Archive for July, 2014

One of the best parts about being a pastor is having the privilege of baptizing a person.   It is such a beautiful illustration of what God in Christ has done for the believer.  I had the blessing of growing up in a Christian home and going to church no less than 3 times a week for most of my life.  During this time I noticed a trend.   Many people have some type of encounter with God (thinking they were saved) as a child, and have a public baptism.  However, later in life they come to a fuller understanding about salvation and realize that they were never truly saved as a child; then they repent and become a believer as a youth or adult.  This story is not just a common one, but it is a personal one as well.  It was true for me.  I thought I was saved at the age of 7 only to come to find out that I was actually 21 before the Lord truly saved me.  So the question that I, and so many others, struggle(d) with is, “Do I need to be re-baptized since true salvation came after my first baptism?”

Baptism is a tricky subject among different Christian groups.  I will not get into the differences in this post, but would like to suggest a few thoughts on the subject from a “believer’s baptisms” perspective.  Ultimately, I believe a person should be baptized after their conversion, even if a person had made some type of confession when they were younger.  If a person was “baptized” before conversion, I believe that to be no more than a public bath . . . since that is not biblical baptism.

A Rightful Order:

God has declared that all of his children are to be baptized.  Since this is so, I believe that it is important that we do it in the order that scripture prescribes.  Every example in Scripture puts the act of baptism after conversion (sorry, extreme paedobaptists friends).  Even the Philippian jailer and his family were baptized after conversion.   God is a God of order.  God is also a precise God.   While in no way does the act of baptism save you, it is still something that is important to do and something that God even commands us to do.  The order, as seen in scripture, is first conversion and then water baptism.  The right order is important.

A Rightful Obedience:

Matthew 28:19-20 is a very well known passage.  It says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”  The Lord has commanded that everyone who has professed faith in Him is to be baptized.  Baptism should be one of the first steps in obedience for a new believer.  The Ethiopian eunuch certainly understood this in Acts 8:36 when he asked, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?”  There are circumstances that sometimes make baptism after conversion more difficult, but the point is that in obedience to the Lord’s command, a person should be baptized.  For the baptism to be the most biblical, this means post conversion.

A Rightful Celebration:     

One of the most beautiful parts of baptism is that it identifies you with the bride of Christ.  It marks you as a member of the church.  In all honestly, this happens at the moment of conversion.  However, baptism (from a believer’s baptism stand point) is a public display of your salvation (Romans 6:5).  It marks you as a child of God and a member of the church universal.  It is a way to show your public commitment to the Lord and His church.  When done right, it is a celebration where the church welcomes a new brother or sister in Christ to the family.  There is no specific proof text for this but I believe that if a person does not get baptized after their conversion, they miss out on a wonderful celebration . . . a once-in-a-lifetime type of celebration.

There are varying opinions on the subject of the mode of baptism, the time of baptism, and even the purpose of baptism.  Those are all things to consider when studying scripture.  Nevertheless, the issue of “re-baptism” is not often discussed.  It seems to me that if we want to do things in an orderly manner and to do it the way scripture seems to describe, baptism should come after a person’s genuine conversion.   It took me 10 years to finally come to the conclusion that I needed to get the order right.  Was I saved 10 years prior upon the confessions of my sins and placing my faith in the Lord?  Absolutely! But, it was not until I went under that water and came up again that I felt the issue of my baptism was finally settled.

If you have a story similar to mine, and millions of others, you may be asking yourself “Do I need to be re-baptized?”  That is something that you will have to decide through prayer, but maybe this post will help you make the rightful decision.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B Burrell

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I have been blessed to be the father of 4 very unique (and sometimes rowdy) young children.  My oldest, and only girl, is five.    I also have a 4 year old son, 20 month old son, and 5 month old little guy.  It is a wonderful and most rewarding thing being a father.  However, after 5 years of this gig I have come to a realization.  This realization is that my children are used, more than anyone or anything else, as a tool for my sanctification.  That is, the Lord uses them to shape me and mold me (and my wife as well) into the image of Christ through learning patience, love, sacrifice, time management, discipline, faith, hope, trust, and a myriad of other Christ like features.  I am blessed to be called a father; though I do not always recognize the blessing in the middle of frustrating times of teaching, molding, (and dare a say, spanking) my children.  Here are three ways the Lord uses my children as a lightning rod for my sanctification.

