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Just Do It: Speaking and Living God’s Word

Posted on August 27th, 2013 Bible | No Comments »

by Nathan A. Cherry, The Family Policy Council of West Virginia

The Bible wisely warns, “To him that knows to do good, and does it not, to him it is sin.” (James 4:17).  This message compels us to do the things we know to be right regardless of the consequences. And this message directly applies to our current socio-political circumstances. Christians are called to be faithful preachers of God’s word, and as such, must seek to preach the “whole counsel of God.” Unfortunately, many think it is OK to skip over the parts about the sanctity of life and marriage that some might find controversial. If we truly believe the Bible is God’s word, we should not omit any part simply because society finds it offensive. The Gospel is offensive because it declares there is only one way to Heaven, which is through Christ and by faith. Will we stop preaching this to avoid offending someone? No. As Christians, we have a responsibility to stand for truth, not just in church, but as we go about our daily activities interacting with others. Pastors have an even greater responsibility to do this since they have been entrusted with the souls of their congregation.

Jesus was once asked, “Who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29) This is a pertinent question that demands not just an answer, but action. To be clear, our neighbor is not just our family or friends or those we go to church with each Sunday. Rather, our neighbor is also the woman who just had an abortion and who must hear that Jesus is capable of forgiving and healing her.  Our neighbor is the co-habiting couple down the street that needs to hear that marriage is a sacred covenant between one man and one woman. Our neighbor is the also the homosexual couple who adopted a child without grasping that children need a mother and a father.

Without a doubt, these people must be treated with dignity or respect, even if their actions contradict our Christian beliefs.  But we must love them enough to share God’s truth—even if this means offending them.  We have a moral duty to share Biblical truth with family, friends, neighbors and even acquaintances.  For pastors, this means that Sunday is the perfect opportunity to speak truth to those gathered in the house of God.

If you have received God’s grace and know the truth, you now have an obligation to speak it. You cannot ignore truth and still have a clear conscience. The good news is that when we do what God is calling us to do, He will honor our efforts. This does not mean that every person is going to agree and love us. Some people will get mad and be offended by our professions of faith. But just as Jesus stood up for Stephen as he was being stoned to death, so too will Jesus stand up for those who do right.

Don’t live out your faith in silence while your neighbors continue to live sinful lifestyles. There is nothing loving about letting people live in sin without telling them there is freedom in Jesus. You know what is right, now you must be willing to proclaim God’s truth.

Russell Moore recently said that Christians:

“need to start seeing the fact that we’re very similar to the way the Christian church was at the very beginning of its existence — a minority of people who are speaking to the larger culture in ways that are going to sometimes seem freakish to that larger culture. I don’t think that’s anything that should panic us or cause us to become outraged or despondent. I think it’s a realistic view of who we are.”

Our views will seem “freakish” to a lost culture that is becoming increasingly hostile towards Christians. But that still does not justify remaining silent. Let us never forget that America’s Christians and pastors need to stand boldly for truth regardless of the consequences.

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Church Security: Feds Release New Guide for Developing Church Emergency Plans

Church security is not a particularly popular topic. No one wants to think that my church would ever be targeted for – well, the unthinkable. But unfortunately the unthinkable does happen and you’ll want to be prepared if it happens to your church.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (“FEMA”) recently released a new guide to help churches develop emergency plans. This 34-page document lists basic steps that churches can take to identify threats, develop security goals, and then construct and implement emergency plans.

Although the FEMA guide contemplates all types of emergency situations – including natural disasters and medical emergencies – it is particularly helpful in formulating a response to human threats, and even active shooter situations. Knowing what to do before, during, and after an incident can minimize the impact on church property and avoid loss of life.

The complexity and particular details of the security plan will vary by church. Alliance Defending Freedom has developed general security recommendations and a security FAQ, both of which are available here on our Speak Up Church website. There are also numerous church security resources online, such as the National Organization of Church Security and Safety Management. Check out these resources, and then make sure your church has a security plan.

Strong, Informed Pastors Help Christians Live Faith Publicly

Posted on August 23rd, 2013 Culture,Religious Freedom | No Comments »

by Nathan A. Cherry, The Family Policy Council of West Virginia

Pastors, your church needs you to be engaged—fully engaged—in the issues people are facing every day. Maybe you are not personally facing these issues, but they might be. If congregants come to you for help and advice and all you say is, “Sorry to hear about this,” then you’ve failed them.

Elaine Hugenin, owner of Elane Photography, chose not to photograph a same-sex ceremony. Her religious convictions prevent her from using her talents to celebrate same-sex unions. When she declined to photograph the ceremony, the same-sex couple, ignoring Elaine’s right to freely exercise her faith, brought a case against Elane Photography and the New Mexico Supreme Court unjustly found her guilty of discrimination, even though the same-sex couple easily found and used another photographer to capture the ceremony.

