Church Attendance ’16

In 2016 I decided to keep track of my church attendance. I have been impressed by sermons and posts online about the importance of local church membership and attendance. I hope that this does not become some type of legalistic standard for any to follow. My intention was to measure my church attendance in 2016. I don’t actually know quite how to interpret the results, but here they are if you are interested.

My church meets Sunday morning for Sunday School, then again for a service, then again Sunday evening. We also have a Wednesday night prayer meeting.

All that being said, with the various cancellations in 2016, my church offered 205 opportunities to hear God’s Word and pray with the brethren.

I attended 84% of those services or 172 times.

I attended another church 10 times when it was at the same time as my church, bumping my total attendance to 182 meetings or 89% of possible time. Or seen another way, I attended my church 88% of the time after “excused absences.”

If I subtract out family matters which kept me from church, my overall attendance rises to 94%.

I don’t know if that is good or bad or whatever. It is just what it is. I do know that if a person just attended my church on Sunday morning for one service, they’d have a 25% attendance rate so it is better than that. If I only went to 3 of those services each week, I’d have a 75% rate.

I also taught or preached 25 times. That is about 5 months of teaching once a week. This was spread all throughout the year. But out of 205 “services” I ministered 25 of them, meaning I teach about 12% of the time, or every other week on average.

So how are you doing? It is early enough in 2017 for you to start keeping track and seeing how you do. What would your commitment be if you bought season tickets to a sports team? Better than 94%? I think this is a thoughtful way to try to measure yourself without condemning yourself or finding your hope in your church attendance. If anything, I hope it would help you in some way.

I’m Not Ashamed

Jonathan Edwards resolved “never to lose one moment of time; but improve it the most profitable way I possibly can and “never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do, if it were the last hour of my life.” 1

I’m Not Ashamed, the latest Pure Flix movie to hit the big screen, teaches the same concept. I want to strongly recommend you see this movie! Unfortunately, I have to issue a couple warnings as well.

I'm Not Ashamed

Let’s start with the positive elements:

I’m Not Ashamed is “based on the inspiring and powerful true story and journal entries of Rachel Joy Scott- the first student killed in the Columbine high school shooting in 1999.” 2 Rachel Joy Scott’s story is about far more than her stand for God she is known for taking at the end of her life, though. This movie is raw emotion!

When you watch the film, it seems like a random array of chopped up scenes. They do not always have the best transition from scene to scene. But when you realize you are viewing events as described in a teenage girl’s private journals, that makes sense. It is Rachel’s story you are viewing, and it seems the move makers kept things true. For this reason you will be taken down the emotional valleys that this person really experienced. I’m not sure you could make a movie like this up. The emotions are too raw.

When we make Christian movies or stories, we highlight the good things. We make heroes out of men and women. When, in reality, I’d argue that most of the history of Christianity has been filled with average men and women who simply serve a great God. Rachel Scott’s account seems to have very little whitewashing. She is caught up in sin and doubt and lack of affection for God at times in a way that many other Christians have experienced but were afraid to talk about.

The insight this movie gives into the pressures and difficulties facing a young Christian lady in 1999 are startling. I can only imagine it is even harder to walk the Christian talk in 2016! Praise Jesus for His saving grace.

What I most noticed about this movie which I will apply to all of us is the reality that none of us really lives as if it could be ours or our loved one’s last day. The depiction of the events of April 20, 1999 prior to the Columbine High School shooting will leave you wanting to kiss all your relatives and tell them you love them. And the reality that people young and old may be standing before God even today is enough to motivate me to more urgently dispense the gospel.

I really hope you will see this film about Rachel Scott. Her life is worth hearing about.

Unfortunately, there are some aspects to the film I must criticize. I can overlook the bits of bad theology. If they were really exhibiting Rachel’s thoughts, then I can accept that a recently converted 17 year old girl who didn’t appear to have solid discipleship espoused some errant ideas. I hope you can overlook bits and pieces of things that aren’t perfect teaching.

What I can’t understand is why a movie that is supposed to be about Christianity would have young men and women locking lips to act out kissing. Look, I understand, it is a biography and not everything depicted is ‘holy.’ But you can depict beer drinking without actually imbibing; you can depict an argument without having a heart full of anger. You can depict lots of sin without actually sinning against God, since sin starts in the heart.

