering their flesh?”

There’s an old Indian story of a grandfather telling his grandson about two wolves that live inside us all. One wolf is good, loyal, pure, and full of integrity. The other wolf is violent, angry, evil, and dishonest. “Each day, these two wolves fight inside of me,” said the grandfather to his young grandson. Wide-eyed, the boy asked, “Which one will win?” “The one I feed,” replied the wise grandfather.

Head: The Hindrance of an Unbridled Mind

This issue is so important that the Bible speaks of our thoughts 138 times and refers to our minds 137 times. White emphasizes how the battle for our soul begins in the mind. And while temptation is not sin, a runaway thought can morph into an unholy intention if it isn’t taken into captivity and cast down. White puts it succinctly, “Sadly, over time those thoughts became temptations, which eventually developed intentions. Those intentions eventually found an occasion to sin.”

While temptation is not sin, a runaway thought can morph into an unholy intention if it isn’t taken into captivity and cast down.

The old-timers used to say, “You can’t keep a bird from flying over your head, but you can keep it from settling in and building a nest there.” We can’t keep unholy thoughts from flying through our minds, but we can make sure they don’t make a home there. As White wisely states, “Your mind will either assist you or assassinate you.” Gaining the self-control needed to retrain your mind from dwelling on ungodly things is paramount to every believer. White says it best:

To stop the catastrophic loss of salvation, your unbridled mind is hurling you toward; you must become spiritually mature enough to turn off the flow valve of the deadly sewage of unholy thoughts.

Your mind will either assist you or assassinate you. Gaining the self-control needed to retrain your mind from dwelling on ungodly things is paramount to every believer. -Doug White

Heart: The Delusion of Misplaced Passions

White comes out swinging in this chapter, “Our heart can either be our greatest advantage or our greatest adversary.” It’s eerily possible to be faithful, worship, praise, and go through the motions of godliness without engaging the heart thoroughly. White teaches that passion is the gauge for measuring spiritual heart health, “Passion is the tell-tale sign that our heart is involved; without passion, any work we do has ceased to be a matter of the heart.”

Our heart can either be our greatest advantage or our greatest adversary. It’s eerily possible to be faithful, worship, praise, and go through the motions of godliness without engaging the heart thoroughly.

This chapter revealed something that had perplexed me for a long time: How can people seem to love God but not serve him passionately? White reminds us that we are commanded to love God with all our hearts in no uncertain terms. He says:

Any time this commandment is casually diminished by placing a greater passion on something else, we have become the victim of a divided heart. The obvious way to tell if an all-the-way-salvation has become a divided-heart situation is to compare your passion for God with your passion for other things.

And here is the revelation that greatly enhanced my understanding:

Most people who backslide don’t fall out of love with God; they just fall in love with something else, leaving a divided heart.

Most people who backslide don’t fall out of love with God; they just fall in love with something else, leaving a divided heart. -Doug White

Conclusion & Summary

Pay prayerful attention, and you will find that everyone you have seen fail God fits into the four categories as defined by Bishop White:

  • They had spiritual feet that lacked a sure foundation, leaving them unstable and quick to fall.
  • They had a spiritual stomach that consistently fed on unholy things, leaving them weak and defenseless against the adversary.
  • They had a spiritual head that refused to restrain their unholy thoughts, allowing temptations to become sinful intentions, which led them to sin.
  • They had a spiritual heart that became careless, allowing them to misplace their passion in carnal things, deluding them with the idea that “selling-out” wasn’t as important as merely “claiming salvation.”

We are all susceptible to failing in these areas if we aren’t on guard. Awareness is half the battle. Viewing these anatomical areas invigorates my desire to put on the whole armor of God. Years ago, the Lord gave me a dream of thousands of Christians rushing into battle with incomplete armor. Some had everything but a helmet, while others had a sword. One by one, they fell to the enemy. In that graphic visual, the problem seemed so obvious. But Christians do this all the time, yet they feel safe because they have almost all the armor they need. They have an allusion of safety but lack the fullness of God’s necessary resources. I pray this is not so for you and for me too.

Your Questions Answered (Article + Podcast)

Initially, I started this blog specifically to answer questions I repeatedly received from people in my church and community. This format was just an easy way for me to answer a lot of people at the same time. I know, I know, that’s a very introverted thing to do. Also, it probably demonstrates my conversational laziness as well. I knew, too, that the questions being asked were pretty common questions in other church settings as well, which turned out to be truer than I realized at the time.

Often people will write with a question and begin by apologizing for being a bother. I always try to respond by assuring them that there is no such thing as a stupid question. And, if pastors can’t or won’t answer the difficult questions, they aren’t fulfilling their God-given leadership role (2 Timothy 4:2). There is a sentiment floating around asserting that we shouldn’t respond to questions asked in the spirit of entrapment. That is to say, a question designed to back someone into a corner and elicit a response that can be misconstrued or used against the answerer. I sympathize to a certain degree with that mindset. However, it’s worth noting that Jesus still responded to the Pharisees when they poised their poisonous questions.

Regardless, if we’re not careful, we will fall into the trap of viewing every questioner as bad intentioned when they are just uninformed or misinformed. Even the first apostolic sermon on salvation was preached in response to a question (Acts 2:37-38). Many years ago, I was influenced by the book by Conrad Gempf called Jesus Asked. That little book opened my eyes to something that should have been obvious to me as a prolific reader of the Gospels. Jesus avidly employed the Socratic method of answering questions with a question. Jesus rebuked with questions (Luke 8:25, Mark 8:21), provoked deeper thought with questions (Mark 11:28, Mark 12:16), and asked rhetorical questions (Matthew 21:31, Mark 8:19). It’s nearly impossible to find a passage where Jesus interacted with people that He did not ask a question or a series of questions. That illumination forever impacted my thinking on preaching, teaching, and engaging in thought with others.

I believe Jesus utilized questions for several reasons: One, it forced the other person to think and engage. Two, it introduced new lines of thought and brought clarity to issues. Three, it was more approachable than domineering. Four, it put the questioner on the defensive rather than the offensive. Five, it took Him out of the faulty framework of preconceived ideas contained within the original question. Six, it invited people to find Truth in answering His question rather than simply believing a declaration. There is a time for declaration, and Jesus made plenty of bold declarations (John 14:6, John 10:7). Still, there is also a time to ask questions and invite others to find the answers with us, which has always been the philosophy of Apostolic Voice.

That was a ridiculously long way of saying keep the questions coming. Sometimes your questions send me on a journey of discovery. Some questions are humbling because they show me how little I know about the Bible. In a recent podcast (click here to listen), I thoroughly enjoyed tackling some great questions from you folks. I’m posting that Q&A in written form for those who prefer reading over listening. Or for those who might want to easily reference back to this article in the future. No names are mentioned because I wouldn’t want to risk embarrassing anyone.

Q1: How should we feel about going to church when a threat or danger is at hand?

Before jumping into a biblical discussion of this topic, allow me to begin by pointing out the obvious: There is always a certain level of danger when we physically gather for worship. I know this question is likely referring to COVID-19. I think it helps if we put a few things into perspective. Here’s some simple math, 38,000 people tragically die in car accidents each year in the United States. Meaning, just driving to church has some inherent risks. Sadly, 28,000 people die of the common flu each year in the United States. Also, I think we have to weigh the physical and spiritual risks of not attending church.

