Sunday, February 26, 2012

Church & Politics

I recently did a survey of large Free Churches on the issue of how they handle politics and our faith. The following is a white paper prepared by Valley Church of West Des Moines, IA. Since Iowa is so cruicial to presidential politics, this issue has received particular attention from Valley Church. I have found their thoughts and position on the matter helpful. Though it is somewhat lengthy, I hope it proves to be a blessing to you.

The Church as Salt and Light

The Lord's Command: Jesus said to his followers: "You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven." (Matthew 5:13-16)

Observations and Affirmations:
1. Salt and light: God's Word clearly declares that Christians individually and the church corporately are called to serve as a preservative from decay (salt) and as a guide to truth (light) in their respective cultures and settings. Clearly, God does call us to pray for our leaders, to be responsible citizens, to be change agents in society, and to not forget that we are called to carry out many social responsibilities as Christians and as a church.
2. Different approaches: Christians and churches have (often legitimate) differences of opinions, convictions, goals, priorities, approaches, and strategies concerning how to engage and influence their culture to the glory of God. God has honored many different approaches, as seen in biblical examples and church history.
3. Need for wisdom: Great wisdom is needed to determine the specific calling on an individual's life and ministry, as well as a particular church's calling and ministry.
4. God's calling: God may call different individuals and churches to differing kinds of involvement, priorities, and methods. We should, as far as the Scriptures and conscience allow, show respect to God's specific calling on that individual or church. Christian charity, respect, patience, and gentleness require that, as we develop our own biblically-based convictions, we give others the freedom to do the same. Where we find common ground, we can work together. Where we find differences, we agree to disagree agreeably.
Valley Church's Vision and Guiding Principles Vision: The church's primary vision is to help people become wholehearted followers of Christ. This vision is in line with the Great Commission given by Jesus Christ: "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (Matthew 28:19,20)
Certain guiding principles explain our core values and ministry philosophy. Specifically, the following two of our guiding principles shed light on the issue of being salt and light in culture: Outreach should be at the heart of all the church does. Like the heart, it drives the Body, and provides nourishment and vitality. We desire to reach as many as possible with the gospel of Jesus Christ. We are focused outward, not inward (Acts 8:1-4; 2 Timothy 4:1-5). It is our goal to penetrate our community by presenting the good news of Christ and by demonstrating love to the needs of the whole person (spiritual, physical, emotional, relational, material, etc.). The integrity and love of Christians opens the door for authentic communication of the good news to those who do not yet know Christ. (Matthew 5:13-16; James 2:14-17).
Valley Church's Approach to Salt and Light Issues: Given our vision and guiding principles, the church will engage in salt and light involvement in our culture with certain priorities and strategies. The principles that follow represent our primary, though not exclusive, involvements.
1. We make a distinction between "the church gathered" (the visible Body of Christ gathered in public assembly) and "the church dispersed" (individual members of the Body of Christ dispersed into their daily activities). Clearly, God calls "the church dispersed" to fulfill many responsibilities (e.g. civic, social, political, armed forces, police, business, etc.) as individuals that he does not call "the church gathered" to fulfill. For example, God may call an individual Christian to become a member of the armed forces. But God does not call the church as a whole to armed conflict. (The remaining explanation of the church's approach to salt and light issue refers to "the church gathered.")
2. The highest priorities of the church in relation to the culture are the proclamation of biblical truth(evangelism and discipleship) and the demonstration of Christian love (compassion and service). It is our desire to avoid goals and methods that undermine these highest priorities.
3. Evangelism and discipleship are accomplished by many methods, including prayer, preaching, Biblestudy, personal witnessing, mentoring, apologetics, and practical training in the Christian life. The church must also teach and proclaim biblical truth regarding issues facing the culture. Examples include: abortion, euthanasia, bio-medical ethics, marriage, divorce and remarriage, sexual ethics, financial stewardship, violence, racial reconciliation, poverty, hunger, education, war, gender issues, and others. The goal in this instruction is to fully equip believers with a biblical worldview, so that they can interact in society with truth, godliness, integrity, compassion, and love. The presence of fully devoted followersof Christ in the society insures the fulfillment of Jesus' call to be salt and light.