I can’t help but wonder what counsel her pastor provided, if any?

In a similar situation, the owner of Arlene’s Flowers in Washington State declined to offer her floral services for a homosexual couple’s same-sex “marriage” ceremony. The state attorney general has filed a lawsuit against the flower company. Barronelle Stutzman believes her Christian convictions prevent her from supporting the same-sex “marriage” and does not want to violate her convictions. She is still being sued, even though dozens of flower shops can provide flowers for their ceremony.

What insights did her pastor offer during this troubling time?

When the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop said he would rather close his business than violate his religious convictions by baking a cake for a same-sex ceremony, he was sued for discrimination. He is doing his best to stand firm and adhere to his faith but he is being attacked by locals within the community and the media. The same-sex couple, along with the ACLU, have filed a suit against Masterpiece Cakeshop, even though other bakeries could provide a cake for the ceremony.

What words of wisdom did his pastor offer during his hour of need?

Pastors often talk about controversial issues in a detached manner saying they are outside of the church and her scope. But these are real Christians—members of real churches—whose livelihoods, reputations, and lives are being attacked in a very public way. These issues are not outside the church, but within, and must be addressed so that these Christians can live their faith fully and carry their cross with the strength and support their church provides.

Pastors, congregants need you to be informed, engaged, and buttressed by your support and wisdom. If all you offer them during a difficult time is an obscure Bible verse, you might appear indifferent and uncaring. A shepherd needs to care for the needs of his flock, especially when their livelihood is at stake because of their Christian beliefs.

Pastors must be a solid rock for Christians during trying times when they are being assailed by our enemies.  They must be a counselor, friend, and inspirational resource. Make sure congregants know that they can come to you and count on your support. Here are two ways you can show your congregation your support during difficult times.

1.     Skip the rhetoric. Don’t recite sermons, prepared statements, or doxologies from books. Be a real friend, one who cries with them (Rom. 12:15), and is willing to walk by their side through this valley of darkness. I love sermons, Proverbs, Psalm and great quotes from men of God, but sometimes people just need a shoulder to cry on. Be that shoulder.

2.     Become a resource. (Ecc. 4:12) When a person’s character is being assaulted publicly and their livelihood is threatened, inspiring words only go so far. Become a resource for people in your congregation by making sure you are up-to-date on their situation, aware of laws and people and organizations that can help. Familiarize yourself with groups like Alliance Defending Freedom, the Family Research Council, and your local state family policy council that can provide legal and public policy resources.

Difficult times are opportunities for pastors to minister to the needs of their congregants. You will only be able to minister effectively if you are prepared. As ministers of the Gospel, we should endeavor to be “instant in season and out” (2 Tim. 4:2). When people need us, let’s be ready with God’s Word and the necessary resources to stand with those God has entrusted to our care.

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Church Buildings and Same-Sex “Wedding” Ceremonies

Posted on July 29th, 2013 Churches and Politics | 3 Comments »

One of the first questions we are usually asked by pastors whose states have redefined marriage and adopted same-sex “marriage” is whether they will be required to allow use of their church buildings for same-sex “wedding” ceremonies.  This is not an unreasonable question considering that at least one city has considered forcing churches to allow use of their buildings for same-sex “weddings.”  But the very simple answer to that question is an unequivocal “no.”  Churches do not have to allow use of their facilities in ways that are inconsistent with their biblical beliefs.

Church buildings are private property and are used primarily for the exercise of religion.  As such, the use of church buildings is cloaked with First Amendment protection both under the Free Exercise Clause and the Free Speech Clause.  If the government attempts to force a church to use its private property in ways that are inconsistent with its religious beliefs, the government would violate the church’s First Amendment rights.

Put simply, a church has a right to only allow uses of its facilities that are consistent with its religious beliefs and to deny all other uses.  No church should ever feel compelled to open its buildings for use in a same-sex “wedding” ceremony.

The best way to protect your church is to adopt a facility usage policy that outlines the religious nature of the church buildings and restricts usage of the facility to uses that are consistent with the church’s biblical beliefs.  It is always best to adopt a policy governing the use of the facility because a policy is powerful evidence of the church’s beliefs and practice regarding use of its buildings. And if your church adopts a policy, it should follow that policy consistently.

Alliance Defending Freedom has prepared a sample facilities usage policy for churches. This policy is crafted to allow churches to make the decision as to what uses they will allow and to ensure that the church has the ability to approve uses consistent with its biblical beliefs and to deny all other requests to use the church buildings. Download the policy today and consider having your church adopt it.

