This! Destined to be Dog-eared…

unnamed-7Allen Webster says More than 20 years in the making, (this book) seems destined for a rare shelf-life of a generation or more in church libraries across the brotherhood. More importantly, I foresee worn and marked copies on elders’ nightstands and in preachers’ studies. 

Each year at Polishing the Pulpit Glenn Colley’s real-life scenarios are the most popular elders’ classes. These give shepherds the opportunity to discuss difficult situations using “rubber bullets” instead of the “live rounds” they must use in making decisions back home.

This book gives God’s men the opportunity to prepare ahead of time for challenges and to find solutions when the heat is on. Churches across the land will find their elders making better decisions. I highly recommend Awake at Night.” 

Alan Highers says “This is a practical book. It has grown out of actual sessions with elders who share their problems and difficulties. There are suggested solutions and recommended procedures for dealing with a wide variety of real situations that elders encounter. This is a virtual ‘handbook’ for an eldership. I know of no other book like it. There are many worthwhile books discussing the qualifications and duties of elders, but there is little in print to help elders in handling sensitive issues that arise within a congregation. This book fulfills that need.”

But I say—“Just get it!” For many years I’ve been languishing about leadership; the famine we’re in for lack of elders who are willing to do the hard things that are required for leading the church through an era of cultural relativism and ignorance of the scriptures in the body, itself. I’ve been encouraging mothers to do all we can to bring up our boys to be elders; to put backbones in them for the battles that are inevitably facing our congregations in the twenty-first century church. We need to be raising our girls to be the helpers, encouragers and comforters of these up-and-coming men of God. We simply have to make it our aim…our project, if you will…to put the qualities in our children that will make them ready for some difficult engagements with the devil’s forces in the next generation, should our God choose to let our world continue.

This book is the most “real” thing I’ve seen for preparing church leaders. Over the years, my husband has collected real, but anonymous problems elders have faced in recent times, for the purpose of an elders’ workshop session he conducts annually at Polishing the Pulpit (http://polishingthepulpit.com). The scenarios chosen for the book are designed to prepare and challenge today’s Christian men to lead God’s people with wisdom and courage. They include situations involving divorce and remarriage, other moral issues, doctrinal questions and sin in the lives of elders, themselves. While this is not necessarily a “happy” book, it’s a book filled with hope. It’s a bold attempt to transform the problems elders face today into teaching tools for tomorrow’s leaders. The “solutions” given in the book are both scriptural and practical.

I know the editor of this volume is my husband, but I’m really not promoting him. I want this book to fall into the hands of current elders who need resolve to stand against sin and division. I hope it falls into the hands of others who are already determined. They’re praying and working and loving and leading their flocks and are worthy of double honor and our encouragement. I hope it falls into the hands of young fathers who are already planning and preparing to take the reins of leadership when their turns come, because great leaders don’t just “happen” when old leaders die. I hope it falls into the hands of your sons and mine as we work to develop leadership skills in them—skills that will bless the kingdom. 

One lady left Huntsville last weekend with enough copies on hand so that each of her elders could have one. Do you know elders who are struggling, young men who can be tomorrow’s leaders, men who could present this material to the men of your congregation? The governance of the church has been perfectly designed by God. It’s up to us, though—mere humans— to develop qualified men who are up to the challenge of this greatest office to which mortals attain. I believe when we give this book to our elders, fathers, preachers and sons, we give strength to our congregations.

You can order here: http://thecolleyhouse.org

Sister to Sister: Oh Shepherd, Where Art Thou?

Headed-to-the-OfficeWhere? Where were the brave men in the church in Memphis, Tennessee who should have stood up and said, “We cannot bypass the expressed Will of God in First Timothy 2 by sanctioning the leadership of women in prayer and song in our worship? We simply cannot allow this to happen.”

Where were elders in Franklin, Tennessee during the years of digression that culminated in the hiring of the first woman pulpit intern at that church? Were there some who fought, at least for a time?

Where are elders in churches where groups of worshippers are clamoring for change; advocating the use of instruments in worship, the taking of communion on various days of the week, and  special religious observances on Easter and Christmas? Where are the shepherds?

Where are the bishops today when young couples are finding their way to divorce courts, young singles among us are openly living in fornication, and millennials are falling away in percentages that are taking our breath away? Are they going after them?

Some are. But in far too many churches, shepherds are not keeping the vigil. False teachers are allowed to bring heresy in and leaders allow Christians to scratch their heads and observe “Well, this is different than anything I’ve heard,” without coming before the people and refuting plain contradictions of the Word. So often, they fail to mark those who are causing division and, thus, churches divide and the Cause of Jesus suffers as communities see brethren who are splintering churches.