4. Compassion and service are accomplished by many methods, including: our highest calling: to pray for all people, including those in positions of authority; personal acts of kindness, love, compassion, generosity, reconciliation and service; compassion and service ministries aimed at helping the poor, the abandoned, the widow, the orphan, the bereaved, the sick, the imprisoned, the unloved and unlovable, the estranged, the hated, the homeless, the hungry, the troubled, the broken, the sinful, the abused, the neglected, and all who need to experience a human demonstration of the love of the Savior, Jesus Christ. The opportunities for these kinds of ministries are limitless in our needy, broken, fallen world.
The Horse and the Cart: Let's say that the horse represents evangelism and discipleship and the cart represents compassion and service. Churches today may fall into any of the following four general categories.
1. "The cart but no horse" church. There are churches who pursue social action, compassion ministries, acts of service and kindness, but who ignore sharing the gospel and helping people to grow in Christ through biblical instruction. There are thousands of churches in America who perform many acts of kindness, but the good news of personal salvation through Christ is no longer believed or shared. When this happens (and it has happened often), the church no longer really is a church, but merely a religious social service agency.
2. "The cart before the horse" church. There are churches who do believe in evangelism and discipleship. But they so emphasize social service and action that the biblical priorities of evangelism and discipleship are either neglected or obscured. This dangerous practice can occur in evangelical and Bible-teaching churches. For example, some evangelical churches have so emphasized political action and legislative priorities that non-Christians identify the church with a certain political party or movement. Right wing politics become a barrier to the unbeliever hearing the good news of Christ. By its socio-political emphasis, the church alienates the very people it is called to reach! Paul said, "I resolved to know nothing among you, but Jesus Christ and him crucified." We must commit ourselves to never obscure the gospel by our social or political statements or actions.
3. "The horse but no cart" church. This kind of church preaches Christ and Christian discipleship, but completely ignores Christ's call to compassion and service to our neighbors. This church is suspicious of anyone who talks about social involvement, because they fear theological liberalism and apostasy or perhaps just spiritual drift. This suspicion is unfortunate because both the Bible and church history are replete with examples of believers who were engaged in cultural issues and who kept their biblical moorings.
4. "The horse and the cart" church. This kind of church is what we desire to be. We recognize the primacyof evangelism and discipleship. But we also believe that we must meet the needs of the whole person (spiritual, physical, emotional, relational, material). Evangelism/discipleship ministries and compassion/service ministries go hand in hand. In fact, they both foster growth for one another. Both are necessary. Both are attractive. Both are biblical. At Valley Church, we desire to greatly expand our ministries in both of these areas.
The Uneasy Relationship Between the Church and Political Involvement:
A special case arises when we talk about the church and its involvement in political issues. Admittedly,the topic is gigantic in scope, controversial in nature, and divisive at times. Nevertheless, the following comments can serve to help explain the posture that Valley Church has taken since its inception in this difficult and sensitive area.
1. Governments are ordained by God primarily for the securing of freedoms, protection of citizens, and punishment of evildoers. The ruler is called "a servant of God" because he fulfills a God-ordained role. It is a noble calling and one in which individual Christians, though not the church as a whole, may serve with God's approval.
2. Christians must remember that ultimately our citizenship is in heaven, that we are aliens and strangers in this world, and that Jesus' kingdom is not of this world. At the same time, we are called to be good and responsible citizens, obedient to the laws of the state, and we may exercise (within biblical parameters) the privileges that our earth-bound citizenship may offer us. We are clearly called to be submissive to the governing authorities, except in the case when it conflicts with clear biblical commands.
3. The church's primary role in relation to culture is to make disciples of Jesus Christ (evangelism and discipleship). This is the highest form of love for our neighbor. We are also called as a church to show compassion, justice, and service within our communities. The church must reclaim these important responsibilities which we have largely abdicated to our government.