And if your church is ever told that it must allow use of its facilities for something that is inconsistent with the church’s beliefs, contact our attorneys to review the facts. We want to ensure that the church remains free to minister through its church buildings in ways that are consistent with its religious faith.

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A Roadmap for Pastors: Three Steps to Defend Biblical Truths

Posted on July 29th, 2013 Religious Freedom | No Comments »

by Nathan A. Cherry, The Family Policy Council of West Virginia

I’ve spent a lot of time with pastors encouraging them to get involved and be proactive in defending religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and marriage and family. Some are standing tall and speaking boldly. Some are sitting on the sidelines. And many others simply aren’t so sure how to engage a culture that is moving steadily away from biblical truth.

One pastor recently asked me a simple question, “Where do I start?” He was feeling overwhelmed and just needed to know what the first step was in joining the conversation about the critical issues of the day. He also wanted guidance on how best to get his congregation informed and involved.  That got me thinking about how many other pastors nationwide might be feeling the same.

Here is short list of steps every pastor can take to get started.

Step 1:  Knowledge is Power:
Stay informed on the critical issues.

As a pastor, your congregation needs to know they can come to you with questions and concerns about pressing social issues. They want you to engage in intelligent conversation and provide them with the biblical firepower to combat the half-truths and misconceptions perpetuated throughout society. Nothing is more frustrating or discouraging to a church member than to ask their pastor important questions on fundamental religious issues, only to receive vapid responses such as, “I don’t pay attention to trivial things in society,” or “Don’t waste your time reading the news, just read the Bible.”

But there is nothing trivial about the issues of religious liberty, life, and marriage and family. For many church attendees, the issues of life and marriage are central to their everyday lives and they need to know their pastor can handle their questions. Nothing screams “irrelevant” like not having a clue about what is going on in society.

Tip: Use a good news aggregator to stay informed. I use Feedly. This way, instead of having to go to a dozen websites for news, the news will come to you. I recommend following the Engage Family Minute, Alliance Defending Freedom’s Alliance Alert and Speak Up Church Blog, Family Research Council’s FRC Blog, World Net daily, and Life News. If you follow these, you will be well-informed.

Step 2: Spread the Knowledge:
Share information with your congregation.

As a pastor, your congregation looks to you for guidance. A pastor can harness his influence to teach his flock a practical theology—a lived faith that stands tall against liberal trends that mock God’s ways. If a pastor stays informed and shares this Godly information with his congregation, they will increasingly see him as someone they can trust and count on.

When major news happens, talk about it in church. If a pastor ignores crucial events like the Sandy Hook shooting or the Supreme Court rulings on marriage, he will be missing prime teaching opportunities that can bring biblical truths to light. There is more than just a social context to these events; there is an opportunity to share deep biblical truth about God’s design for human dignity, life and marriage. And once your congregation is equipped in this Gospel knowledge, they will be able to share it with all who cross their path.

Tip: Use social media to teach even when you’re not preaching. By using social media, you can have tremendous influence on your congregation even when they are not in church. Don’t be afraid to share articles or comment on events happening in the community and around the country.

Step 3: Faith in Action:
Encourage the flock to be informed and active.

A lot of pastor’s want to steer clear of being “too political” in church. But even if this is the case that doesn’t mean a pastor can’t encourage his congregation to stay informed and be active. Just because your church may not hold a pro-life rally, that doesn’t mean you can’t encourage others to participate in one elsewhere. Many worthwhile national events like the Sanctity of Human Life Sunday, Pulpit Freedom Sunday, National Day of Prayer, and Call 2 Fall provide an excellent opportunity to unite your congregation in a lived faith that sets an example for the community. You can’t simply say you are pro-life or pro-marriage without getting involved. Faith demands action.

By staying informed on local and national events, you can encourage your congregation to be an active light in the community and stand for biblical truth. This can only lead to infinite opportunities to spread the Gospel.

Tip: Set an example for your congregation by personally getting involved. You can do this by letting your church know you are voting and encouraging them to do the same. You can also support a local, state, or national organization as a church and work as a community to bring about lasting change. Organizations like Care Pregnancy Centers can never have enough support. Take action and encourage others to do the same.

These are just three small steps that a pastor can take to advance the Gospel and lead others in standing for God’s truth. If a pastor does not care about biblical issues being assaulted in society, why should their congregation?

It is only once a pastor is armed with knowledge and the will to share and act on it that others will follow. And maybe once this happens, Christians across America will be able to help prevent and overturn bad court decisions such as Roe v. Wade or the striking down of one of the crucial articles of DOMA defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

There are no short-cuts. Our nation’s spiritual leaders must rise to the occasion so that others may follow to preserve religious liberty, life, and marriage and family.

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