Tag Archives: pastor

Same Words Different Meanings

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Christianity is a culture with many terms that are used almost exclusively within that culture.  When was the last time you heard the word propitiation used outside a church context (or inside one for that matter)? We often talk about righteousness and grace and justification.  Those words are good English words, but their meaning inside church culture holds great significance.  Outside that culture, however, these words are seldom used.  

We have other words that we use commonly but we’ve given them a different definition than their original intent.  

The term “pastor” is used nowadays to refer to anyone who is in a preaching role in a church.  Usually the pastor is the “head” of that branch of the church.  The bible doesn’t use this term this way.  In fact, I’m surprised that the bible includes this term at all.  It is only used once in English translations and the Greek word that it is translated from is always translated as “shepherd” in the other instances it is used in the New Testament.  A pastor is supposed to be one of a group of shepherds or elders of a church.  

Pastor is a term the church of Christ has tried to avoid for many years, but culture keeps using that term in its new definition, so many churches are giving up on fighting this original definition.  The original definition of “pastor” is being lost on this generation.

There are a couple other terms we use commonly in church culture that we gave up on a long time ago.  We don’t even readily argue for the perpetuation of the original meaning anymore.  

The first is “church”. 

I recently had the blessing of serving with a friend of mine who is living in a missional community with the intention of driving the darkness out of the city in which they live.  They live together – Christians in common – being the church in community.  

At this service opportunity a teenager asked my friend if they all attended church together.  My friend looked bewildered and said, “yes, this is it.” 

He was bewildered because he was living in the biblical definition of the word “ekklesia” that many translations interpret as “church”. Church didn’t become a building until after the Catholic church began to build buildings around holy places as shrines for worship. The english word, “church”, comes from a German word that was used to signify such buildings.  Ekklesia, on the other hand, denotes community.  It is the assembly of saints in every place.  It is the people – not the place, and definitely not a denomination.

The other term is “ministry”.

This same teen asked my friend where they did ministry.  This was still in the context of the previous question about where they attended “worship” (another term that has been redefined throughout the years). My friend looked around again and said “we do ministry by living.”

Christians often think of ministry as a program of the church where they attend where people who have something to offer provide goods or services to those “less fortunate”. This cannot be further from the biblical idea.  Ministry wasn’t intended to be relegated to a specific activity.  Ministry is an outpouring of love to those living all around us.  Ministry is seeing others as equals and treating them as such even if they are drug addicts and prostitutes.  Ministry isn’t enabling dependence on a welfare-like activity.  Ministry is living with those the world sees as less fortunate and encouraging them and respecting them and expecting the same from them.  It’s not a top-down kind of mentality; it is an equality mentality.  Ministry doesn’t feed the poor; it frees the poor.

If you’re reading this chances are you are part of a church that does ministry.  Read the book of Acts.   See how the church functioned.  Imagine what the world would be like if we were actively battling the forces of evil in the spiritual realms while living together in community without need for all the pomp and circumstance.  Could this really be what we are called to? 

This group that my friend is involved with has been actively battling the darkness for at least five years now, and they now have watched Jesus drive the darkness out of two whole neighborhoods that were the most dangerous places in their city.  They are now actively pursuing the darkness into a third neighborhood.  Even the police recommend they don’t follow, but they do anyway – family and all.  God continues to scatter the darkness as the light and salt of Jesus is spread in strongholds of the enemy.  

This isn’t just church talk.  This is really happening.  The book of Acts doesn’t have to be a historical document.  It can also be a playbook for how to live for Christ today, but that would require us to give up on fear and be filled with an unquenchable love and desire to follow the Holy Spirit’s guiding.  It would also require us to remember the original meanings of so many biblical ideas.  It would require a restoration of first-century discipleship. I’m praying for a generation to rise up and change the world, and the generation I’m praying for is mine.  Won’t you join me?


The Secret Sin of the Church

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Have you ever been to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting? If you’ve been or even heard of what goes on there, then I’m sure you’ve probably heard how each person introduces themselves when he or she gets up to speak. “My name is [insert name here], and I’m an alcoholic.”

It doesn’t matter if they quit drinking yesterday or 20 years ago; the introduction is the same.

They recognize that it would only take one drink to get them back into the habit. Only one drink to shatter their lives once more.

Drug addicts are similar in their meetings and understanding of how precarious their sobriety really is. It is said that someone who has been off drugs and begins again doesn’t start back slowly. Oftentimes they start back with even more than they quit with.

I experienced this hard reality when I was in preaching school. A good friend of mine had been clean for years, but with the influence of another student got back into drugs. I didn’t know until I had to go visit him in the hospital because of an overdose. Thankfully The Lord spared us all from having to mourn his death.

There is another addiction people struggle with even (maybe especially) in the church, but no one seems to be talking about it.

My name is Jonathan Dobbs. I’m a preacher, and I struggle with pornography.