4. We distinguish between "the church gathered" as a Body and "the church dispersed" as individuals (see earlier comments). Individual believers may be called to serve in political roles and that is a noble calling. Individual Christians are also encouraged to be involved in political action and service, to vote, and to lovingly express their convictions in political discussions and forums.
5. For reasons of priorities, wisdom, missionary-sensitivity, and biblical unity, Valley Church is not active in a public, direct, political activity. Of course, the church must proclaim openly God's Word on (sometimes unpopular or controversial) subjects that may have a political dimension to them. But this proclamation of the Word is not the same as direct political involvement or confrontation. It is not the same as attempting to directly influence specific legislation or endorsing candidates or parties. These activities are ones we do not pursue. Sometimes, it may even be legally permissible to do so. But wisdom dictates a more careful, nuanced approach.
6. In its proclamation on controversial subjects that may have political dimensions, the church must be careful to present thoroughly biblical positions. Sometimes, the tendency is for churches to align themselves with a particular party or candidate, and uncritically accept their positions as the Christian position. We must resist this tendency.
7. We must realize the lack of consensus on many political issues, even among Bible-believing Christians. We must have the humility and courage to admit and recognize that our political positions are shaped not only by the Bible, but by our culture, personal experience and background, nationality, race, and more. We need to be sensitive to other Christians who may differ with us on political issues, and not make it a test of fellowship. We must also distinguish between a biblical command/principle and one's personal application of that biblical command/principle. Sometimes, Christians will quote a Scripture and then say: "That's why we must do this or that." But not all Christians may see that application. Or they may see it in a different way. Or God may simply call them to fulfill the command/principle in a completelydifferent (often non-political) way.
8. The church must never obscure the cross of Christ, nor put stumbling blocks before unbelievers. Thus, we must be extremely careful not to make it even appear that being a Christian means to hold to a certain political persuasion or position. Many churches have unwittingly done this very thing. To do so is a serious offense in the eyes of God.
9. The church should always present positive and compassionate alternatives to the world, rather than merely condemning ungodly behavior. We must present "a better idea" and back it up with compassionate action. This is irresistible influence.
10. The church must resist the temptation to believe that revival and awakening will come through political action. Government simply does not serve this function in God's plan. Many evangelical Christians have over-inflated the importance of politics. This tendency becomes clear when people make their political convictions just as important or more important than their theological convictions. Or when we believe that electing the right President, or getting the right Supreme Court Justice, or passing the right legislation will solve the ills of the world. Though these things are not unimportant, they do not bring ultimate change to human hearts and do not change the eternal destination of a single soul. In fact, such an undue emphasis may lead to a false sense of morality and security among unbelievers. It leads to a deadly and nominal civil religion that has some trappings of biblical morality, but lacks the power of a relationship with Christ.
11. The church must also resist the tendency to become hostile, mean-spirited, and self-righteous in its presentation of a biblical worldview. We must love and bless our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. We must resist our selfish tendency to want to reclaim a biblical morality for our nation solely for our own comfort and enjoyment. Instead, we must be motivated by brokenness over our own sin and the world's sin and plead with God for mercy and forgiveness and restoration.
12. We must also realize that much of the Christian morality that once existed in our nation (but now does not) was first established because the vast majority of the people held to a Christian worldview. But nowadays, the vast majority of the people do not hold to a Christian worldview. Thus, attempts to change the morality without first changing the heart and the worldview will end in failure. The greatest need in our nation today is for individuals to hear and believe the good news of Jesus Christ. People need the Lord.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Voter's Guidance