But, Cindy Colley, are you just ranting? This is a women’s blog and the sisters to whom you write cannot lead churches (except those churches you’re taking about which digress)!

There is something you can do. I would LOVE, through this blog to make a difference in the future of a congregation. What if we could do it through a book? I think we can. I want to encourage you to take a copy of “Headed to the Office” to your elders and respectfully ask them to let your boys take a quarter and study how to become faithful elders. What if you wrote your elders a note that  simply asked them to consider it?…

Dear Brothers,

Thanks for all the time spent in working to make our congregation pleasing to God. Thanks for protecting our souls. I hope you can take the time to look over this material. I’m praying for sound elders one day to take your places in shepherding this church. I think a quarter or two in a class of young men with this material could make a difference in getting there. Thanks for considering this! 

If your congregation is doing Lads to Leaders, your boys can enroll in the program through LADS. The material is here: http://l2l.mybigcommerce.com/curriculum/. But even if you’re not in the LADS program, this study is needed and may be the early intervention that gives your congregation the stamina to one day withstand the devil in a mighty way. I would encourage you to go order one copy…just one…to pass along to your elders. I’m convinced it’s a tiny investment that could keep congregations strong through what threatens to be an era of persecution.

Again, you can order from Lads to Leaders (not necessary to be a participating congregation) at the above link or, alternately, you can order from The Colley House at http://thecolleyhouse.org/store#!/~/category/id=3290179&offset=0&sort=normal. Nine dollars. Not much to invest in strong shepherds for the next generation in your congregation.

PS. An added benefit that we have seen is that men grow when they teach this material to boys. Some classes even include dads and mentors and it puts the church on a fast track to having strong qualified elders. I’m praying about this tool today. I’m praying for strong churches when today’s teens take the reins. They have huge potential handed to them by God and by an environment of available resources. We should challenge them to put  this potential to work in the only institution on earth that commutes over to the timeless side.

 

Duck Dynasty: A Clear Call?

It’s been a imageschallenge for me to come to the point of the post today. The whole world, it seems, is ecstatic about that camo-clad duck hunting family in south Louisiana. They are down-to-earth, fun-loving, family oriented people. And they talk about the Lord. They talk about what’s wrong with America without Him and they talk about baptism that puts people into Christ. How can I possibly speak disparagingly about such people?

Well, I don’t want to do that. I get it. I get that Hollywood has become so extremely wicked, so hopelessly vile that Duck Dynasty and any other show that doesn’t openly and repeatedly take the holy name of the Lord in vain, exonerate drunkenness, adultery,  and homosexuality, and feed its audience a diet of constant vulgarity is a breath of fresh air. So I have really hesitated to say this.

Second, I’ve hesitated to say this because I know it really doesn’t matter what I think about Duck Dynasty (or anything else, for that matter). For Christians, it just matters what God thinks about our decisions and behavior.

But for all of that, still, I’ve been forced to think a lot about how various groups of Christians have clamored to have famous members of that family come to speak for fundraisers for Christian universities and even in some of our pulpits. So, this morning, in a quiet hotel room, as I wait for my husband to finish a speaking engagement, I took the time to review a few clips, and later, to even watch a few episodes. They made me smile. They have a way of making you see the funny side of our human natures. It’s no wonder they are at the top of the viewing charts, especially in the South where most of us haven’t fully bought into the politically correct, tree-hugging mentality. We like it that they think it’s okay to kill and eat animals. They resonate with us. We especially like it that they are a family still intact in a society of broken homes. That resonates with us as Christians.

But I have concerns, too. Since I am not a reviewer for a Christian magazine and I do not have to give a comprehensive review, I am just going to tell you, as a Christian parent, what worries me about Duck Dynasty.

First, the show doesn’t reflect so honorably on the church. While I am thankful that I did not hear expletives, I did hear the word “crap” almost immediately when I began to watch. Then it wasn’t long before I heard “dang” and a southern drawn out version of golly and “Let’s get the heck outta here.”  Perhaps I’m too sensitive. Perhaps I am a prude. But I still hope that my  children and grandchildren find crude words as well as euphemisms like those to be distasteful and unbecoming (Col. 4:6).