Some Common Sense Observations

I’m not qualified enough to emphatically argue the suicidal impact of the shutdowns, but I have the common sense to know it’s been substantial. People have been alienated from friends, sequestered away from family, blocked from healthy social interaction, kept from education, hindered from church attendance (and church socialization). We’ve all been fed a steady diet of fear, politicized, marginalized, and handcuffed by despair with seemingly no end in sight. You can’t tell me all that hasn’t harmed people in ways we can’t even fathom right now. Books and studies will look back over these things and tell countless stories of tragedy. My heart breaks for children who endured 2020-2021 (and maybe 2022) during their most formative years. They will deal with neuroses and developmental disorders that go far beyond the ordinary. On the other end of the spectrum, elders who are certainly the most vulnerable to COVID-19 among us have suffered tremendous emotional pain and loneliness in their twilight years as we have tried our best to protect them. It’s truly sad.

The Long-Term Fallout of Fear

I’ve written about spiritual problems and solutions related to COVID-19 in the past (A Christian Manuel For Navigating Uncertain Times, Unmasked – Cogent Covid Thoughts). However, we are only just now seeing the overwhelming negative spiritual impacts of our churches being severely impaired and restricted for over a year and a half. An alarming 7% of past churchgoers claim they will not be resuming in-person services again even once the pandemic is over.[iii] That stat is probably higher because many who will not return to church aren’t willing to talk about it with pollsters. And the falling church attendance is minor compared to the spiritual devastation many people have experienced due to increased carnality and lack of accountability. Countless churches are reeling from that reality. Not to mention how the media has demonized worship or the social stigma of churches being labeled super-spreaders.

What Does the Bible Say?

Before jumping straight to “forsake not the assembling of ourselves together” (Hebrews 10:25), let’s go a few verses back and examine the context of that often-quoted verse. Remember, Paul (the writer of Hebrews, in my opinion) was no stranger to danger. He was beaten, stoned to death, imprisoned, and shipwrecked (2 Corinthians 11:21-33). The First Church met under threat of death, persecution, imprisonment, and more. So, Paul did not write from the Western standpoint of one who has never genuinely suffered for the Gospel or to gather. Hebrews 10:22-23 are admonishments to remain pure (holy), faithful, hopeful, unwavering, and uncompromising. Hebrews 10:24 is a call to think carefully about how we can encourage one another to do all of the above, love our fellow Christians, and do good deeds. All of that was Paul’s way of leading up to the importance of Hebrews 10:25, which is a familiar verse to most churchgoers.

So, when Paul said, “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the Day approaching (Hebrews 10:25).” He emphasized the universal human need for the people of God to gather regularly if they are to remain strong in faith, love, and works. Paul (under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit) had already considered the intrinsic dangers of gathering in that apostolic command. Yet, he gave no caveats or wiggle room for the Church to use as convenient excuses. In fact, he doubles down by denouncing those who had already forsaken assembly and encouraging the future church to gather more often as the rapture draws closer.

To drive the point home, Paul continues in Hebrews 10:26-29 with a grave warning about sinful Christians and backsliding. Christians who willfully sin after receiving the knowledge of Truth have no further sacrifice for their atonement (Hebrews 10:26). They can live with terrifying anticipation of the fiery judgment of God because they become adversaries of God even while calling themselves believers (Hebrews 10:27). If people were put to death for breaking the law of Moses, shouldn’t we expect far more significant punishment for disrespecting the blood of Jesus, trampling the son of God, and insulted God’s grace (Hebrews 10:28-29)? These four verses aren’t randomly placed after Paul’s apostolic command to gather. They are a continuation of that discussion. Because gathering together is one of the most important and effective resources God has given to keep us from sin and backsliding.

Gathering together is one of the most important and effective resources God has given to keep us from sin and backsliding.

Full Transparency

To be fully transparent, I do believe in being careful and using wisdom. I’ve lost friends and loved ones during this pandemic. My church has experienced heartbreaking COVID-19 related deaths. My father almost died when he contracted COVID-19, and it turned into COVID-pneumonia. My church has socially distanced, rearranged seating, canceled Sunday School for over a year (to protect the elderly teachers), worn masks, sanitized the building, provided sanitizer to saints, launched a live stream, and canceled many services to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 during peak outbreaks. We’ve made hard calls and tried to use as much wisdom as humanly possible. But we also realize that fear cannot become hysteria, and our church is an essential service. Indefinite shutdowns are not an option, and any shutdown is the last resort.

Practical Considerations

There might be times when you should miss a church service. It should be a tough call on your part. Once missing church becomes easy, you’re in a downward spiral. If you have a fever or feel like you’re contagious to others, you should feel excused to stay home. Do your best to stay connected to that service remotely, either through technology or word of mouth. And remain accountable to your pastor or other saints (depending on your church’s protocol). Refuse to be that person who misses church and expects everyone else to call you. If you are a grown adult, you should keep yourself accountable to peers and leadership. If you are especially vulnerable (age, preexisting conditions, compromised immune system) and your church hasn’t canceled services, consult your leadership about it. Take extra precautions when you attend, wear a mask, keep a distance from others (wave hands, don’t shake hands), and ask to be temporarily excused from church responsibilities that might cause too much direct contact with people. Trust that your pastor is making godly decisions to keep you physically and spiritually safe.

There might be times when you should miss a church service. It should be a tough call on your part. Once missing church becomes easy, you’re in a downward spiral.

Refuse to be that person who misses church and expects everyone else to call you. If you are a grown adult, you should keep yourself accountable to peers and leadership.

If you have enough faith to go to the grocery store, you have enough faith to go to church. If you have enough faith to go to work, you have enough faith to go to church. If you feel comfortable being around people outside of the church, you should go to church. It really is that simple. The Church is an essential service for your soul. And if you are responsible for children, you should be factoring their spiritual well-being into your decision-making process too. Wisdom and caution are good things, but fear and hysteria are contrary to the Christian life.

If you have enough faith to go to the grocery store, you have enough faith to go to church. If you have enough faith to go to work, you have enough faith to go to church.

Wisdom and caution are good things, but fear and hysteria are contrary to the Christian life.

Power, Love & Sound Mind

In 2 Timothy 1:2-7, Paul charged Timothy to have peace (inner calm and spiritual well-being). Then, Paul praised the faithfulness of his godly mother and grandmother (2 Timothy 1:5). He reminded Timothy to keep the gift of God stirred up inside of him, which he had already received by the laying on of hands (2 Timothy 1:6). Then, Paul launched into a verse that we often quote, and you’ll quickly recognize it even though I’m citing the Amplified version: For God did not give us a spirit of timidity or cowardice or fear, but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of sound judgment and personal discipline [abilities that result in a calm, well-balanced mind and self-control] (2 Timothy 1:7). Notice the entire context of Christian power, love, and soundness of mind involve things connected to gathering as the body of Christ. If we want power, love, and stability of mind, we must not forsake assembling together.

The entire context of Christian power, love, and soundness of mind involve things connected to gathering as the body of Christ. If we want power, love, and stability of mind, we must not forsake assembling together.

Q2: What age is appropriate for an apostolic to start dating?

My daughter Julia Lynn is fourteen, and she is lovely, talented, brilliant, sweet, introverted, kind, and godly. Needless to say, I have strong opinions and emotions related to this topic (you’ve been warned). Also, I’ve written an in-depth article on apostolic dating called 6 Dating Standards for Apostolic Singles. So, I’ll resist the temptation to repeat all of that here. If dating questions are relevant to you or someone you love, I recommend thoroughly reading that article. However, I did not specifically address this question in 6 Dating Standards for Apostolic Singles, probably because I had older singles in mind at the time. Still, this is a very relevant and essential question to answer. It’s a question that should be taken seriously and not frivolously.

Real Life Dating Principles

Let me lay some framework around my answer. The Bible clearly states that we should abstain from sex outside the marriage covenant (Hebrews 13:4). I also know that human nature makes that incredibly difficult, especially in our current culture, unless we have careful guard rails in place (1 Corinthians 7:2). Keeping that in mind, I do not support long engagements or dating for years on end. Also, I do not believe an apostolic should marry outside the faith. And I don’t endorse casual dating. I think all dating should be to find a godly person, marry that person, and serve the Lord together. Meaning, the moment you realize someone isn’t marriage material, that relationship should end. Never date just to cure loneliness, fit in, kill time, fulfill lustful desires, or any other reason outside of sincerely looking for a person to love for a lifetime in holy matrimony.