How are Christians supposed to determine who to vote for in crucial elections? Hopefully, the following ten guidelines will help. They are influenced by Stoyan Zaimov’s article published in the Christian Post Reporter on 12/26/11 (Iowa Pastors' Advice for Christian Voters as Caucuses Approach).
1. Pray. As Christians, we are commanded in 1 Tim. 2:1 to pray for our governmental authorities. Certainly this would apply to praying over the placement of people into these positions of authority. Before you vote, ask God to give you clarity and wisdom. Politicians are notorious for saying what we want to hear, not necessarily what they believe. Not all politicians are like this, but certainly many are. We need discernment to know who the real deal is and who is a fake.
2. Faith. I believe the most important freedom our country has is the freedom to practice our faith without government intrusion. If a candidate does not respect the Bible and the rights of our citizens to worship the God of the Bible, it would be unwise to vote for him or her. Pay attention to how the candidate talks about people of faith.
3. Life. If a candidate has little regard for the life of an infant or of the elderly, I will not vote for him or her. Admittedly, some candidates make a distinction between being pro-choice and pro-abortion. That is to say, they want to eliminate abortion somehow and in some way, but prefer to look to medical science and/or social reform rather than a repeal of Roe vs. Wade as the means of ending abortion. Nevertheless, if a candidate does not see a fetus as a life or supports unfettered euthanasia, I have a hard time voting for that individual. Pro-life is a big one for me.
4. Poverty. If a candidate is overly focused on capitalism or wealth to the neglect of the poor, I am less inclined to vote for him or her. Our leaders should show concern for the poor. However, by poor, I don’t mean irresponsible. The Bible is clear that we are to expect our citizens to be productive contributors to society (2 Thes. 3:10). The government should provide help to those who have been hit by difficulties and are infirmed. But for able-bodied citizens, we should more frequently offer a hand up than a hand out.
5. Character. It stands to reason that a leader, if he or she is to lead well, must have a strong, moral character. The best indicator of future character is past behavior. If elected, this person is given a public trust. If that leader is not trustworthy, there will be problems keeping the trust! So, it’s fair game to look at a track record when it comes to marriage, family, fiscal responsibility, job performance, etc. Is this person a man or woman of integrity? What does the past tell us?
6. Family. The biblical standard of marriage as between a man and a woman is an important issue for me. This is not simply ideological, but practical as well. Society simply functions better when the family unit consists of one father and one mother in a faithful, healthy, sacred, and monogamous relationship. Redefining marriage in homosexual or polygamous terms (FYI, there is also currently a movement to recognize polygamous marriage) logically leads to redefining the ideals we pass on to future generations. Where a candidate stands on this issue will have an impact on my vote.
7. Economy. It is a biblical principle to pay back debt and to reward those who work hard. It is important to me, therefore, for a candidate to be fiscally responsible with state or national debt and to encourage economic development. If our government penalizes financial success with over-taxation and hikes up debt to pay for too many entitlements, our nation will not be prosperous enough to provide for the poor. The greatest institutions for helping the poor, our churches and other non-profits, will not have the income to provide maximum care because donations will be too low in a struggling economy. We do need governmental oversight to protect the public from corporate corruption (such as predatory lending), but we must be careful to allow a healthy free market to thrive. I want to know that my leaders possess fiscal understanding and have the leadership skills necessary to provide strong economic direction.
8. Military/Law Enforcement. Throughout biblical history, the government had the noble responsibility of protecting its citizens from attack. Strong, moral, and disciplined military and law enforcement agencies are necessary for the sake of freedom. Yet, these forces should be used only for just causes. In candidates, I look for men and women who respect the military and law enforcement and expect these agencies to abide by the highest standards of human decency.
9. Education. When it comes to educating our kids, the most important question is “What’s best for the children?” If a candidate begins the discussion with teachers’ rights or a strict separation of secular and private education, I’m less inclined to vote for him or her. However, I applaud those who want to encourage educational systems that reward educators who truly love kids and are gifted in training them.
10. Global. We are to be good neighbors to other countries in the world. I expect my governmental leaders to be ambassadors of good will, champions of freedom, well-informed, diplomatically savvy, and tangibly formidable when it comes to other nations. Israel, in particular, is an ally that must be given special attention due to biblical wisdom (Gen. 12:1-2) and strategic objectives (its alliance is crucial in the struggle against militant Islamic terrorism). If a candidate seems shallow, ignorant, naive, or feeble with regard to foreign policy, I’m less likely to vote for him or her.
These are some of the guidelines that help me filter candidates in an election. Obviously, the list is not exhaustive. It also requires us to research where each of the candidates stand. But, perhaps, it will aid you as you ask for the Spirit’s discernment in the ballot box.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Financials in the Church Bulletin?