Second, I watched a clip of Phil Robertson preaching in which he clearly stated “I don’t care if you have a glass of wine or a beer. The Lord don’t either.”  I believe him to be mistaken about that. I believe God’s people in our society have no business drinking recreationally, at all. My reasons for this conviction are found in other places on this blog. I’m worried, though, that when we make a hero of this man, as we have done in many of our Christian schools and other venues, we endorse this message that drinking is okay. We may endorse it in the minds of young people that we really, for all the world, do not want to ever experiment with alcohol. I’ve prayed since my children were born that they never would drink beverage alcohol. I see the ruin that could have been avoided in so many lives had someone not experimented that first time.  Then there’s episode of Duck Dynasty in which the Robertson family decided to branch into the winery business. They drank wine in that episode and they hosted a wine-tasting event. This is disheartening to me; not because I think those who watch such a scenario are necessarily sinning in watching, but because I hear Christians all around me celebrating the fact that this family is such a great example of faith in Hollywood. I just do not think such an episode represents our faith so pristinely. In fact, if my family were so publicly involved in the filming of an attempt at owning and running a winery, I believe my elders would come talk to us about the reproach we had brought on  the body. I’m glad that they would. (I believe the episode about the homecoming dance is a similarly poor representation of Christianity, as well. This episode contains a number of examples of immodest dress and includes a father apologizing to his daughter for his opposition to the immodesty.)

Perhaps the most disturbing thing I have seen about the influence of the Dynasty had to do with the venue at which I saw Phil Robertson preaching. It was a “Bible Church” in Pottstown, Pennsylvania. It was in the year 2010. I was glad that he got the chance to tell the people there what to do to be saved. It made me happy that he got the chance to say those things in that venue. I believe we should always say the truth about salvation wherever we are given the chance; perhaps especially in a church like this one which was obviously not a faithful body of believers in any sense of the word.  But, after Mr. Robertson finished speaking, people with spiritual needs were invited to come and talk with the “pastor” there or with some of the leaders of that church about the Lord and about salvation. The “pastor” even promised that he would buy lunch for anyone who wanted to talk about the Lord. Phil Robertson stated his message and then put those who heard it in the hands of unsaved people to finish their teaching and encourage them to be part of a church that is failing to practice New Testament Christianity. This is the part of my morning that troubles me most. The New Testament is just so replete with warnings about false teachers. If you read the warnings to the seven churches in Asia in Revelation 1-3, it quickly becomes clear that we are not to bear with those who are teaching false things about salvation and worship, much less to leave the teaching of those we may have contacted to those who will lead them to false worship.

I guess I am pretty much alone in my thinking here, but I don’t get the positive frenzy of members of the Lord’s body about having these folks come to speak to our communities. I hear some who say “We can never get them to come hear anything about the gospel at any other time, but if we have the Robertsons come, people will come.” Perhaps there’s truth in that. But I guess my question would be “Will the message of Phil Robertson make anyone with a denominational mentality question that mentality or will that denominational person infer that he should just choose a church once he is “in Christ”?  I know that is certainly how the video I watched this morning seemed to conclude. The last words of the “pastor” were something like “You need to be in a church. It doesn’t have to be Berea, but you need to find a church.” The video showed this “pastor” collecting all the contact information of all the people who had attended, presumably so they could be contacted by that church.

Once again, I guess I am trying to sort out in my own mind exactly what I think about Duck Dynasty and its amazing popularity among people of God. I am certainly not saying that it’s sinful to watch the show.  I’m just thinking I don’t want my Baptist neighbors to think I endorse crude speech or drinking a beer now and then. I don’t want them to think I think it’s funny when Christians are involved in the wine industry or are endorsing dancing and immodesty. And I really don’t want them to think I believe one church is as good as another.  I pray that I can be more and more diligent in trying to show them the church of the Bible: its unique terms of entrance and required modes of worship. I want to show them the distinctive appeal of the restoration plea.

Phil Robertson is not helping denominational audiences to make this distinction when he speaks to them over and over again. If he were, they would either stop wanting him to come to their churches or they would decide to be baptized for the remission of their sins and then worship faithfully as the church or body of Christ. Today (Saturday, August 11th), Phil can be heard at Man to Man Ministries, a ministry led by Glenn Ross, a Baptist pastor, in Victoria, Texas. On August 24th, members of the family will be speaking at Characters of Character at Auburn University, a fundraising event for Youth for Christ, an ecumenical organization involving lots of denominations, so far as I can tell. Its first full-time employee was Billy Graham. On September 7th, Jase will be speaking at Christ’s Church weekend worship in Jacksonville, Florida. I listened to some of the worship there. It is instrumental, charismatic and doctrinally non-committal. I am not saying that it is wrong to speak the gospel in any of these venues. It is just very difficult for me to see how one could speak the full gospel and still be popular in such venues.

