Note: This is the first of a three-part series about Christian marriages.
An alarming number of Christian marriages end in divorce. What can the church do to reverse this trend?
I had just started my new position as an associate pastor back in 1983. There I was at a barbecue for the adult Christian singles. The majority of those attending were divorced. With each hurting conversation and each prayer of restoration, my burden grew for these singles.
Later that year, I sat in a small support group for divorced men and women, hoping to find how to best minister to them. One of the singles, perhaps sensing my dilemma, blurted out: "The best way you can minister to the divorced is to minister to marriages." It was then that I realized that the greatest ministry I could have to the divorced single was to build strong marriages.
Richard E. Anderson, 91, senior pastor at Faith Tabernacle Church in San Jacinto, Calif., for nearly 50 years, passed away peacefully at his home on Thursday in Hemet, Calif.
He was born to Earl and Dewey Anderson on March 23, 1921, in Hobart, Okla. At 18, he was gloriously saved and called into ministry. Anderson was one of God’s Generals with a 73-year heritage of victory in faith and full gospel ministry.
He was ordained a minister with the Pentecostal Church of God in 1941. Anderson specialized in educating ministers and lay leaders involved in the ministry through School of Bible Theology Seminary and University (SBTSU.org), and was a valiant defender of the gospel of Jesus Christ and Pentecostal distinctives.
Nearly 90 percent of pastors believe they should not endorse candidates for public office from the pulpit, according to a recent survey by LifeWay Research. The survey also revealed that 44 percent of pastors personally endorsed candidates, but did so outside of their church role.
The survey of 1,000 Protestant pastors found that only 10 percent believe pastors should endorse candidates from the pulpit. Eighty-seven percent believe (71 percent strongly and 16 percent somewhat) pastors should not endorse candidates for public office from the pulpit. Three percent of pastors are not sure.
For comparison, LifeWay Research found in a December 2010 survey that 84 percent of pastors said they should not endorse candidates from the pulpit.
How an overly politicized culture may affect our view of leadership
Would Moses have run for president? And if so, would anyone have voted for him? Instead of “choosing to run,” Moses would more likely have only served if convinced he was truly “chosen to lead” Israel. Even then, it would’ve been difficult. Unlike American politicians, instead of running for office, Moses would have been more likely to run away from it.
The most important consideration of Moses and the Oval Office for church leaders, however, is this: How does the roller-coaster world of U.S. presidential politics affect or infect our pure biblical view of leadership within the church? The fact remains, while our nation is embroiled in the search to elect a political leader to serve the nation, the church is still responsible to call upon godly ones to serve the church.
A God-given plan for avoiding the pitfalls of power, prestige and possessions
Have you ever wondered why God the Father would allow Jesus to be tempted by the devil? In the desert? In a weakened physical state after Jesus had just spent 40 days fasting?
I believe God allowed His Son, our Savior, to endure these kinds of trials to benefit us—the people He came to renew and redeem. He knew our lives would be filled with temptation. By allowing Jesus to experience the same adversity, He gave us the preeminent model for how we can and should respond to the enemy’s lures.
The Three P’s: Power, Prestige, Possessions
Just as Satan attacked and tempted Jesus with what I call the three P’s (power, prestige, possessions), we can count on Him doing the same thing to us—repeatedly.
Power. First, the devil tempted Jesus by appealing to Him to use His power to turn stones into bread (Matt. 4:3). By refusing, Jesus not only showed us how to overcome temptation, He also reassured us that He understands our struggles firsthand (Heb. 4:15). Instead of using His divine power, Jesus enlisted Scripture and rested in His Father’s power.
Don’t miss this: Jesus refused to establish His identity on the basis of what He could do. Essentially, He told Satan, “My identity is based in My Father’s power, not Mine.”
Do you base your identity in what you do? For years, Satan used this “P” on me. I thought my power—or my profession of being an NFL player—defined me, and that people would accept and like me because of what I did. If I lost my career, who would I be? I bought the lie of believing that what I did defined me as a person. The big problem is that NFL stands for “Not for Long.”
When we ground our identity in what we do, we never win. It’s bondage.
Prestige. Second, the devil tempted Jesus with prestige: “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down” (Matt. 4:6). Jesus didn’t find His identity in opportunities to promote Himself, but in being God’s Son. Once again, He went to Scripture to deflect Satan’s appeal to prestige (v. 7).
If you haven’t already been tempted with prestige, you will. We live in an age of self-preoccupation and self-promotion. Our culture values and worships superstars. The popularity explosion of Facebook and YouTube should tell us something: People love to promote themselves. Conversely, Jesus valued humility and called His followers to be servants (John 13:1-17).
Possessions. The third temptation was possessions—probably the No. 1 scheme Satan uses to shipwreck the common man. Satan offered Jesus all the kingdoms of the world (Matt. 4:8-9). But Jesus, once again secure and grounded in His identity as God’s Son, refused to find His identity in possessions. He crushed Satan once again, using Scripture (v. 10).
Every advertisement or commercial screams, “Buy me and you’ll be better.” Granted, there’s nothing wrong with having nice things. But when things have you or when you find your identity in what you possess, something has gone terribly wrong.
Strength Training in the Wilderness
Jesus knew His identity was secure and anchored as God’s Son. By refusing to find His identity in power, prestige or possessions, He resisted (I like to think He drop-kicked) the devil. Because we are God’s sons and daughters through our faith in Jesus (John 1:12; 1 John 3:2), we too can resist and defeat Satan’s temptations.
Take time this week to think about and ask yourself these questions:
Each day this week, send yourself a text or email, reminding yourself that power, prestige and possessions do not define you.
Derwin Gray is the founding and lead pastor of Transformation Church, a multiethnic, multigenerational, mission-shaped community in Indian Land, S.C. From 1993 to 1998, he played football for the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts and the Carolina Panthers. Gray is the author of Hero: Unleashing God’s Power in a Man’s Heart and is a highly sought-after communicator. For more information, go to tc521.org.
Have you ever wondered what is happening to churches today? Many have lost their sense of purpose, floundering for identity, in a sea of hundreds of other churches competing for the same people. Approximately 80 percent of “church growth” numbers can be attributed to people transferring from one church to another rather than new converts. As many as 3,000-4,000 churches close their doors every year—unable to stay open due to financial burdens, infrastructural turmoil and apathy.
In this discouraging environment, day in and day out, pastors and church leaders toil for the kingdom of God. Often overworked, underpaid and unappreciated, they deny themselves the luxury of time for rest and spiritual renewal. Is it any wonder that more than 1,500 pastors leave their churches every month due to spiritual burn-out, moral failure or contention within their congregation?