Recently, I was asked by a faithful and very godly church member why we don't put a financial statement in the church bulletin every week. While the decision to remove it preceded me, I agree with the action for a number of reasons which I'll give in a moment. Let me first say that currently, we offer a financial statement at the information desk for anyone who requests it. We also have a line in the bulletin indicating this. But why not include an insert in the bulletin every week and eliminate the extra step of having to go get one from the info desk? Let me give four reasons why:
1. Confusion. In previous generations, church goers tended to give in a linear manner. That is to say, people would tithe weekly. Today, many people give in lump sums at various times of the year. For example, it's not unusual for churches to receive over 50% of all income around the month of December. For tax purposes, it is not uncommon for givers to donate large amounts before the end of the year. Many businesses and most individuals, however, do not have such patterns of income. Most people get a regular paycheck with a regular amount every two weeks. Therefore, when they look at their own finances, they can see linear income and expense patterns. If a church gives out a weekly giving statement, the months that are typically low giving months can give the impression that the church is in financial trouble when, in reality, it's simply a normal low giving pattern that will be offset later in the year as December approaches. I've found that every church is a little different in terms of its giving patterns, but I've never been at a church that had linear giving week to week. As one mentor of mine (a pastor of a very successful church) put it, "since most of us have a strong December, it makes things look artificially bad through most of the year. While that might be a good way to 'scare' some money out of people – it’s also a good way to insure that most of the year they think the leadership is financially irresponsible." Why introduce confusion to the church unnecessarily? Currently, we have quarterly business meetings where our finances are explained precisely by our accountant so there is no confusion. If we are struggling, this is stated and if we are not, the patterns of giving can be more adequately explained.
2. Visitors. One of the reasons good people disagree on this is their differing views on what, exactly, a bulletin's purpose is. For me, a bulletin is similar to a program at a concert or a menu at a restaurant. It is to orient visitors to the order of events and invite them into participation. It is not primarily for the insider. If I went to the Coronado Theater to see Fiddler on the Roof, I'd find it strange to have a financial statement from the Coronado stuffed in the program. That would seem to be more appropriate for its board of directors or its Coronado Arts Membership Society (if it has one). When a visitor goes to a church, he or she already feels like an outsider. If the bulletin is filled with "insider information" such as jargon that only members understand and announcements that are to already-assembled groups, the visitor gets the clear message that he or she is, indeed, an outsider. I remember a doctoral professor of mine who said he could tell within five minutes if a church was growing or dying. If he saw that the church listed its finances in its bulletin, he knew it was primarily aiming its ministry at insiders and was probably dying. Putting insider information in the bulletin to me is similar to showing my checkbook balance to our new neighbors when we invite them to dinner. It's not visitor sensitive and could give the impression that I'm hitting them up for money (something many visitors suspect churches are only about).
3. Stewardship. The truth is that most attenders have little if any desire to see this information. I've found that in churches where leadership is doing its job and has established a track record of integrity, there are virtually no requests for financial information. When there is such a low desire for financial statements among regular attenders, there is a stewardship of resources issue that arises. It takes time for a staff person to assemble figures every week, put these figures into a format that is understandable (the typical person cannot read the complicated spreadsheets of a large church), have it printed, and then have the document stuffed into a thousand bulletins. This also takes money for printing and paper costs. I find it difficult to justify the expense of staff time and church money on this if the vast majority of these reports will not be read and will, in fact, immediately end up in the trash. It makes more stewardship sense to have a smaller number of copies available for any who requests one.
4. Propriety. This reason is less weighty to me, but it's worth mentioning. I believe anyone who gives to the church has a right to see how the giving is spent. But I have trouble with giving out this information to just anyone. We've all met people who attend churches who are destructive critics. I've known of people who were, as Chuck Swindoll describes them, "savages" to local congregations. Jesus described them as "wolves in sheep's clothing" in Matt. 7. These are people who want power but who don't sacrifice and are not committed to God or the church. They wouldn't be caught dead tithing, but will show up at every business meeting with an agenda. Doesn't a church have a responsibility to protect its body against such malcontents? One friend of mine who is also a very successful and wise pastor told me that his church will not issue financial statements to anyone who does not actually give to the church. Other pastors have told me they will only issue that information to people who are actually members of the church after being adequately evaluated for membership through a solid membership process. I think there is wisdom in this. Recently, a good church in our area found itself as a major story in the local newspaper. Due to the economic downturn and its effect on church giving, the church leadership had gone through the painful decision to lay off staff. Soon after, a negative story was printed in the paper with slanderous comments from critics. I personally talked to the Pastor of the church and found that the leadership had been very responsible financially. Yet critics of the church took financial information that was nobody's business but the members of that church and splattered it on the cover of a newspaper hurting that church's reputation in the process. It seems to me that giving this information as easy-access to anyone who walks in off the street may be irresponsible, especially in this age of slander and attack against Evangelical churches.