All dating should be to find a godly person, marry that person, and serve the Lord together. Meaning, the moment you realize someone isn’t marriage material, that relationship should end.

Never date just to cure loneliness, fit in, kill time, fulfill lustful desires, or any other reason outside of sincerely looking for a person to love for a lifetime in holy matrimony.

The Answer… Kinda

Because of everything stated above, I feel that it is unwise to date before seventeen. For most people, even seventeen is probably far too young to begin dating. Why? Because you shouldn’t date unless you are mature enough to realistically get married within a year or year and a half (at the latest) of dating an individual. Most people are simply not spiritually or emotionally mature enough to get married by eighteen or nineteen. You would be an extremely rare exception to the rule if you are that person. Furthermore, you can’t be the one to decide if you are mature enough to be dating. You must allow elders, parents, church leaders, and godly friends to make that assessment for you (and with you).

A Few Quick Guard Rails

Before you reach an age where you could realistically think about getting married, all your relationships should be kept on the friendship level, at arm’s length, and never exclusive. You certainly shouldn’t be spending time alone with friends of the opposite sex or engaging in long intimate conversations via phone, text, or social media. That’s basically the definition of dating, whether you call it dating or not. This answer is probably a little frustrating, but I don’t think there is a one size fits all age where everyone should start dating. Seventeen at the absolute earliest and probably early twenties is a good average timeframe to begin dating safely. But even then, I default back to an earlier dating guard rail, never date just to date or to cure loneliness. Only date an individual if you see real marriage potential in that person and have the approval of godly mentors around you. Never date secretly or without consulting godly elder mentors (not just your best friends and peers).

Love God First & Foremost

Again, if you’re interested in a more in-depth conversation about dating, follow this link (6 Dating Standards for Apostolic Singles). Don’t be that flaky, wishy-washy, needy person who can’t live without a dating relationship. Learn to love yourself and be happy with who you are before you start the long, complex process of loving someone else. Keep God first, and He will give you the desires of your heart (Psalm 37:4).

5 Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. 6 In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.
Proverbs 3:5-6

Q3: I’m sitting with a dying friend suffering with stage 4 lung cancer. I would like topics on learning to trust Jesus and faith.

First, let me say to you, and everyone suffering from similar pain, that I’m so sorry for your situation. I know the heartbreak and helpless feelings are difficult to endure. And we can be forgiven for wondering how and why awful things like this happen. The feelings of our infirmities touch God, and He draws close to those with broken hearts (Hebrews 4:15, Psalm 34:18). Sometimes the hurt numbs us to the presence of the Lord. Allow the Lord to draw close to you and give you the peace that only He can provide.

The feelings of our infirmities touch God, and He draws close to those with broken hearts (Hebrews 4:15, Psalm 34:18).

Encouragement from Mother

My mother has written and spoken about this subject beautifully from her suffering and fiery trials. I encourage you to read her article called Praising the Lord in All Things and listen to her talk about it in this conversation called Talking with Mom (Rebecca French) About Pain, Sickness, Parenting, Faith, Ministry, Pastor’s Wives, and People with Special Needs. She has a unique perspective and special anointing that ministers to the hurting. I know her words will help you and anyone suffering or watching helplessly while a loved one suffers. Know that you’re not alone, and ultimately peace always comes while we wait on the Lord.

Four Simple Strategies for the Brokenhearted

I could write a lengthy essay about how the rain falls on the just and the unjust. Or I could wax eloquent about how sin ushered pain and suffering into the human condition. And I could write philosophically about how God is good even when we don’t understand His plan. But I know none of those things will help you right now. But I do know a few simple things that have helped me through similar situations.

One, turn your pain into prayer. Tell God every hurt, disappointment, frustration, sadness, and ask Him all the difficult questions. He hears, cares, and answers when you call out to Him in desperation. When the pain is deep, don’t turn to anything other than God for relief. Two, keep connected to prayerful friends who will encourage you and pray for you. Our flesh wants to withdraw when hurting but resist that urge and stay (or get) closely connected to godly people. Three, find an encouraging Bible verse (if you don’t already have a favorite one) and quote it to yourself all the time. Write it down and read it. Write it over and over again. Put it on sticky notes all-around your house and car. Make it your screen saver on your phone. Let it penetrate past your mind and settle down in your soul. Four, don’t miss church. Again, it’s tempting to pull away when we’re hurting, but skipping church is like unplugging ourselves from the power source we desperately need. Bring your pain to the altar and anoint Jesus’ feet with your tears.

Turn your pain into prayer. Tell God every hurt, disappointment, frustration, sadness, and ask Him all the difficult questions. He hears, cares, and answers when you call out to Him in desperation.

Skipping church is like unplugging ourselves from the power source we desperately need. Bring your pain to the altar and anoint Jesus’ feet with your tears.

Q4: How many books will be opened on Judgment day? I only remember the Lambs Book of life. But as I have been reading, it says books. What are the books that will be opened?

Two passages of Scripture mention a plurality of books that will be opened on the Day of Judgment. The prophet Daniel described an apocalyptic vision (waking thoughts) and wrote, “the judgment was set, and the books were opened (Daniel 7:10)”. He was alluding to a courtroom scene where everything was rightfully placed, the court was called to attention, and the books were opened. In this particular context, the books shown are books of judgment. The book of Revelation seems to be referencing the same future apocalyptic scene where there will be a great white throne of judgment (Revelation 20:11-15). If these two passages are describing the same future event, John the Revelator (the writer of Revelation) received more details in his vision:

12 And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. 13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. 14 And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. 15 And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:12-15).

The Book of Life & Books of Judgment

There are at least three books described in this vision. The names of all believers are listed in the book of life (Revelation 20:12). The “earth dwellers” names are not in the book of life (Revelation 13:8; 17:8). The first set of books mentioned appear to be the same books Daniel saw in his vision (Daniel 7:10). But John saw an additional book of life, and God revealed that anyone whose name is not in that book would be cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:15). That will be the final eternal sentencing by God upon each individual human.

According to What They Had Done

The lives of all who did not obey the Gospel and live according to God’s eternal Word will be completely exposed before God. Every selfish and defiant act and ungodly thought will be called into account. Even the secret sins, which it seemed no one knew about, will be brought to light and judged (Luke 8:17, Romans 2:16). All will be judged individually for their works according to God’s standards and principles, with consideration for motives and opportunities (Luke 12:47–48), which indicates differences in the sentencing and degree of punishment but not in the duration. The torment of the lake of fire is unquenchable. It will last forever (for a detailed examination of what the Bible teaches about Hell, consider reading What About Hell? – Everything You Need to Know).

It appears to me that the names written in the book of life will not be judged by what they had done. Instead, they will be judged by what Jesus had done for them. However, the names listed in the judgment books (we have no idea how many books there will be) will be adjudicated based on their works. And because all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, that will be an unwinnable case for them (Romans 3:23). Furthermore, it appears that hell will bring forth the dead who are unsaved before the final judgment (Revelation 20:13). Meaning, the Day of Judgment will be more of a formality than an actual legal proceeding. The unsaved will have already tasted Hell, and the saved will have already experienced a sample of Heaven’s splendor.

The names written in the book of life will not be judged by what they had done. Instead, they will be judged by what Jesus had done for them.

A Final Possibility

Some scholars speculate that one of the judgment books mentioned might be the Bible itself. In my opinion, it would make sense for one book to be a record of every individual’s earthly conduct contrasted to God’s divine law recorded in Scripture. If God judges us according to our deeds, the standard of judgment will also be present, which is the Word of God. I have no problem accepting that as a possibility. All speculation aside, I just know my name needs to be in the book of life.

