Biblical Mandate VS Personal Preference

As Pastors we are pretty good at identifying when our people are putting personal preferences ahead of Biblical principles but we are less able to identify this trait in ourselves.  A couple of years ago I was teaching a Pastoral ministries class for a local Bible college and we were discussing the observance of the ordinances.  Most of the students came from a traditional southern baptist background and were used to observing the Lord’s supper in a fairly typical manner — i.e. the elements were served by the deacons and distributed to the congregation by passing the plates around.  But students from other backgrounds came with a variety of ways that the elements were distributed — some had the people come forward to receive the elements, others had stations where the people went to receive the elements.  In addition, there was a noticeable divide in the class over who could distribute the elements — some argued that only men could distribute, others argued that they must be ordained etc…  The interesting thing about this discussion to me was that nearly every student believed they were practicing the Lord’s Supper was not only right but that the other ways were wrong.

That debate went on for the better part of an hour and every student made passionate and theological arguments for their case about why their way was the right way.  Not one of them, however, could point to a clear passage of Scripture that gave support to their argument.  Every student in that class was serving as a Pastor in a local church but not one of them could separate their own personal/denominational preference from Biblical mandates.  In fact, the majority of them ended up arguing the case for their preference as if they were basing it on a Biblical mandate.

I am convinced that this is a problem in my own ministry and suspect that it is a problem in yours as well.  Over the years, I have counseled with a number of Pastors who were having various troubles in their churches.  The trend that I have noticed is that while we are very adept at seeing where I our people confuse their personal preferences with a Biblical mandate, we are blind to the problem in our own lives.  So let me give you a few key questions to ask yourself:

1.) Is this really important?  Adrian Rogers coined it this way many years ago, “Is this a hill on which I am willing to die?”  The sad truth is that often Pastors simply can’t decide what is important and what isn’t.  We are willing to die on every hill, no matter how insignificant the matter, that we fight worthless battles.  So the first question that I ask myself is “Is this really that important?”

2.) What does the Bible say?  When faced with a decision take the time to actually sit down and think through what the Bible has to say about the matter.  Notice that I said, “what the Bible has to say” not “what does your favorite preacher/author have to say about it.”  Frankly speaking, we need to stop resting the authority for matters of faith and practice in the hands of the experts and return it to where it belongs— the Bible.  We all have our favorite authors and Pastors but the truth is that they are not the authority for the church. You are not ready to make a decision until you have made an honest examination of what the Bible says about the matter.

3.) Is this the right time? When you are leading a church you need to make a set of clear priorities.  Sometimes Pastors fail simply because they try to make too much change too fast.  God has sent you to the church for the long haul, be patient and willing to set things of secondary important aside in order to get get the more important things done.

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Tonight’s Republican Presidential Debate Will Be the High Water Mark for Donald Trump

Mark it on your calendar, I am predicting that tonight’s Republican will be the high water mark for Donald Trump’s campaign.  That doesn’t mean that I think he’s going away quietly tomorrow morning but he will begin to experience a drop in his popularity that will lead to his withdrawl from the field.  Here are a few reasons why I believe this will be the case.

1.) Tonight’s venue does not allow Trump to feed off the crowd.

Trump is a performer who loves to feed off the crown.  Back in August, during the first debate, he was able to feed off both the positive and negative energy in the crowd.  But tonight he is going to be in a much smaller venue and the candidates have each been able to invite just a handful of their supporters.  This means that Trump is going to face a much different crowd and won’t be able to feed off the emotion like he did back in August.

2.) The other candidates are going to be better prepared for him.

There is no doubt that Trump is a good counter-puncher.  Until now it hasn’t been a problem that most of his counter-arguments border on the ridiculous, but I predict that is going to change tonight.  Tonight he will face nine opponents, including Carly Fiorina, who have been preparing for him.  My prediction is that the sheer volume of the attack he will face will overwhelm him.

3.) The moderators for tonight’s debate are going to do a better job of exposing him.

The biggest story coming out of last month’s debate was Trump’s comments about Megyn Kelly both during and after the debate.  Tonight, however, the debate will be moderated by Jake Tapper with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt and CNN Chief Political Correspondent Dana Bash asking the questions.  The presence of Hugh Hewitt who recently exposed Trump’s lack of foreign policy knowledge on his radio program and who Trump recently referred to a a “third rate journalist” should be interesting.  Hewitt is a well known among Republicans and I predict he is going to expose Trump on a number of issues over the course of the debate.

4.) Carly Fiorina, John Kasich and Ben Carson are poised to make a move.

While a great deal said about Ben Carson pulling almost even with Trump in Iowa, little has been said about the fact that John Kasich is in second place and rising in New Hampshire.  FYI- According to his campaign Kasich is right on track with where they want him to be and is looking to expand his campaign outside of New Hampshire.  I have no doubt that he will be looking to make a big impact on voters in tonight’s debate and since he has more experience than anyone in the field he can be a force.  (Personally, he has my vote and I think that the entire Republican part would do well to get behind him)  Carly Fiorina made a huge impact during the JV debate back in August and she will show herself to be more than up to the task of taking Trump during the debate, in fact, I think she will be one of the biggest factors in his decline.  Look for him to attack her and then be cut into shreds as she responds.

5.) The Legacy of Ronald Reagan will Expose Trump’s True Nature

I think it has become evident to everyone that Trump is no more Republican than the Pope is agnostic.  Tonight’s debate will be held at the Reagan Library, in fact that backdrop, will be overlooking the Air Force One that flew Reagan across the country and the world.  Hopefully, the visual reminders of Reagan’s legacy will wake up Republicans and expose Trump’s empty positions on nearly every subject.