Trump, Clinton, and the Christian Voter

The coming election dominates the headlines and the conversations of many.  I am asked daily about the election and my thoughts on the candidates.  Like you, I confess that I am often perplexed and confused.  I have prayed, read the Scripture closely, conversed with thoughtful believers, and read widely.  I would like to share with you several guiding principles, some of what I have been reading and a few conclusions that I have come to personally.


Guiding Principles

  1. As a follower of Christ, I must seek to think about these things biblically.  I must not simply turn on my favorite news program and draw conclusions and make my decisions solely off what I hear.  I must not be conformed to the world but be transformed by the renewing of my mind (Romans 12:2).
  2. As a citizen of the United States, I must seek to understand the candidates, their platform, worldview, and stance on the issues facing our Nation.  Do not make decisions from one source or based on your impressions of a candidate.  Educate yourself.  Further, I remind you there is far more going on in this election cycle than the election of a President.
  3. As a follower of Christ, I must not separate my faith from my responsibilities as a citizen of this Nation.  I do not lay down one and take up the other.  I must render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.  What is God’s?  Everything!  I must love and serve Him with all my being, mind, heart, life and vote.  Here lies the dilemma that many are facing and rightly so.  How can I love God and walk in faithfulness to Him and vote for one of the Presidential candidates that will be on the ballot in November?
  4. As a part of the Body of Christ, I must not attack my brothers and sisters personally in conversation or collectively on social media.  We should be marked with a sober humility and prayerful, thoughtful discussion as we move through these days together.  Whoever is elected President will come and go.  Life will go on good or bad until Jesus comes.  Then, He will set all things in order.  As followers of Christ, we will do all of this together.

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North American Missions Offering

Much has been said the last few months about giving and going to the nations. Parkwood celebrated sacrificial and significant giving to the International Missions Offering in December, and earlier this month, we gloried in the mission of God during Mission Impact Celebration. Much of Parkwood’s focus has been looking beyond the United States and even North America to the global cities and hard to reach places of the ends of the earth. Now, however, we turn our attention to the North American Missions Offering, what Southern Baptists have historically referred to as the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering. 

It is important to see these offerings with a consistent vision rather than at odds with one another. To see these offerings with consistent vision, consider two things: the meaning of harvest fields and the reason for disproportionate giving. First, consider the meaning of harvest fields in the Scriptures. Begin with the Great Commission command to go and make disciples. Since going is actually a participle, the instruction is to make disciples as you go. As you go, make disciples near or far. Most should make disciples everyday during the course of your going to school, to work, to play. Others, though, should leave and intentionally go cross-culturally to make disciples. If we are to make disciples among the nations, then the geographical goal of that command necessarily includes the place in which you live. 

Likewise, this near and far tension relates to the harvest field. Followers of Christ are commanded to earnestly pray to the Lord of the harvest that he will send workers into the harvest fields. What fields? Certainly he does not only mean international locations to the neglect of closer places. What did Jesus say to his disciples before ascending? Indeed he directed his disciples to be his witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. When we consider the harvest fields, then, it is consistent to consider each of these geographical locations as legitimate fields of service. Jesus tells his disciples that the fields are white for harvest, and later he tells them to go to their current city (Jerusalem), to regions beyond their city (Judea), including areas that are different or even difficult (Samaria), and of course, to the ends of the earth. When you consider the biblical directive to go to the harvest field, therefore, do not negate every harvest field for one particular field. The hard to reach places are harvest fields for which we should pray and to which we should go, but other harvest fields exist also, perhaps in your own backyard.

Second, the reason for disproportionate giving to international missions should be understood in view of disproportionate need. No doubt much is said at Parkwood about going from the United States to the nations, about going to global cities and hard to reach places, about naming Christ where he has not been named, and no doubt Parkwood exhorts the church to give and send and pray toward these end of the earth harvest fields. But spurring this international harvest field focus is the reality of drastic need. Of course the lost are in the United States, but also across this country are many Christians and churches and resources. In the forty-five unreached people groups of the Caucasus Mountains, for example, many more lost live with much fewer Christians, churches, and resources. So we unashamedly raise the call to go to other nations even while we consistently go, pray, and send to our own country and North America.

For these reasons, it is consistent and right to highlight the far and hard to reach harvest fields even while we give through the North American Missions Offering to the North American Mission Board. With this vision for missions, would you please consider this week what you might give next week to the North American Missions Offering? I pray we would give faithfully and obediently in accordance with the gift given to us in the gospel.

Why Preach Spiritual Leadership Series

We preach expository sermons at Parkwood, in short, because we believe the Bible is our great and ultimate authority. The Word of God is authoritative over our thoughts, opinions, and traditions. Expositional, exegetical preaching is therefore our intentional choice for sermon delivery as it most appropriately and sufficiently allows the preacher to convey both the authority of the Word and the necessity of our submission to it. For this reason, preaching through books of the Bible is the typical pattern for sermon planning (a biblical theology approach). In January, though, we typically plan a diversion in the preaching schedule to preach a series particularly poignant to the direction and/or far-reaching issues in the life of the church (a systematic theology approach). The preaching schedule is taking us through the book of Matthew, but we are currently taking the month of January to focus on a series entitled Spiritual Leadership.