Q5: In Genesis 6:1-4, are the “sons of God” fallen angels, and did they marry and reproduce with the women of the earth? If not, what is the explanation of those chapters?

Genesis 6:1-4 is one of the most highly debated topics among saints and theologians alike. I’ll give my humble opinion on the subject as best I can. There are two (some would argue four) possible answers to your question. First (and most plausibly), the “sons of God” mentioned in Genesis 6:1-4 refer to the godly “sons of Seth” marrying the heathen daughters of Cain. God’s covenant people are often referred to in the Bible as “God’s sons” (Exodus 4:22, Deuteronomy 14:1, Romans 8:14). This view would explain why God eventually forbade the Israelites from marrying Canaanite women (Exodus 34:16, Deuteronomy 7:3).

Most plausibly, the “sons of God” mentioned in Genesis 6:1-4 refer to the godly “sons of Seth” marrying the heathen daughters of Cain.

Demonic Offspring

However, it is a widespread opinion that the “sons of God” mentioned in Genesis were fallen angels marrying mortal women and producing giants. Although, you should know the word Nephilim or giants could mean giants in the sense of their fame, strength, or renown and does not necessarily refer to actual giants in the sense of height. There is some credence given to this idea in Peter’s epistles and the epistle of Jude (Jude 6, 2 Peter 2:4). I don’t believe this view to be accurate. Proponents of this view still leave us with more questions than answers.

Final Possibility

It would be far more plausible, in my opinion, to say demon-possessed men married and produced wicked offspring rather than believing literal angelic (spiritual beings) married and had half-human half-demon offspring. As best we can tell from Scripture, actual angels (or demons) are incapable of doing such a thing. Otherwise, Satan and all the fallen angels would most certainly be doing just that regularly trying to wreak havoc in this world. They do not, and that alone is enough to convince me that such a thing is impossible.



Special Guest Stan Gleason & Book Review of Follow to Lead: The Journey of a Disciple Maker

If you’re reading this article, you probably identify as a Christian. But are you a disciple? And if you are a disciple, are you a disciple-maker? Those are the questions posed in Follow to Lead: The Journey of a Disciple Maker by Stan O. Gleason. On the surface, it’s hard to pin down a category for Follow to Lead. It’s a leadership book, but not really. It’s a church growth book, but not really. Follow to Lead is a lifestyle book that challenges the reader to commit to a radical biblical lifestyle mandated by Jesus. Rather than selfishly hunkering down in our salvation bunkers, Gleason admonishes the Church to obey the Great Commission and go make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20). Gleason is emphatic that this co-mission isn’t just for a chosen few, especially sanctified saints, certain personality types, pastors, evangelists, or any other ministry mantle we can envision. No Christian is exempted from the mandate to make disciples.

The co-mission isn’t just for a chosen few, especially sanctified saints, certain personality types, pastors, evangelists, or any other ministry mantle we can envision. No Christian is exempted from the mandate to make disciples.

Interestingly, Gleason focuses on the ancient method of discipleship employed by Jesus during his relatively short earthly ministry. Unarguably, the replication of Jesus’ ministry through His disciples even after His death, burial, and resurrection was remarkable. Notably, though we often forget, the rabbi (teacher) relationship with the disciple (trainee) was not unique to Jesus’ ministry. This method was an integral part of Jewish culture, and it was highly relational. When Jesus invited fishermen to follow Him, they knew what He was asking of them. They were entering into a rabbi-disciple relationship. Jesus poured Himself into the chosen twelve in ways it was impossible to do with the multitudes. Yet, a little introspection reveals most modern churches are more interested in shaping the masses than discipling the few close to them. Gleason lovingly but convincingly cautions the Church to lay aside excuses and make disciples of our neighbors who will then make disciples of their own.  

Jesus poured Himself into the chosen twelve in ways it was impossible to do with the multitudes. Yet, a little introspection reveals most modern churches are more interested in shaping the masses than discipling the few close to them.

A thread runs throughout the chapters of Follow to Lead, reminding us repeatedly that there’s no such thing as discipleship without relationships. This concept seems intuitive, but not in this modern culture that keeps us globally connected yet locally disconnected. We’re partitioned off from one another by phone screens, computer screens, and tablet screens. Our communities are carefully fenced in, and we rarely know our next-door neighbors. However, Gleason implores us to break down these self-imposed barriers and disciple our neighbors by building trust, maintaining relationships, and being ready to teach. If we all genuinely followed this model, our churches would be overflowing within a few short years.

There’s no such thing as discipleship without relationships. This concept seems intuitive, but not in this modern culture that keeps us globally connected yet locally disconnected.

Follow to Lead is filled with practical examples for implementing a paradigm-shifting mindset in a local congregation. Transforming the culture of a local church begins from the top down. It’s hard work. But what a powerful transformation would take place in our local churches if we all simply did what Jesus commanded us to do. Gleason lays the groundwork for helping church leaders nudge a congregation away from being department-minded into being relationship-minded. This unifying concept brings everyone together in the mission of discipling the lost into a deep, Bible-based walk with God. With that in mind, our language matters. So, Gleason encourages us to lay aside terms like “soul-winner” and “evangelism” and pick up more appropriate (in it for the long haul) terminology like “disciples-makers.” As Gleason says:

After you “win,” then what? When you win, it’s over, but when you make disciples, the process is ongoing. Regardless of the implications, you can see the difference terminology makes when communicating the mission of the Church. Jesus did not tell us to win anything, but rather to go make everything.

I’m not ashamed to admit that Follow to Lead challenged my thinking and poked holes in some of my internal excuses. But it didn’t just leave me feeling shame. It inspired me to reach out to my community with fresh passion and renewed vision. Gleason isn’t presenting a theory but a theology. A theology of missiology that is relevant in every culture and region. Undoubtedly, practical application in your life and church will probably look slightly different from mine or even Gleason’s. Regardless, our mission and mindset will coincide because Gleason calls us to follow the most remarkable example of all… Jesus.

Gleason isn’t presenting a theory but a theology. A theology of missiology that is relevant in every culture and region.

AVP Episode Featuring Stan Gleason

Consistency – 16 Keys To Outstanding Leadership (Article + Podcast)

When it comes to leadership of any kind, consistency is a vital component of success. Often, highly creative personalities struggle with consistency, severely limiting what would otherwise be a dynamic leadership style. But, of course, that’s a generalization, and leaders of all types struggle to be consistent. People are drawn to consistency, but it takes time to demonstrate real and effective consistency in leadership. For example, studies of churches, businesses, and corporations indicate that it takes roughly five years for the organization to hit its full growth potential when a new leader arrives. Why? Because quality consistency in leadership, by definition, cannot be modeled overnight. Below are sixteen key areas where consistency makes the difference between bad, good, and outstanding leadership.

1. Consistency of Time

  1. Understanding the value of your time and everyone else’s time matters. If you disrespect other peoples’ time, they will eventually disrespect you. Be on time, be timely, be efficient, and as often as possible, be brief. If you don’t habitually waste people’s time, they’ll forgive you when you need to take their time. All great leaders understand the value of managing time.

If you disrespect other peoples’ time, eventually they will disrespect you.

2. Consistency of Dependability

  1. If you say it, mean it. If you mean it, do it. If people can’t depend on you, they won’t trust you, and if they don’t trust you, outstanding leadership is not possible. Inevitably, you will inadvertently let someone down. Don’t be too proud to apologize.

If you say it, mean it. If you mean it, do it. If people can’t depend on you, they won’t trust you, and if they don’t trust you, outstanding leadership is not possible.