These are some of the reasons behind my support of our current method of sharing financial information. We give the information freely out to members who request it and we give detailed financial reports to our members at our regularly scheduled business meetings. There is a weakness to this method, however. The weakness is that those who may be disposed to pray for our finances may forget to request a copy of the statements. One precious prayer warrior recently stated this as a reason for his concern that finances were not listed in the bulletins. In weighing the pros and cons, I'm still inclined to follow our current pattern while trusting that those who pray regularly will take it upon themselves to seek out this information. But, we will continue to evaluate this issue as we go along.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Thoughts on the Candidates

The following is simply the personal thoughts of Rusty Hayes and not an official statement on behalf of any church or denomination.
Recently, I was asked by a major conservative campaign consultant which candidate I favored in the election. My answer at the time was that I wasn't comfortable with any of them for the following reasons:
Romney: Mormonism. I'm not crazy about the fact that Romney is a Mormon because Mormon theology teaches that man can become God. I'm not comfortable with any candidate who believes that I could, conceivably, become a god over my own planet. While I have tremendous respect for the lifestyles of many Mormons and don't necessarily believe that having a Mormon as the President would be a disaster, I prefer to have someone in the office who holds to a theology that recognizes God as THE only wise God, unique in His glory and deity.
Gingrich: Unfaithfulness. While I think Speaker Gingrich may be the smartest and most savvy politician in the room, I have to be honest. His infidelity is troublesome to me. It makes it difficult for me to trust him fully. I also have a hard time with the idea of a first lady being the first lady due to an affair she had with her husband that wrecked his previous marriage. Now, to be fair, I've been on the phone with Speaker Gingrich twice on a conference call. The first time was when he was leading a charge to deter Iran from their nuclear program. The second time was more recently when I took part in a call with other pastors in which he described the mistakes he made in his previous marriages. He was genuinely moving and repentant. I respect that and I respect him. I've also heard some wonderful things about his wife. In addition, I also understand that marriages usually fall apart due to many other factors. But in the office of President, I still feel uneasy with what happened the last time he was in office. Not trying to be judgmental, just being real.
Paul: Not much to say here except Ron Paul feels very liberal to me on a number of issues, especially his support of abortion. He seems naive about the threat of Iran as well.
Santorum: Perhaps Santorum is the candidate we've all been looking for. Initially, I didn't think he had a chance. His poll numbers were so low that it seemed he was campaigning for the Vice Presidency or a future talk-show gig instead of the Presidency. But he has risen in the polls dramatically and has a strong appeal to Evangelicals. He's been faithful to his wife, is sensitive to childhood disorders (has a child with one), has 8 kids, is very pro-life, is a fiscal conservative, and is a man of faith in the God of the Bible, Jesus Christ. I'm a little uncomfortable with his style at times since he can come across as adversarial. He is also a Roman Catholic, which could be problematic if the Roman Catholic Church ever takes a political position contrary to Evangelical theology (for example, most Evangelicals are not opposed to certain types of birth control within marriage that the RCC discourages).
Obama: Contrary to many of my Evangelical brothers, I do not believe Obama is the Antichrist. I recently had lunch with a well-respected African American Pastor and he affirmed Obama's Christian faith and noble motives. I happen to think President Obama is a decent man who genuinely cares about the poor. He's also faithful to his wife and a good father. But his position on abortion as well as other moral issues are hurdles I cannot cross. I also worry about his fiscal discipline.
Regardless of who wins, my prayers will be in this process. Ultimately, I don't believe our nation's future is in the hands of politicians. My hope and prayer is that revival will break out in the U.S. and draw us all back to the Lord. In the meantime, an election is coming and whoever wins will need our prayers.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Why Stories in Sermons?

Dr. James Merritt is a dear friend and personal mentor to me. He is the Sr. Pastor of Cross Pointe Church of Atlanta and the former President of the Southern Baptist Convention. Recently, he wrote an article on preaching to the Post-Christian culture we find ourselves in today. The following quote from this distinguished pastor and leader articulates why I often infuse my sermons with personal stories:

"Having said all of that, my greatest fear is that we hear the term "post-Christian" and we get the shakes. We think 'Dear God, I'm not capable of reaching the post-Christian culture.' I hardly even understand what post-Christian culture is. How am I supposed to reach a post-Christian culture?
I have learned both by experience and by study of the Scripture that human beings tend to complicate the simple. When I read about Jesus I find that He came to simplify the complicated. There is a reason why, for example, Jesus spent the vast majority of his ministry telling stories. Almost two thirds of the gospel of Luke is a story—just one parable, one story, after another. If Jesus gave a seminar on preaching, I'm convinced one of the things He would tell us is 'Paint word pictures. Tell stories. Say truth in such a way that common, ordinary people, even little children, can understand it and get a handle on it.'"