So the question is, Why preach a Spiritual Leadership series? The answer, I mentioned last week at the close of the series’ introductory sermon, and these points will continue to surface over the course of the Spiritual Leadership series. The reasons for such a series are three: first, congregational understanding of the biblical instruction on spiritual leaders; second, administering great care in calling our leaders; and third, increasing leaders for the purpose of the church. 

First, it is incumbent upon spiritual leaders to ensure a proper congregational understanding of spiritual leadership. Spiritual leaders, in a context in which the Word of God is the ultimate authority, may not shepherd and serve any way they see fit, even should they choose a fitting way to shepherd and serve. Leaders, even wise and discerning leaders, must not lead according to their wisdom. The only appropriate manner in which to shepherd and serve is that set forth in and consistent with Scripture. God, having established and designed the church and the authority of the church, has therefore chosen and revealed the appropriate standard and manner of spiritual leadership. A Spiritual Leadership sermon series is fitting because the congregation should understand what the Father has communicated in his Word regarding spiritual leadership. And the present is an appropriate time for communicating and reinforcing a congregational understanding of the biblical instruction on spiritual leaders because of the large numbers that have been added to the congregation in recent years, many of which are previously unchurched, from other denominations, or from different traditions. If we believe the Bible, then we all need to know and be reminded what God has said about spiritual leadership.

Second, we need to be careful who we call as our spiritual leaders. It has been said, “We do God a great injury if we accept an unsuitable person to govern his household. Therefore, the greatest care must be taken that nobody is chosen for this sacred office in the church unless he has already proved himself” (Calvin, Acts, 88). Recognizing the great care we must take in calling men to spiritual leadership, it is prudent and beneficial to devote time in the sermon schedule for a systematic study of the Bible’s teachings regarding the roles and responsibilities of spiritual leaders. Future leaders must know what is required of them; current leaders must be reminded; and the church must understand the same before called upon to affirm and to follow such men in spiritual leadership. If we are to be faithful and careful in calling spiritual leaders, then we should be instructed by God’s Word that we may function according to biblical wisdom and not merely human wisdom.

Third, a Spiritual Leadership sermon series is appropriate for the calling of new spiritual leaders. A faithful church makes disciples who make disciples. In this growing context, new leaders are regularly needed. If a faithful church makes disciples, then a growing church develops leaders. Parkwood needs more leaders for two reasons consistent with her purpose. More leaders are needed to meet the growing demands of a growing congregation, and more leaders are needed for the increasing missional demands of sending more personnel to campuses and to the nations. We need a Spiritual Leadership series because we need more spiritual leaders. We need to develop leaders as often as we grow and as often as we desire that our gospel ministry grow. And we need to send more leaders to the nations and to campuses as long as we seek to obey the mission of God to magnify his glory and proclaim his gospel in all the world. 

Considering these reasons – congregational understanding of spiritual leadership, care in selecting leaders, and the continuing need for more leaders – a Spiritual Leadership series is both acceptable and beneficial. I pray as a result of this series that Parkwood would continue to grow in our understanding of spiritual leadership, take great care in selecting leaders, and develop increasingly more shepherds and servants who will lead here in Gastonia, at future campuses, and among the nations.

Going with the Gospel #3

Going to the Dibo…
A small team has recently returned from a trip to the Dibo to prepare the way for future trips. Their update is encouraging. Though few believers exist among the 120,000 Dibo, one believer, a pastor of 28 years, is currently serving this Muslim people group. An interview with Pastor Akeem* offers insight into the work of God among the Dibo and how we might pray and be involved in reaching this people with the gospel.

Muslims, of course followers of the Quran and the prophet Mohammed, understand Jesus as a historical figure but find it difficult to hear that he is the Son of God. Accordingly, Akeem reasons the Gospel of John is a great place to begin with Muslims, since that book affirms with emphasis that Jesus is the unique Son of God. The pastor recalls one man who came to understand that Jesus, recognized both in the Quran and in the Bible, was raised from the dead. The man knows that Mohammed had died and is still dead. Jesus, though, died, was resurrected, and will come back one day as the Judge of all people. In fact, Mohammed will be judged by Jesus. This good news is often quite incredible and even disturbing for those Muslims who first hear it. Sometimes they may be ready to receive this gospel after a few days, but most require a year or more of conversation and explanation of these concepts that are at first so foreign before they surrender to Jesus. Pastor Akeem went on to recount stories of other Dibo who have recently received the truth of the gospel. The Father is indeed at work in Nigeria and among this unreached people group.


Surrendering to Jesus is not easy, particularly for the Dibo. Identifying as a Christian is immediately difficult, and dangerous. “If you abandon Islam, you must be killed – shot or poisoned,” the pastor said. The best practice for now is to send new believers away from their home so that they may be discipled and gain some maturity before they return. Be encouraged that the hand of God is moving among the Dibo, but be vigilant to pray for them as well.


Given the desperate need for the gospel among the unreached of the world, and hearing of God working among the poor, the Chorti, and the Dibo, would you consider going on a trip to share the gospel in one of these places? Inspired by God and zealous for the gospel among the nations, Paul rejoices that “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13). But he writes in the next verse, “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone sharing with them?” The God who saves has chosen to use his church to proclaim his gospel. If you will consider going and sharing that the others might hear and believe, begin by completing this trip application. Short-term trips are planned throughout 2016 for these and other partnerships.

*Names are concealed for security purposes.