But you cannot depict sexual acts by actually performing them and say it is just acting. I am sorry for the people who gave away a piece of themselves in the name of acting for this movie. And, aside from that, the depictions were more than a bit sensual. I fear that someone who is weak in the area of fighting temptation to lust could easily be led into sin, even if only in their mind, as the result of the sensuality displayed – which was really going on.

I will make a plea. A final argument that if you are performing a play or a movie or whatever it is: you can find a way to show that someone kissed without actually compromising the purity of the actors. Had this movie been made 30 years ago, it would have been boycotted by Christians. But it is a sign of the times that this is acceptable, and, frankly, what was done in this film is really minor compared to what you might even see in a commercial or a billboard while driving to work.

The little research I’ve done has yielded wonderful faith that the movie really was an accurate depiction of real life events. I have to be careful drawing assumptions about Rachel or other characters in the movie who the movie wasn’t about because, as well done as it was, the movie is only a part of the story.

I do believe that a discerning Christian can enjoy this movie for what it is, a biography of a young lady who, amidst struggles and temptation, was kept faithful by our Father in Heaven, and by our Lord and Master Jesus Christ. It is truly by faith alone that we are justified and by God’s Spirit that we are sealed. Rachel’s private struggles made public teach us that even the faintest of us will be made strong for the day of battle by His grace.

John 10:27-28 [Jesus speaking] My sheep hear my voice, and I know them and they follow me. I give them eternal life and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.



VBS 2016 – Kids Say the Funniest Things

Twas the middle of the week. Thursday, I believe. We’d been talking about Noah and the flood all week, and we were looking at being thankful to God for His protection and provision.

I had a poster depicting Noah burning an animal on a stone altar. I asked the children, what did Noah do when he got off the ark?

“He burned an animal!” came the astute replies.

I asked, “Why did he do that?”

“To show he was grateful to God!” they said.

Seeing wonderful opportunity I told the children, “That is exactly what we are going to do. We are going to burn an animal too to show God we’re thankful!” The discomfort was palpable. Mission accomplished.

At this point I glanced across the room at my trusty helper, Kenton, a 7th grader. My class was used to me picking on Kenton by now. I said, “Kenton: did you bring the squirrel I told you to catch?”

Kenton sat and stared. I think he knew I was kidding, but he didn’t know what to say. It was perfect. To a more gullible being, Kenton appeared to have been caught in the act of not doing what he was told.

In my best I’m-disappointed-in-you voice I commented, “I ask you to do one lousy thing, and you can’t do it?”

It was at this point a student named Hayden piped up and said, “Let’s burn him, then!”

And that, my friend, is the funniest thing I’ve ever heard said by a student at VBS.

The Rich Man & Lazarus

I was once again privileged to preach to the folks at First Baptist Church of New Albany, OH on the final Sunday of May, 2016.

As you, dear reader, may know, I have recently been trying to memorize chunks of Scripture. One of my favorite passages is Psalm 34. As I believed the end of Psalm 34 dovetailed nicely with my sermon text (Luke 16:19-31), I attempted to publicly recite Psalm 34 ESV from memory as the Scripture reading portion of the sermon. My kids noticed only a couple mistakes.

It was truly a blessing to recite Scripture from memory publicly; it is much harder than testing myself on my iphone. Additionally, I really enjoyed preaching this message from the Bible. I hope you will be encouraged and convicted as well.

The Fish of a Belly

My wife quite affectionately let me know that I referred to the “fish of a belly” during my final sermon from Jonah at Bethel Baptist Church of Pataskala. I’ll chalk it up to being overtired from preaching. It’s harder than it looks. I’ll post about that some other time.

Here is the entire series for anyone interested. I appreciate any comments you may give me.

A Beleaguered Believer is Beached

Jonah cried out to God from the belly of the great fish. Then, God grants Jonah a change of heart whereby he agrees to obey. Another brilliant OT text full of application for today. Here is the sermon I preached Sunday, May 15 at the evening service at Bethel Baptist Church of Pataskala. Make sure to check back this week for chapters 3 & 4.

Jonah’s Jaunt from Joppa

Jonah is one of the more interesting saints we read about in God’s Word. His behavior and thoughts expose us to contradictions which can make us uncomfortable. The short book buried in the ‘lesser-read’ section of the Old Testament has many themes about our immutable and longsuffering Savior and Lord, the truths of which ought to bring you to worship.

Here is the audio of my Jonah 1 sermon. I will post Jonah 2 soon. Lord willing, Jonah 3 & 4 will be preached May 22 and I’ll post audio after.