Tuesday, October 17, 2006


Or maybe several somethings-or-other.

I've been chasing around after God since the early 1960's, which is a long time. That's relevant in this, as I learned early on that the Bible said what it meant and meant what it said. And it was God doing the saying, too.

That does include the statement that we do various agricultural activities down here, but God does the growing. In fact, God is the cause of all good things, especially including the Spiritual ones.

One of the things I noticed about the Southern Baptist Churches with which I'm familiar, is that many are proud of what they do. They post attendance and offerings and all sorts of other stuff. Hence it's no surprise that we hear superlative terms here and there throughout the SBC, like "The world's largest protestant denomination", or "The world's largest missionary-sending group", or "Claiming 16 million members". Our church, one time, announced the "World's largest block party".

Don't I even recall someone referring to the IMB as the "crown jewel of God's missionary outreach?"

Why do we say things like that? Do we think that a new record in Sunday School impresses the same God who saved 3,000 people when Peter stood and preached a short simple sermon at Pentecost? Do we think God does a "mighty work" when 3 couples join our church by transfer from another SBC church? Particularly when 100 new members might increase attendance by 20 or 30?

Oh, I know. ... the old "trust the Lord and tell the people" thing. In response to that, I wonder how many people (A) remember the offerings and attendance after they leave church, and (B) call to inquire about the numbers if they missed attending one Sunday. With 16 million members and something under half of them there, churches ought to be swamped with calls about that.

The defeat of the Integrity in Membership resolution did more than anything I've ever seen to let the real light shine out from under the basket. And the silly, inane "reasons" offered in response were simply ludicrous.

SO: why is this going on? Perhaps ....

We're so proud of the purity of our doctrine that it's become an idol of sorts and we'll prove it by tossing out folks who don't go along with the interpretations of the few.

We're so proud of our numbers in attendance that we announce and publish them .. but we keep them as far away as possible from our membership numbers so no one will make the connection. Why don't we start publishing ... instead of attendance ... the number of members on our rolls, and the percentage that was there on Sunday. And let's publish the percentage at the prayer meeting, too. And maybe how long we actually prayed.

Didn't Jesus say something about what "His Father's house" would be called? What it would be known as?

We spend a lot of money making our buildings not only big enough for our assigned task (Good Thing) but also beautiful. We say we want to "glorify God". Didn't He say that He doesn't live in buildings made by hands? The times of worship that absolutely rocked my world have been in ...

A Russian church in an old converted theater building. Let's just say the porcelain facility did not have a normal seat on it. But oh, the praise....
A Latvian church in an old musty building where people simply got lost in worship .. and occasionally fell over when I prayed for them....
A Russian apartment where God put 3 worship leaders together at 1am and we had church well into morning...
A little church on a hill overlooking Kingston, Jamaica, where the instruments are on their last legs but the praise is fresh and vibrant every Sunday...
A small room at Kingwood Church where we got on our faces before God and people stepped over me to go pray with someone else...

It's easy to say "all glory to God" when we're about whatever we're doing. And it's true and worth doing. But the issue of pride and arrogance, it seems to me, goes way beyond that, and I see more of it around me and in me than I wish were there.

Proverbs 16:18: Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.

As I look around at the IMB parameters, the Integrity of Membership issue, the McKissic flap, the Joshua Convergence et al ... I have to ask:

What's it coming before, this time?


At 12:17 PM, October 17, 2006, Blogger Kevin Bussey said...

Interesting insight.

Thanks for the call!

At 2:48 PM, October 17, 2006, Anonymous JIM HEDRICK said...

God help me to hate my sin. Pride and all. Thanks for the perspective Brother CLEVELAND

At 7:25 PM, October 17, 2006, Blogger IN HIS NAME said...


From where I set, I just don't think they have the HEART for it. I think God's Word says it better than I can.

Act 27:25 So take heart, men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told.

1Co 4:5 Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.

1Co 14:25 the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you.

Mat 5:8 "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

Mat 5:8 - Blessed are the pure in heart,.... Not in the head; for men may have pure notions and impure hearts; not in the hand, or action, or in outward conversation only; so the Pharisees were outwardly righteous before men, but inwardly full of impurity; but "in heart". The heart of man is naturally unclean; nor is it in the power of man to make it clean, or to be pure from his sin; nor is any man in this life, in such sense, so pure in heart, as to be entirely free from sin. This is only true of Christ, angels, and glorified saints: but such may be said to be so, who, though they have sin dwelling in them, are justified from all sin, by the righteousness of Christ, and are "clean through the word", or sentence of justification pronounced upon them, on the account of that righteousness; whose iniquities are all of them forgiven, and whose hearts are sprinkled with the blood of Jesus, which cleanses from all sin; and who have the grace of God wrought in their hearts, which, though as yet imperfect, it is entirely pure; there is not the least spot or stain of sin in it: and such souls as they are in love with, so they most earnestly desire after more purity of heart, lip, life, and conversation. And happy they are,

for they shall see God; in this life, enjoying communion with him, both in private and public, in the several duties of religion, in the house and ordinances of God; where they often behold his beauty, see his power and his glory, and taste, and know, that he is good and gracious: and in the other world, where they shall see God in Christ, with the eyes of their understanding; and God incarnate, with the eyes of their bodies, after the resurrection; which sight of Christ, and God in Christ, will be unspeakably glorious, desirable, delightful, and satisfying; it will be free from all darkness and error, and from all interruption; it will be an appropriating and transforming one, and will last for ever.

In His Name

Wayne Smith

At 7:42 PM, October 17, 2006, Blogger Bob Cleveland said...


Amen. God's good at all He does, and He's doing this well, too.

I have no idea where it's all going, but God will be glorified, regardless.

At 8:28 PM, October 17, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So true Bob. Well said. We need to get back to where we were when we first were saved by grace. On our knees in asking God's forgiveness and thanking Him that we are His not because of our greatness but because of His grace.

At 4:34 PM, October 18, 2006, Blogger Scotte Hodel said...

What? Use the prayer meeting to actually pray?

Your post kind of reminds me a scene in The Muppets Take Manhattan when Kermit's marketing colleagues responded to him:
"What? Tell the people what the product actually does? No one's every tried that!"

Tell the truth? What a novel idea.

I knew you were a dangerous radical.

Keep it up.

At 4:44 AM, October 19, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow!!!! Keep it coming, Bob. Great word. Pride haunts me so and because of that I see it well... in others. I praise God for my wife, who has to hold up a mirror occasionally. I also praise God for men like you sounding this call and exposing the sin in the church.


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