So, I’m worried. “Cindy Colley, you worry too much,” may be what you are thinking. But I still do. I’m just not sure our kids are going to understand the distinctive plea of New Testament Christianity if we are lauding those among our own churches who are promoting organizations propelled by denominations and even those denominational churches themselves. I surely would like to promote truly clean television. But it’s mixing the funny show with religion that worries me most. I’m not sure presenting Duck Dynasty’s ministry to our non-Christian friends is really tantamount to presenting Christ to them. I’m not sure our kids will get the clear picture either. In fact, I think we may be sending a very confusing message.

Our children need heroes. But let’s do all we can, as moms, to insure that their heroes are strong and faithful defenders of the Christian faith…men (and women) who will don the super-hero armor of Ephesians six and battle the forces of this world, shepherds who are heroically guarding the flock and Bible scholars who have trained themselves to use the Sword.

Sources in addition to episodes of Duck Dynasty:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_3MwBGsj7kw&list=PL6806390762AB4BC2

http://mantomanonline.org/members/xcellence/home.nsf/2/glenspeaks

http://www.yfc.net/about/history/

http://www.ccontheweb.com/mandarin-campus

http://www.duckcommander.com/duckmen/events/event/201/dinner_with_the_duckmen.aspx

Got Boys?

Just yesterday I got a message from a friend in Tennessee who had been listening to some materials from Polishing the Pulpit. Specifically, she had been listening to a lesson about how girls can avoid abusive relationships–signs to look for, and how to get out of those situations. Her question was interesting:

“Do you have any materials for guys who get into similar dating relationships?” As she explained further, I understood that she wasn’t speaking about physical abuse, but rather the avoidance of getting involved with girls who are controlling and demanding. In short, she was speaking about avoiding getting into marriages in which the wife would be unable to live in submission as is so clearly commanded in Ephesians five and other passages. I believe that our failure to develop male spiritual leadership in many congregations is one of the top two problems plaguing the church today.

I am very excited that several congregations have recognized the need for addressing some specific dating and leadership issues for the young men of our congregations. West Huntsville will be hosting a seminar later on this year. For now, though, I wanted you to know about an upcoming opportunity in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. I know this faithful church. I, personally, know these faithful speakers. May I recommend that, if you live in driving distance that you try to make this happen for the young men in your life? It could be one eventful morning that makes a difference for their lives and eternities. It may even be the morning that gives some sweet girl down the road the priceless gift of a faithful husband. Here are the details: Young Men’s Seminar Flyer

That Four-letter Word: PROM

I’m a little surprised and a lot saddened that I am hearing (and reading) gospel preachers and elders who think we should not teach young people to avoid the 2011 prom. I hope these guys are using better logic on other risky behaviors than on this subject. Here’s the defense of the activity: “My daughters went to their proms and they turned out okay.”
Here are some true statements I could make about my own two children. (The fact that these are true statements does NOT mean that I would encourage your children to do these things):
My son ate dishwasher detergent once and he turned out okay.

My daughter rode in a car through a terrific rainstorm while the driver watched a tv show on his i-phone and she turned out okay.

My daughter played with a friend who sprayed Mr. Clean directly in her eyes and she turned out okay.

My daughter sat for a long time in a dark, desolate subway station in the “bad” part of New York City in the middle of the night with one of her girlfriends and she turned out okay.

My son once diverted his attention when he should have been looking and got hit square in the head with a baseball…but he turned out okay.

You get the point. Very bad logic. Just because your children have grown into reasonably spiritually healthy adults in spite of some risky behaviors does not license thinking parents to endorse such behavior. (In fact, if I as an adult encourage such behaviors, I might be held liable for their consequences.)

I have in recent years heard the sad story of a mom whose twelve-year-old son saw fornication occurring in a dark corner of a chaperoned middle school dance. (That image, unfortunately, will be seared into that kid’s memory for life.) I had a teacher, who was called on to chaperone the prom at her high school, relate to me how a girl’s gyrations on the dance floor caused her to lose her strapless, very low-cut dress, suddenly becoming completely topless in front of much of the student body. I have heard about the after-parties, the drinking and sex. In fact, I was recently in a hotel trying to sleep and prepare for a full schedule ahead while one of these parties was occurring. It was not pretty. I even attended a funeral of a young man who was killed when his car left the road when he was on his way home in the wee hours from a night of prom partying. I can hear some of you saying, “But my prom is not like that.”