The first time I ever saw inappropriate images such as these was the day after church camp when I was a boy. Those images have never left my mind no matter how hard I try to get rid of them.

When I went to Harding University (a Christian university), I got really exposed. There was a computer lab in the physics building that didn’t have a firewall or filters, and a row of computers didn’t face the door. Plus, no one hardly ever went into the physics computer lab at Harding when I was there. That opportunity coupled with the influences of the young men in the dorm all around me allowed me exposure to things that rid me of whatever innocence I had left.

I understand the urge to look even against my better judgement. I understand the feeling of disgust after having participated in such viewing. I know the dark places my mind would go when I went on a pornography binge. I understand the mental gymnastics used to justify such actions. I know that it only takes one weak day to take me back to those places of mental, sinful bondage.

Such things are rarely talked about in churches, yet this particular sin affects almost every young person today and in many generations recently past. We talk often about homosexuality, abortion, adultery and “shacking up” yet many more people are participating in a much more harmful sin. The problem with porn is that it is so subtle in the ways it destroys you that many people believe it’s not hurting them at all.

Porn addicts are much like alcoholics and drug addicts. They need accountability. They need to be away from the temptation. If they fall back into the habit they often fall hard. Porn addiction controls its victim.

As a church we need to be people who understand this problem. We don’t need to shame people for having struggles with this – they feel shame enough. We don’t need to sit in condemnation for their sin is no worse than yours. We need to love them and befriend them and hold them accountable.

As I’ve been in recovery there are a few things that have helped tremendously. First, I immersed my life in the presence of God and his word. I strategically placed key verses around my computer like Philippians 4:8. I made sure that I had purpose for the time I spent on the computer. The most important thing I did, however, was find accountability partners. The most important accountability partner I have is my wife.

This struggle isn’t just for dirty boys. It’s for men and women. It is for singles and married people. It is for young and old. Just this week I read an open letter to Christian churches by an 18 year old girl recounting how her first experience with porn was at age 8. I’ve personally known of children not much older than that who struggle with pornography. Don’t be deceived. It is everywhere, and we as a church need to be a place of recovery.

If you struggle with porn you are not alone. I can help you find resources to battle the temptation, and I am an understanding ear. If you don’t struggle with porn, then present yourself as available and accepting to those who do. You make an excellent accountability partner. I pray for the women and men exploited by this industry. I pray for the church as she learns to deal with this issue in a more open way. I pray for you in your struggle. Please pray for me as I continue to overcome. Don’t keep your struggle a secret. You are not alone. Jesus still loves you, and so do I.


Huh? Is that really in there?

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When I was a young man, my grandfather would tell me a story from when he was a youth worker and my parents were teenagers. My grandfather has always been active in the church, so when my parents were teens, he saw a need to step in to facilitate classes and activities for the teens.

One Sunday morning he saw two young men walking down the aisle, and he decided to have some fun with them. Bear in mind that this was probably the early 1970’s. Both of these teen boys had mustaches, so my grandfather asked them,
“Do you boys read your bible?”
“Oh yes sir,” was their reply.
“Well, then you can quote Hezekiah 14:26.” My grandpa was trying to hold back his grin.
“Um, can you remind us how it goes?” The boys were back pedaling quickly.
“Thou shalt not grow tame upon thine upper lip what groweth wild upon thine leg.”

The two hairy-lipped boys thanked him and went their merry way. The next time Grandpa saw them they had shaved their lips. Obviously they hadn’t bothered to look up the verse, because if they had they wouldn’t have found it. Hezekiah was a king, it isn’t a book in the bible. There is no verse that says men shouldn’t grow mustaches. I cracked up every time I heard that story.

Do you know your bible? Let’s take a test today. I’m going to list some common phrases, and see if you can figure out which ones came from the bible and which ones didn’t.

Is this from the bible or not?
1. Cleanliness is next to godliness
2. The apple of my eye
3. The golden rule: “Do unto others what you would have them do unto you”
4. Once saved, always saved
5. Spare the rod, spoil the child
6. God helps those who helps themselves
7. The sinner’s prayer
8. The lion will lay down with the lamb
9. Hell hath no fury like that of a woman scorned
10. The writing on the wall
11. Wolf in sheep’s clothing
12. You reap what you sow
13. This too shall pass
14. A fool and his money are soon parted

Well, how did you do? The only ones that are actually in the bible are numbers 2, 3, 10, 11, 12, and 13.

We believe a lot of things that just aren’t true. Not being willing to check out the facts through any form of research is a high form of self-deception. We are given a brain to use, but many of us just accept everything at face value.

When Luke wrote the book of Acts, he said that the Bereans were of “more noble character” than those around them because they heard Paul’s message and went home and searched the scriptures to see if it was true.