3. Consistency of Emotions & Temperament

  1. Okay, so we all have mood swings. Most great leaders feel things intensely, and that’s a good thing. It channels energy and propels creativity. But drastic emotional fluctuations left unchecked hurt people. People shouldn’t have to wonder if you’re going to randomly lose your temper, cry without provocation, or become morose. People will excuse a temperamental leader for a while (especially if they’re mega-talented, a super-genius, or ultra charismatic), but eventually, they’ll abandon ship, searching for less drama.

4. Consistency of Study

  1. Leaders never stop learning, and learners never stop studying. Once you think you know all you need to know, you are arrogant and irrelevant.

Leaders never stop learning, and learners never stop studying. Once you think you know all you need to know, you are arrogant and irrelevant.

5. Consistency of Routine

  1. I’m not suggesting that leaders should do the same thing, at the same time, every day. But some level of routine must be realized, or a lifestyle of consistency is not possible.

6. Consistency of Organization

  1. It can vary in style, intensity, and beauty; but you must be organized and know how to organize others.

7. Consistency of Spiritual Discipline

  1. For ministerial leadership, this goes without saying. But regardless, strong spiritual disciplines of Bible reading, prayer, and devotion strengthen every area of a leader’s life.

8. Consistency of Kindness

  1. Be kind all the time (including to those who can do nothing for you). Some leaders erroneously believe that their other strengths make this unnecessary. Not so. Kindness is not weakness. Harshness is not strength. It takes more effort to be consistently kind than visa verse. An unkind leader will negate all other skills. And yes, you can be kind and authoritative at the same time.

Be kind all the time (including to those who can do nothing for you).

Kindness is not weakness. Harshness is not strength. It takes more effort to be consistently kind than visa verse.

9. Consistency of Authenticity

  1. To phrase it another way, always be genuine and real. Be transparent; that doesn’t mean that you have to wear your heart on your sleeve or air all the dirty laundry. But remember, authenticity is the opposite of fakery. Be open, be honest, be humble, be authentic.

10. Consistency of Integrity

  1. Integrity is one of those words with a broad spectrum of meaning that can be hard to pin down. By default, we usually define integrity as honesty, and that is correct but incomplete. In the tech world, they use the term “integrity checking,” meaning they are analyzing the data to ensure that it lacks corruption and maintains internal integrity. Engineers use the term “structural integrity” about structurally sound buildings. Governments use the term “territorial integrity” when describing a nation or region that is undivided and sovereign. With that in mind, a leader with integrity is continually checking the areas of his life that others can’t see for corrupted data, maintaining structural soundness, and guarding against divisions. The integrity of your organization will be a reflection of your virtue.

The integrity of your organization will be a reflection of your virtue.

11. Consistency of Core Values

  1. Once you have identified, defined, and clearly articulated your core values, you must consistently implement those values. A core value is not a core value if it fluctuates. Your personal and corporate core values must be united and inform every action and decision from the top down. It would be best if you firmly believed in your core values, or you will change them when things get tough. Without core values, you become a slave to flaky emotions and the fickleness of fads. Everything you do flows from your core values.

Without core values, you become a slave to flaky emotions and the fickleness of fads. Everything you do flows from your core values.

12. Consistency of Maturation & Growth

  1. Look at where you are compared to where you were five years ago. Go ahead. Hopefully, you have grown and matured personally. Don’t buy the lie that you’ve peaked or plateaued. You must model personal growth and maturation. Set goals, stretch your limits, dream big, get better, and never settle for personal stagnation. If you do, they will too. Also, you cannot mature if you are not self-aware. Self-awareness is literally one of the most defining aspects of a great leader. If you think you’re great when you’re not, you’ll never work to get better. If you think your weakness is your strength, you’ll never mature. Find ways to evaluate yourself, seek counsel, seek brutally honest mentors, take the blinders off, listen to constructive criticism, expose yourself to leaders who inspire you to stretch. You will find the motivation to grow.

Set goals, stretch your limits, dream big, get better, and never settle for personal stagnation.

Find ways to evaluate yourself, seek counsel, seek brutally honest mentors, take the blinders off, listen to constructive criticism, expose yourself to leaders who inspire you to stretch.

13. Consistency of Fairness

  1. Treat yourself and others fairly. It’s really that simple. Leaders who hold one standard for this person and another for that person lose everyone’s respect over time.

Leaders who hold one standard for this person and another for that person lose everyone’s respect over time.

14. Consistency of Creativity

  1. Creativity is hard. Admittedly, it comes more naturally for some. However, even for those who are wired to be creative, it takes hard work. I know it sounds antithetical to this article’s central theme, but predictability is the enemy of growth when it comes to creativity. Have dreams, use imagination, and be original.

15. Consistency of Healthy Change & Adjustment

  1. Again, I know it sounds strange to write an article about consistency and tell people to be willing to make changes and adjustments. Paradox? No. You can be consistent in every area mentioned above and yet remain flexible when and where necessary. Great leaders know when to throw out bad ideas and implement better ones. Great leaders know when to make small tweaks and significant adjustments when needed. Inflexible leaders crack underneath the pressure of constantly changing demands and environments. Not all change is healthy, but total unwillingness to adjust is always deadly.

Inflexible leaders crack underneath the pressure of constantly changing demands and environments. Not all change is healthy, but total unwillingness to adjust is always deadly.

16. Consistency of Humility

  1. Outstanding leaders remain great by remaining humble. Arrogance and pride not only repel people but it produces sloppiness and intense feelings of entitlement. Entitled leaders are not only toxically obnoxious, but their followers emulate their example. Eventually, the entire organization from the top down expects everyone else to do everything else. Chaos and unproductiveness always plague entitled leadership. Many leaders begin with humility and gradually become arrogant. Carefully guard against the drift towards pride that power and success often set into motion. Furthermore, a leader doesn’t have to be wildly successful to be prideful; even sub-par leaders often struggle with arrogance.

Arrogance and pride not only repel people but it produces sloppiness and intense feelings of entitlement.

Chaos and unproductiveness always plague entitled leadership.

Guard against the drift towards pride that power and success often sets into motion.

For the record, I did not write this article from the perspective of a great leader lecturing less great leaders. At any given time, I’m working to be more consistent in at least five of these areas. Often, I’m more consistent at being inconsistent. In keeping with key 9, you should know that I am weakest in 5, 6, 9, and 15. 

Ryan French

AVP Episode Featuring the Article, Consistency (16 Keys to Outstanding Leadership)

9 Types of Church Services and Why We Need Them (Article + Podcast)

Many people approach church with preconceived ideas or expectations about what makes an excellent service. Rather than allowing God and the ministry the liberty to lead us, we stand (or sit) in judgment if God doesn’t “show up” in the way we expect Him to. In the Old Testament, God revealed Himself in many ways: burning bush, cloud by day & pillar of fire by night, whispering, thundering, and the list could go on and on. The moving of the Spirit is more than just a dance (and I’m all for dancing in the Spirit), and it’s more than only a time of blissful silence (and I’m all for those quiet and deep moves of the Spirit). Verse number two in our Bible gives a clue as to how the Spirit operates; “…And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters (Genesis 1:2).” John 3:8 compares the Spirit to the wind that blows where and when it wants to blow. My point is simply that the Spirit of God is not predictable, controllable, entirely understandable, and it is certainly not able to be manipulated by you or me.

The Spirit of God is not predictable, controllable, entirely understandable, and it is certainly not able to be manipulated by you or me.

It seems counterintuitive for an Apostolic to say the Spirit’s moving is more than emotional (although it can often be emotional). It’s foolish to relegate the Holy Ghost’s operation to mere emotion because our emotions often play tricks on us. The Holy Ghost can and should cause us to celebrate, speak in tongues, sing, shout, become demonstrative, and extravagant in our praise. However, we should also be receptive when the Spirit convicts, corrects, rebukes, teaches, perfects, and other various things that are sometimes painful. In other words, if we are genuinely seeking God’s will every time we gather together as the children of God, we will lay aside our manmade expectations and sincerely ask God to have His way. With this in mind, I have compiled a list of nine types of church services.