Is your prom a place where you could predict with near certainty that the majority of the girls would be dressed in clothing that exposes backs, cleavage, or thighs? Is your prom a place where guys and girls will feel free to move their bodies to the beat of music in seductive ways in full view of the guys? Is your prom a place to which you would feel uncomfortable inviting the Lord, himself? Is your prom a place where you would be uncomfortable if you knew His second coming was going to occur that night? If your prom is any of these places, may I suggest that you should opt out of this very optional activity? Shouldn’t words like “Abstain from the appearance of evil,” and “Flee fornication,” and “Whatsoever things are pure…think on these things,” have any relevance at all when we examine our options and make decisions about cultural activities that most assuredly push the limits of virtue?

And then there is this passage that, for me, seems so critical when we think about the prom of 2011. It’s Galatians 5:19-21.

Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.

Without examining the actions, we easily see their consequences. Those who do these things and other clear (manifest) and similar (such like) works of the flesh shall not inherit the kingdom of God. That’s the consequence of doing things that are in the list.

“Lasciviousness” is in the list. What does the word mean? It means “whatever contrasts itself to purity.” It means “debauchery, a profligate lifestyle, activities that incite lust.” It does not mean “fornication”, for fornication is elsewhere mentioned in the same list.

What troubles me most about the word “lasciviousness” in this list and our acceptance of the prom as an innocent cultural rite of passage… our celebration of it, is that Thayer, one eminently qualified scholar on an extremely short list of respected modern Greek scholars, includes these words in his description of lasciviousness: “unchaste handling between males and females, indecent bodily movements.” Pornography would be characterized by one of these two descriptive phrases. Most table-top or pole dancing in bars would have to be characterized by one of these two. XXX rated movies would be necessarily characterized by one of these two. But ladies, the kind of dancing that is most popular at proms around our country today is characterized by both! And fathers of teen daughters in the church today are paying for their daughters to purchase skimpy-topped dresses–dresses that bare both back and cleavage– to participate?! Give thinking people a break!

“Reveling” is also on the list. Reveling means “a carousal, a letting loose.” It means “feastings at which obscene music is played.” It likely has specific reference to some of the feasts of idolatry among the Gentiles of Paul’s day. These feasts were characterized by partying with unclean music, lascivious behavior and often excessive drinking. I don’t know about you, but I think there are many proms around our nation each spring that might aptly be described as “reveling”.

It’s important to remind ourselves as we make daily decisions that the actions listed as “works of the flesh” in Galatians 5 are obstacles in the way of the kingdom. They are roadblocks to heaven.

For this reason the elders in my congregation have asked our teens not to attend the prom. They are kind in their petition, but they are firm in their resolve. Since I have been a part of the West Huntsville family I know of only one of our young people who violated the elders’ request. These godly men lovingly talked with her upon finding out that she had attended. They encouraged her repentance and prayed with her as she did repent. They spared our younger teens the questions about the appropriateness of her decision and about the consistency of the elders in their shepherding. At the risk of boasting about our shepherds, may I say that their loving commitment to help our youth make godly choices in the midst of a culture of subjectivism is extremely refreshing and most helpful to parents and teens who really want to do the right thing?

Prom. It’s probably my least favorite subject to address. I don’t win popularity contests in many churches when I talk to women about the prom. All of the young ladies in a congregation where my daughter was speaking recently missed the ladies’ day activities on that particular Saturday because they “had” to spend the day getting ready for prom. I wish godly adults had made it easier for these girls to grow some spiritual muscles on that day. But instead, the ladies were mostly very excited and extremely unashamed about the “big day” for their daughters…a day that included missing a great time of fellowship and of studying about spiritual priorities…a day that included adult-approved and purchased immodesty and dancing…a day, at best, given over to the culture instead of the Lord. Poor little rich girls! How blessed they would be if parents had enabled them from young and tender ages to choose to step as far away from instead of as close as possible to the temptations of the devil who walks about as a lion seeking to devour them.

P-R-O-M. Sometimes I think it stands for Parents Relinquishing Our Minds!

P.S. These girls and guys from Middle Tennessee are blessed with church leaders (as are our West Huntsville teens) who help them avoid temptation by planning a prom alternative—a fancy dress-up night with all of the anticipation and fun and none of the regret! Thanks, Jennifer (middle front) for the photo. Someone remind me of the name of your congregation and your great Bible teacher and I will post them.