When they obey:

One of the greatest joys in my life is to see my children obey their mother and I out of love and respect for us.  I believe this is also true of the Lord when we trust and obey him in our life.  Scripture tells us in I Samuel 15:22b “. . . Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice.”  The Lord loves an obedient child.  I cannot help to think that is part of the reason that we see Jesus standing at the right hand of the Father in Acts 7, when Stephen is being stoned, because of His love for his obedient children.  It is easy to love someone when they are obedient, but often before a person obeys it takes a period of training.  This is where the real sanctifying work begins.  Obedience is really an Ebenezer stone for sanctification.  It is evidence that work has been done.  This is when a person can sit back and see what progressive sanctification really looks like.  That is what brings me ultimate joy.  It is not the one time act of obedience (as great as that is) that has brought us as parents to a higher level of sanctification, but the continued act of obedience on our part to help our children get there.  While we are still working on this ourselves, it is very rewarding (and sanctifying) to see them obey.

When they disobey:

Obedience is wonderful, but what I believe is more sanctifying is our children’s disobedience.  I am continually amazed as I look at scripture at the long-suffering of the Lord with His children.   The Lord waited some 700 years to finally scatter the nations of Israel into exile for their disobedience to Him.  Something He promised he would do in Deuteronomy 28:64.  I must admit, it is hard for me to wait 8.2 seconds at times to intact discipline on my children when they are blatantly disobedient, especially toward their mother.  However, when I sit back and think about how patient the Lord is with me in my disobedience (me being a child of God, and my children still being unregenerate) it humbles me.  I believe the Lord uses my children’s depravity to sharpen and mold me so that I can in turn be more Christ-like to them.  It is not easy when my oldest son puts his foot in the ground and decides he is not moving to remember that this is a sanctification test, but as I think of myself doing this to the Lord, even now, it helps me to remember the importance of long-suffering and having a Christ-like attitude (still working on this one) towards him.  Yes, we are to train them and teach them to obey, but even during their disobedience the Lord is training us.

When we discipline:

This is my least favorite part of parenting.  However, since I love my children, it must be done.  Proverbs is riddled with verses like the one in Proverbs 13:24, “He who withholds his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him diligently.”  I am so grateful for the Lord’s discipline in my own life.  While we do not like it in the middle of the process, after we look back on His loving hand we can see His purpose and be appreciative for it.  As any loving father, I never want to see my children hurt, but some temporary discomfort is better than a lifetime of heartache.  I really do believe it hurts the parent more than it does the child when disciplining them.  However, the parent knows that it is best and does it out of love.  The Lord is no different.  When He corrects us, it is not to hurt us, but to mold us into the likeness of Christ.  We as parents need to always be consistent in our discipline or else we risk the sin of “frustrating our children” by requiring obedience at one time, and then not enforcing it another time.  The Lord is consistent with us, thus we need to be consistent with our children.  Herein lays the process of sanctification.

I love my children second only to my wife.  They bring me much laughter, smiles, tears, and every other emotion possible.  I now see why those older in their faith are so far along in their sanctification . . . they have already raised their children.  Gray hair is a sign of wisdom…it seems it is also a sign of raising children (or I am just getting this parenting thing all wrong).  We need to teach our children to obey, but in their disobedience we need to remember that the Lord is teaching us something as well.  The Lord knows what He is doing.  Children are not born good (Romans 3:10, Psalm 51:5).  He has given parents a great responsibility to train their kids up in the fear and admonition of the Lord.  The beautiful thing about it is that at the same time, He is training us up in the fear and admonition of Himself through them.  What an amazing God He is.

Soli Deo Gloria

Adam B. Burrell

In recent months I have seen what the horrors of a divorce look like.  I have seen friends, family, and church members walk through something that the Lord says He HATES.  Since seeing the aftermath that comes from it, I now see not just the theological reason for God’s hatred of it, but the practical reason as well.  Divorce is permitted by God for a few different reasons, but just because it is permitted does not always mean it is best.

As a pastor (currently a student pastor), I feel like we need to be sure to always point others to what scripture has to say instead of what our heart may say about a matter (see Jeremiah 17:9).  Below I have attached a short essay on the issue of divorce and remarriage.   I do not take lightly the fact that in this paper I stand on opposite grounds on some matters as some of my most respected theological giants.  Nevertheless, I am convinced that this is the most biblical approach to the issue of divorce and remarriage that I can see.  There are those who will disagree (while others will agree) with my stated position, but my desire is to bring into light what God has said about this issue and to offer hope for those who have divorced (weather you were the offending or offended party).  Why is there hope, you may ask.  There is hope because Jesus is our defender, but also our forgiver.   Protection can be found in Him.  Forgiveness, as well, can be found in Him.