It seems counterintuitive for an Apostolic to say the Spirit’s moving is more than emotional (although it often is emotional). It’s foolish to relegate the Holy Ghost’s operation to mere emotion because our emotions often play tricks on us.

Comforting Services (John 14:26). Some church services are meant to bring comfort to our hearts. This can happen in many ways, but the Holy Ghost is indeed the great Comforter (John 15:26, John 16:7).

Evangelistic Services (Acts 2:38). Often church services are designed to evangelize the lost and answer the question, “…what shall we do (Acts 2:37)?” When the Spirit moves to reach the lost, it is vitally important that those of us who are already saved remain involved in the process. Spiritually mature Christians are ok when a service isn’t explicitly aimed at their needs. If you emotionally check out of evangelistic services, you need to check your Holy Ghost pulse.

When the Spirit moves to reach the lost, it is vitally important that those of us who are already saved remain involved in the process. Spiritually mature Christians are ok when a service isn’t explicitly aimed at their needs.

Reminder Services (John 14:26, Jude 1:5). Regardless of how long we have been following Jesus, we still become forgetful. Even worse, sometimes we slip into complacency, and so the Spirit often moves in our church services to remind us of things that we should already know.

Proclamation of Truth Services (John 16:13). When the Spirit moves, it guides us into truth. Proclaiming truth is one of the Church’s primary functions, and all of its activities should lead to the Truth.

When the Spirit moves, it guides us into truth. Proclaiming truth is one of the Church’s primary functions, and all of its activities should lead to the Truth.

Prophetic Services (John 16:13). Apostolic churches must be comfortable with the reality that God has not changed, and the gift of prophecy is still authentic. I know that prophetic gifts are sometimes abused, but so is everything else. The Church as a whole profoundly needs genuine prophetic gifts to be in operation.

Prophetic gifts are sometimes abused, but so is everything else. The Church as a whole profoundly needs genuine prophetic gifts to be in operation.

Family Reunion Services (Galatians 4:6). God is our Heavenly Father, which makes us brothers and sisters in the Lord (Galatians 3:28). Therefore, it is appropriate that we gather together and honor our family heritage. I think of this as a family reunion because the Church is not just one congregation. The Church is comprised of a massive number of congregations from all over the world. There should be times when we connect, refresh, uplift, and encourage one another.

Teaching Services (Ephesians 4:11). It’s important to remember that the apostle Paul included teaching within the parameters of the Five-Fold Ministry. Teaching services equip, train, and solidify our minds. Mature Christians covet good teaching.

Teaching services equip, train, and solidify our minds. Mature Christians covet good teaching.

Celebration Services (Exodus 15:19-21). We should celebrate the goodness of God all the time, but when God does something especially tremendous, we should focus our celebration around it. Some services will celebrate the goodness of God.

Giving Services (1 Chronicles 29:9, 2 Corinthians 8:1-5). Although consistent giving is needed, sometimes a spirit of sacrificial giving is required to advance the Church’s mission. This is the type of service that usually meets the most resistance. Even pastors fear this kind of service. Don’t let fear or carnality keep you from reaping the blessings birthed out of sacrificial giving.

Although consistent giving is needed, sometimes a spirit of sacrificial giving is required to advance the Church’s mission.

Conclusion

Healthy churches experience a blend and balance of the nine types of services mentioned above. Furthermore, healthy Christians are comfortable with each of these service types. Unhealthy churches get stuck overemphasizing two or three types of services to the exclusion of the rest. This creates a spiritual imbalance. Every church service contains some elements of the things mentioned above, but there is an overarching theme that God is directing us towards. Learning to be sensitive to the Spirit is one of the most important spiritual disciplines a believer can cultivate.

Learning to be sensitive to the Spirit is one of the most important spiritual disciplines a believer can cultivate.

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Been Hurt By A Pastor? (8 Reasons You Should Stop Talking About It) – Article + Podcast

I’m a pastor, and pastors have hurt me.

My most painful experiences came from individuals who should have been spiritual shepherds. I’ve counseled enough people to know that I’m far from alone in that scenario. Thankfully, I’m a preacher’s kid with a father who’s the real deal. He believes what he preaches and lives it too. I’ve had that consistent role model to follow when other peers and leaders let me down in dramatic ways. For that, I’m truly grateful. I’m not talking about petty grievances of the “they didn’t shake my hand” or “they didn’t appreciate my potential” variety. I’m talking about legitimate situations where a pastor (or minister) was blatantly, perhaps even chronically hurtful, sinful, or harmful. Neither am I talking about leadership differences, stylistic clashes, or minor judgment lapses; I believe in pastoral authority and apostolic boldness. I am comfortable receiving rebuke and correction from a spiritual leader. Nor am I easily offended or hard to please. I am not fazed by the reality that pastors are fallible and very human. As a preacher, I know my shortcomings all too well, so it’s easy for me to cut the preacher some slack. Regardless, real spiritual abuse does occur; good people do bad things, bad people masquerade as good people (Jesus repeatedly warned us this would be common), and everyone makes mistakes. When these things happen, it’s only natural to want to tell anyone and everyone who will listen. I know it’s tempting, but that’s precisely what you should NOT do.

I’m not advocating sticking your head in the sand. Seek godly counsel, deal with the problem, keep a good spirit, put it in the past, and keep it there. As Paul said, “…forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:13-14).” Have you been hurt, disenchanted, disappointed, or even harmed by a spiritual leader? If so, you’re in good company; Jesus was crucified because of the influence of religious leaders. And yet, it was Jesus who admonished us to forgive and move on (Matthew 5:44, Mark 11:25, Matthew 18:21-22). I want to address eight reasons why I think we should avoid reliving these experiences in our conversations.

Been hurt, disenchanted, disappointed, or even harmed by a spiritual leader? If so, you’re in good company; Jesus was crucified because of religious leaders. And yet, it was Jesus who admonished us to forgive and move on.

1. It will produce, maintain, and enhance a dangerous root of bitterness in your heart.

Bitterness will destroy you and turn you into the very thing that hurt you in the first place. Hurt people do hurt people.

Bitterness will destroy you and turn you into the very thing that hurt you in the first place. Hurt people do hurt people.

2. It plants unhealthy seeds of distrust in the hearts of the hearers.

Quick analogy, I respect police officers very much. I believe that most police officers are honorable people. However, I’ve had an extremely bad encounter with a police officer who was supposed to serve and protect. I don’t dwell on that one experience because I want my children to respect police officers. Will there be a day when I explain to them that there are a few bad apples out there? Yes. But that will never be my primary focus in conversation because, in the grand scheme of things, I want my children to honor and respect those who serve them. When it comes to spiritual leaders, I am even more careful. I do not want my family, unbelievers, or fragile saints to live under the impression that MOST truth preaching pastors are bad because of a FEW sinister truth preaching pastors.

I do not want my family, unbelievers, or fragile saints to live under the impression that MOST truth preaching pastors are bad because of a FEW sinister truth preaching pastors.

3. It’s not possible to move forward safely when you are always looking backward.

As a kid, I had a weird habit of running while looking over my shoulder. Yeah, I ran into a lot of stuff and caused myself all kinds of unnecessary pain. When you frequently talk about past church hurt, you destabilize your present and endanger your future.

When you frequently talk about past church hurt, you destabilize your present and endanger your future.

4. Often, and sometimes without realizing it, we talk about such things with a desire to cause harm to the perpetrator.

Understandable as that may be, regularly rehashing church hurts goes against everything Jesus teaches us about forgiveness and loving our enemies and those who spitefully use us. God does not give us the authority to exact our own brand of revenge; revenge is the Lord’s (Deuteronomy 32:35, Romans 12:19).