This practice should apply to every area of our lives. There is an election coming up. Do you believe the hype, or have you done the research so that you have an educated opinion upon which you will cast your vote? Do you accept what the preacher says just because he is the preacher? Do you accept what your school says because the teacher proclaims a message that sounds good?

“Most people who profess a deep love of the Bible have never actually read the book.” Rabbi Rami Shapiro

Please don’t be a person who hears something and accepts it without verifying the facts. There are plenty of people who will lie to you with lies that sound too much like truth. Even some religions will expect you to take what they say at face value without verification. One very popular religion has even made it their rule that what they say is more important than what the bible says. Thus there is no way to be a Berean in that system of religion.

The bible is full of wonderful information that feeds your need for truth. Preachers, pastors, and teachers are flawed, erring human beings, so it is important that you verify what they say. Don’t do it because you’re just a skeptic. Don’t do it because you think they’re bad people. They aren’t, I’m sure! In fact, I try very hard to tell the truth all the time, but sometimes I get my facts confused. It is important, then, that you have the ability to discern truth on your own.

You can be noble like a Berean as well.

If you know any other common phrases thought to be in the bible but aren’t, then I’d love to hear them. Many of these are truths that can be verified in scripture, but the wording isn’t there. Shoot me a message at mrjdobbs@gmail.com or comment on this article at my blog at http://www.mrdobbs.org. God bless you as you seek His truth every day.


Glory in the Face of Grief

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Through the last few years I have embraced social media. I used to have a myspace (until that became lame). I text and Twitter and Facebook and Google+. I even LinkedIn. These have been great tools not only to help me keep in touch with the people I work with as a minister, but they have also allowed me to minister to friends of times past. Nowadays I also use these means to connect with other ministers in order to continue a sharpening of my mind as we discuss the ins and outs of theology and ministry. These men and women are dear friends to me as I strive to be a better minister of the Kingdom of God.

One such ministry friend I have come in contact with is a preacher for a church of Christ in Mississippi. One of his sons is a youth minister in another state. Still living at home is his 21 year old son who is handicapped. Last Monday the wife and 21 year old son of this ministry friend of mine were murdered by a man who had attended their church.

Wow. What do you say to that?

Needless to say this has affected me deeply. I know people who have unexpectedly lost loved ones. Times get tough very quickly. I know ministers who have lost their faith through tragic events such as these. I know Christians who have lost their faith under circumstances much less grave than this!

Wow. Please pray for him, his family, and the community that loves him. There is much hurt there now.

What is our response in the face of such tragedy? Do we cry out and curse God? Do we hide in a hole of depression and let the grief eat away for the rest of our lives? It would be so easy to do either one of those things.

My heart grieves for this man and his family.

Thoughts of this event bring to mind two grand ideas, however. The first idea comes from the fact that God watched as His own son was murdered in cold blood. It was not a crime of passion. It was cold and calculated and merciless. In fact you and I murdered Him with our sins. Acts 2 says “you, with the help of wicked men, put Him to death by nailing Him to a cross”.

Can you imagine how God must have grieved for the loss of His son? But He was willing to go through that so that you and I could have life and not receive that death in ourselves. What is your response in the face of such love for you? Have you responded to that, or do you keep putting it off until tomorrow?

The second thought that comes to mind is found in Romans 8:28. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” If you read it closely, you will see that it says “in all things” (emphasis added).

Am I trying to say that God can work out the murder of this Godly woman and her son for the good of her family and community who are grieving today? Yes! It may seem difficult to grasp in the midst of the whirlwind of grief, but it is a promise from God. No matter what you may be going through or may have gone through, God can – and wants to – work that situation out for your good. Why? So that in all things He may be glorified. You see, if God can turn tragedy into triumph, then He truly is the God of love and mercy – a God worthy to be praised.

How will you respond to such love in the face of your struggles today? I hope you will hold your loved ones a little closer. Even more so, I hope that you will not put off your decision to commit your life to God through Jesus. You never know what today may bring.

Please keep praying for this family. If there is anything I can do you for, or if you have any questions or prayer requests, feel free to contact me at jddobbs@Verizon.net or at the office at 245-1611. God bless your day, and may you glorify Him even in the face of grief.


Preacher Pet Peeve

[tweetmeme]I have one HUGE pet peeve when it comes to some preachers.
I have seen a preacher (at a youth rally a few years back) use the illustration during his sermon – Here’s Your Sign by Bill Engvall.

What he did was take the jokes and change it from “here’s your sign” to “bless your heart.”  It WAS funny…my grandma used that phrase on me alot. The thing that frustrated me was that he told the stories like they were his personal experiences and didn’t give any reference to his source.
I don’t know about you, but this is a big integrity issue for me. If a preacher is going to use a source, he should cite the source. To be sure, I didn’t hear the rest of his message because I was so disgusted at his illustration.

Have you ever experienced this? What are your thoughts? Am I way off base?

Truth … Big part of life on the sharp end.


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