God does not give us the authority to exact our own brand of revenge; revenge is the Lord’s.

5. The constant rehashing of pastoral failings can create a lingering distrust towards good spiritual leaders in your heart.

Despite human flaws, everyone needs a pastor. If you’re not careful, you’ll become so distrustful that you will never allow a godly preacher to have apostolic authority in your life. If that happens, the Devil will have accomplished what he set out to accomplish.

The constant rehashing of pastoral failings can create a lingering distrust towards good spiritual leaders in your heart. Despite human flaws, everyone needs a pastor.

If you’re not careful, you’ll become so distrustful that you will never allow a godly preacher to have apostolic authority in your life. If that happens, the Devil will have accomplished what he set out to accomplish.

6. Often, people who consistently dwell on ministerial failings use those failings as their primary excuse to justify their own bad decisions.

They excuse their bad behavior because of the bad behavior of a finite human being. Our relationship with God should never be destroyed because of a minister’s wrongdoing or anyone else’s wrongdoing. God does not cease to be good just because a man or woman hurt us. Wrong does not become right just because someone else goes crazy. David exampled this beautifully in the Bible. King Saul was out to kill him, and when David had the chance to take Saul’s life, he refused to touch God’s anointed (1 Samuel 24:10). Notice, David didn’t let Saul kill him, he removed himself from the situation, but he did not exact revenge or sink to Saul’s level of bad behavior.

Often, people who consistently dwell on ministerial failings use those failings as their primary excuse to justify their own bad decisions.

Our relationship with God should never be destroyed because of a minister’s wrongdoing or anyone else’s wrongdoing.

David didn’t let Saul kill him, he removed himself from the situation, but he did not exact revenge or sink to Saul’s level of bad behavior.

7. It keeps the wounds fresh.

There’s no hurt like spiritual hurt. It can be devastating and earth-shattering. Talking about it over and over again keeps that pain from healing. Take it to the Lord in prayer, leave it on the altar, and let Jesus mend your broken heart.

There’s no hurt like spiritual hurt. It can be devastating and earth-shattering. Talking about it over and over again keeps that pain from healing. Take it to the Lord in prayer, leave it on the altar, and let Jesus mend your broken heart.

8. It might invite the judgment of God into your life.

I know this one will rub some folks the wrong way. And I’ve wrestled with this concept myself. On the surface, it simply doesn’t seem fair that our improper reaction to someone else’s sin could bring judgment into our own lives. One of the strangest biblical accounts is the story of Noah becoming indecent and intoxicated shortly after surviving the great flood (Genesis 9:18-27). When Ham, his son, saw the situation, he cavalierly talked about it with his brothers. The text indicates a demeanor of condescension and disrespect for a man who had found grace in the eyes of the Lord. Noah was a righteous man who was in a temporary state of terrible failure. When Noah’s other sons (Shem and Japheth) realized what was happening, they took a garment and walked backwards into their father’s tent to cover his nakedness. This was not denial; they weren’t avoiding the problem or living in La-La Land. But they had enough respect for their father’s godly history that they would not approach the situation lightly or contemptuously. Ham and his descendants labored under a God-given curse from that day forward. When dealing with the spiritual failings of a genuine man of God, our demeanor matters.

When dealing with the spiritual failings of a genuine man of God, our demeanor matters.

A quick caveat, this article is not referring to false prophets, false teachers, or those who knowingly peddle false doctrine. Scripture clearly admonishes us to expose and rebuke them as needed (Galatians 1:6-9, Deuteronomy 13:1-4, Jeremiah 14:14-16, Titus 3:10-11, 2 Peter 3:15-18). Neither am I minimizing the pain that can come from a spiritual leader’s failings. Many people, like David, have been wronged through no fault of their own. I also realize that many people incorrectly perceive wrongdoing because they are rebellious or unteachable. That’s another issue for another day. For the record, I do not endorse allowing a minister who is in sin to remain active in ministry.

Ryan French

Church Hurt Doesn’t Excuse Backsliding

I should begin by expressing my sympathy to victims of genuine church hurt. It’s easy for me to empathize because I, too, have been hurt by “church” people. I’ve seen heroes up close only to find they were much less heroic than expected. I’ve watched in shock as brothers and sisters in the Lord acted more like devilish pawns in a cosmic game of chess. I’ve often felt lonely trying to do the right thing. Doing the right thing commonly goes unappreciated (or at least under-appreciated), and the unfairness of that can produce toxic levels of bitterness. Regardless, not one of the things mentioned above even slightly impacts my relationship with God or my commitment to righteousness. Still, church hurt seems to be the excuse of choice for backsliders, backstabbers, backbiters, and rabid bitterness these days. However, any excuse leading to self-justification rather than godly justification is spiritual suicide.

Any excuse leading to self-justification rather than godly justification is spiritual suicide.

Your Sin Doesn’t Make My Sin Ok

One of the great dangers Christians face is the temptation to justify their bad behavior because of someone else’s sin. Just because they’re drinking poison doesn’t mean you should too. Just because someone else is evil doesn’t excuse your favorite flavor of sin. Whether you’ve been hurt, let down, disappointed, disillusioned, or downright persecuted, your duty to God never changes. Jesus warned us outright persecution and disdain would be something His followers should expect to face (Matthew 5:10-12, Luke 6:22). If Jesus had a Judas, why wouldn’t you? It wasn’t Pilot the pagan who wanted Jesus dead it was the high priest Caiaphas who plotted His crucifixion. Truly, Jesus faced far more hurt from His own people than from the pagan world.

One of the great dangers Christians face is the temptation to justify their bad behavior because of someone else’s sin. Just because they’re drinking poison doesn’t mean you should too.

Just because someone else is evil doesn’t excuse your favorite flavor of sin. Whether you’ve been hurt, let down, disappointed, disillusioned, or downright persecuted, your duty to God never changes.

If Jesus had a Judas, why wouldn’t you? It wasn’t Pilot the pagan who wanted Jesus dead it was the high priest Caiaphas who plotted His crucifixion. Truly, Jesus faced far more hurt from His own people than from the pagan world.

The Reality of Church Hurt

Church hurt is genuine, and it should be prevented whenever possible. But in reality, if you live for God long enough, a wolf in sheep’s clothing is going to take a bite out of you. But I’d rather suffer persecution and be right with God than gain the whole world and lose my soul (Mark 8:36). Honestly, the logic of leaving church altogether because someone hurt me is just plain flawed. Do we quit a great job because of one lousy coworker? Do we abandon our dream home because of one horrible neighbor? Do we stop being Americans because of bad Americans? Do we stop going to our favorite coffee shop because of a rude barista? If we left every place or institution that hurt us at some point, we couldn’t go anywhere – including our homes!

Church hurt is genuine, and it should be prevented whenever possible. But in reality, if you live for God long enough, a wolf in sheep’s clothing is going to take a bite out of you.

If we left every place or institution that hurt us at some point, we couldn’t go anywhere – including our homes!

Excuses, Excuses

If we dig right down to the nitty-gritty, many people use church hurt as an excuse to do what they already wanted to do in their hearts; backslide. Furthermore, much of what some call church hurt is really just an easily offended spirit (Proverbs 19:11, Ecclesiastes 7:21-22, James 1:19, Luke 7:23, 2 Timothy 2:24). Correction is not church hurt. Disagreement is not church hurt. Oversight is not church hurt. Having your talents overlooked is not church hurt. Someone frowning at you is not church hurt. Strong preaching is not church hurt. Snowflake “Christians” are melting and calling the sun evil! Ironically, they usually hurt people while pointing to their hurt as justification for their bad behavior. It’s a smokescreen shielding their own carnality and spiritual immaturity.

Many people use church hurt as an excuse to do what they already wanted to do in their hearts; backslide. Furthermore, much of what some call church hurt is really just an easily offended spirit (Proverbs 19:11).

Correction is not church hurt. Disagreement is not church hurt. Oversight is not church hurt. Having your talents overlooked is not church hurt. Someone frowning at you is not church hurt. Strong preaching is not church hurt.

Snowflake “Christians” are melting and calling the sun evil! Ironically, they usually hurt people while pointing to their hurt as justification for their bad behavior. It’s a smokescreen shielding their own carnality and spiritual immaturity.

Real Relationship is the Key

Again, it grieves me to hear about Christians hurting Christians. We should be known by our love for one another (John 13:35). There’s nothing friendly about friendly fire! And yes, there are legitimate reasons to leave a church. Yes. There are times you have to expose a well-disguised wolf in sheep’s clothing. Sometimes you have to find a safer spiritual environment. But abandoning Truth because of hurt makes absolutely no sense at all. It’s like jumping off a bridge because someone pushed you to the ground or cutting off your foot because someone stepped on your toes. The real problem here is relationship. No. Not relationships between brothers and sisters in the Lord. The problem is a real relationship with God. You see, our relationship with God isn’t predicated on how others behave. I serve the Lord because He is my savior. Whatever others decide to do doesn’t change what Jesus has done for me. God’s Word doesn’t change because someone else failed. Sometimes we serve God with the help of others, and sometimes we serve God despite others. Either way, God is still God, and He is always good.

It grieves me to hear about Christians hurting Christians. We should be known by our love for one another (John 13:35). There’s nothing friendly about friendly fire!

Abandoning Truth because of hurt makes absolutely no sense at all. It’s like jumping off a bridge because someone pushed you to the ground or cutting off your foot because someone stepped on your toes.

Our relationship with God isn’t predicated on how others behave. I serve the Lord because He is my savior. Whatever others decide to do doesn’t change what Jesus has done for me. God’s Word doesn’t change because someone else failed.

Sometimes we serve God with the help of others, and sometimes we serve God despite others. Either way, God is still God, and He is always good.

Stay Near the Cross

The Psalmist spoke to this very issue when he said, “Great peace have those who love thy law; nothing can make them stumble (Psalm 119:165)”. Deeply loving the Lord and His Word will keep you from stumbling, mumbling, and bumbling when people let you down. Church hurt doesn’t excuse backsliding. Jesus didn’t call angels to take him off the cross because He loves us! No matter how difficult to endure, our crosses should never cause us to abandon our Savior who suffered for us.

Deeply loving the Lord and His Word will keep you from stumbling, mumbling, and bumbling when people let you down.

Church hurt doesn’t excuse backsliding. Jesus didn’t call angels to take him off the cross because He loves us! No matter how difficult to endure, our crosses should never cause us to abandon our Savior who suffered for us.

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Praising the Lord in All Things

We sat holding our newborn baby, watching as the doctor drew a diagram. It was a heart. He drew what it should look like. Then he drew it with the four abnormalities of the congenital defect known as tetralogy, the condition with which our first son, Ryan, was born. At first, my untrained eyes didn’t even recognize the blueness around his little eyes and lips. We found ourselves in the midst of a journey for which we were so unprepared, a long walk of faith. But in those first few moments that day with the heart specialist, our world changed forever, and I was about to join the ranks of the “hospital moms!”

As home missionaries to a western Chicago suburb, we expected sacrifices and hardships, financial and personal. But we never expected anything like this. In fact, over the next six years, Ryan underwent four complex open-heart surgeries, at three months, eighteen months, four years, and five years of age.  And, each time, the surgeon was working only millimeters from Ryan’s coronary artery. Thankfully, the Lord understands when we question our circumstances, knowing that we see “through a glass darkly.” These were undoubtedly the “desert of our days,” and our faith, like never before, would have to stand the test of fire. Like the three Hebrew children, we came to realize that faith is not merely knowing “God is able to deliver us.” We, too, prayed, “but if not,” as the operating room doors closed before us, only to find that same God standing with us in the midst of the fire.

Each was supposed to be the last, yet we came to the day we had to tell Ryan that he needed a fourth surgery. I will never forget the difficulty of explaining that to a five-year-old with vivid memories of his hospital experiences. For two years, he was the poster child for the Chicago Metropolitan Heart Association. At the news of the surgery, his blue eyes filled with tears. “What did I do wrong?” he asked. Quickly, we reassured him that he’d done nothing wrong. Nevertheless, the test of faith had come yet again. But, at age eight, when a previously inserted patch began to leak, and surgery was inevitable, the miracle came! My husband was preaching a camp on the east coast when, in the middle of the service, the Lord spoke to him that He had just healed Ryan! The doctor soon confirmed it. The leak had, indeed, sealed off—this time, God had chosen to deliver from the fire.

Our hospital journey, though, was not ended. We had now been blessed with two more sons, Jonathan, two, and six-month-old Nathan. The same week of Ryan’s miracle, Jonathan, began limping and could barely walk. The doctor, after blood work and scheduling orthopedics, reassured us – lightning rarely “strikes twice in the same place.” Still, we felt something was very wrong. His fever spiked, and he became lethargic. Then, suddenly, I had a sense of “knowing” exactly what was wrong. I shared it with my husband. With news now about the second of our sons, we received the call from our concerned family doctor, “I hate to have to tell you this, Reverend and Mrs. French.” Then, he said the very words I had spoken to my husband earlier, “Jonathan has leukemia!” We were to leave immediately for Chicago’s Children’s Memorial.

In the early morning hours, though dazed, the first miracle in this fiery trial became clear. As Jonathan was diagnosed with acute lymphatic leukemia, God had given me a word from Him. Then, the Lord said to me, “I spoke to you to assure you that I am here. I know all about it. My face is turned in your direction.” As battle-weary as we were, I desperately needed extra grace, so the Lord prepared the way, a peace beyond understanding. Nevertheless, the seemingly endless chemo, the needles, the non-sedated bone marrow aspirations, the spinals – were all incredibly difficult. But, early into treatment, I was blessed to hear Sis. Nona Freeman minister on the subject: “Praising the Lord in All Things!” God used it mightily. God was reminding me of the source of my strength amidst the trial – the power of praise!

Praise God for his mighty power! Twice God delivered Jon as he went into life-threatening septic shock, as doctors worked feverishly over him to save him. One day a newly purchased minivan suddenly appeared in our driveway, keys and all! Later, at a particularly low point, Jon could barely eat, yet the doctors allowed us to take him to his great grandfather’s funeral near St. Jude hospital. So we took him, as well, to a special service nearby for prayer. My husband’s unsaved step-father joined us and wanted to hold his grandson as they anointed him. The Lord’s touch was instantaneous, with Jon immediately asking his grandpa for something to eat! Powerfully moved, grandpa returned the next week and received the Holy Ghost!

The mountain of medical bills was miraculously wiped out, with one incredibly huge sum forgiven in total because they inexplicably lost the account! The trials left no hint of smoke, only the sweet aroma of the presence of the One Who stood with us in the midst of the fire. Both Ryan and Jon are well and active in the church we pastor in Atlanta, Ryan serving as Associate Pastor and Jon as a vital part of our youth and music ministry. To God be the glory.

The trials left no hint of smoke, only the sweet aroma of the presence of the One Who stood with us in the midst of the fire.


Podcast Episode with Mom (Rebecca French

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Rebecca French, alongside her husband, Dr. Talmadge French, has faithfully served the members of Apostolic Tabernacle in Jonesboro, Georgia, for ten years. They have been married and leading in numerous ministry capacities for forty-three years. Rebecca’s greatest joy is that her three sons, their wives, and her six grandchildren serve the Lord.