Here (Divorce Essay) is a short exposition on the issue of divorce and remarriage that I hope you will find helpful in trying to maneuver your way through such a sticky topic that has so many implications.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

I have been blessed over the last 12 years with the opportunity to work with youth and their parents in some capacityeither vocationally or as a volunteer.  I have had the privilege to work with so many great and godly young people during this time.  I have seen a lot of families get youth ministry right, and I have seen a lot of families get it wrong.  Through the grace of God I believe He has allowed me to get some things right, while other times I have failed.  But I am always trying to do a better job.  After 12 years of ministry with youth and their families, these are 12 reflections (in no order but the last one) I have on that time.

1.  Children often reflect their parent’s level of commitment to the church.

            It is pretty simple.  If parents aren’t making a commitment to reading their Bible, praying, and serving the church, most often neither will their children.  This is not always true.  I have seen plenty of teens who are greatly committed to the Lord, and their parents are not.  I have also seen parents who are godly saints and their children dreadful delinquents.  However, in general children mirror their parent’s level of commitment to the church and to the Lord.

2. More Bible and less fun.

            Our world, at least in America, is filled with entertainment.  Even the church sometimes feels the need to compete with it.  I know that I have felt that pressure during my years of working with youth.  While there is nothing wrong with good wholesome fun and entertainment it should not be what Youth Ministry is built on.  At the end of the day, we need to be spending more time in Bible study than we do in organizing and playing the latest games.  Entertainment and games have their place, but woe unto us if that is what the Christian kids are coming to church for.  We need to spend more time properly understanding and teaching a passage, than preparing a game night.

3. Investment into the parents life is vital . . . they are their kids primary youth pastor.

            Let’s be honest, the youth pastor (and even the church) only gets about 100 hours a year with your teen.  It is near impossible to properly disciple a group of youth in 1-2 hours a week.  Parents, however, get a few thousand hours a year to spend with their children.  If a youth pastor wants to impact a kid, they need to impact and invest in their parents.  The parent is ultimately the primary discipler of their children.  The parents are the youth’s primary youth pastor.  By spending time with their parents and helping to equip the parents to disciple their children will greatly increase the discipleship of the youth.  Yes, the youth pastor has a huge responsibility, but parent have even more.

4.  Quality over Quantity.

            It is so easy to get caught up in the numbers game in the typical American church.  One thing I have seen in my past 12 years is that high numbers do not always equate to a high view of God for the students in that ministry.  While it is great to have a large amount of youth in your ministry, I believe the emphasis needs to be more on the quality of the ministry than the quantity of it.  Are the kids that you are teaching growing to hate sin more . . . love God more . . . serve God more?   If the answer is yes, then I would say the quality of your ministry is good.  Numbers are great, but don’t sell yourself short and feel that you are not having an effective ministry if you only have a small group.  Jesus took a small group and turned the world upside down.

5.  The Youth are the church today, not just the church of tomorrow.

            I am sure you have heard some older saint say, completely well-meaning, that “The youth are the church of tomorrow.”  I know what they are saying, but anyone that is a repentant follower of Christ is a part of the bride today.  There is so much that youth can do for the Kingdom that many adults would have a hard time doing.  The youth will be the elders, deacons, pianist, and Sunday school teachers of tomorrow, but they are the evangelists and “foot washers” of today.  Get them involved (if you they are not already) and let them BE the church.

6.  Youth ministry is still a valid ministry . . . if done right.

            The biblical way is the only way.  There is a biblical way to do youth ministry.  There is a movement today that teaches that youth ministry is not biblical and should be done away with.  I have heard the arguments and have gleaned much from listening to those who lovingly teach this.  Nevertheless, I do see a biblical purpose in youth ministry (Titus 2, Gal. 3:24, etc). I agree that so much of how we do Youth Ministry today is foreign to scripture, but I am not ready to give up on it.  There is a biblical frame work that can be constructed (i.e. “The family equipping model” of youth ministry).  We just need to make sure that all that we do in youth ministry has a biblical foundation, not just a pragmatic one.

7.  One-on-One investment is invaluable.

            Teenagers value honesty and relationships.  One of the best ways for them to see you and trust you is one-on-one.  Jesus spent a lot of time with his 12.  He also spent a lot of time with just 3.  He invested in them.  Some of the most meaningful times I have had in my ministry have been through one-on-one discipleship (both formal and informal) with different students.  You cannot do this with all of them. Nonetheless, when it is possible, do it.  It will be a worthwhile investment.

8.  Give them SOME ownership.

            Teens have some great ideas on how to reach their own.  Yes, it is true that many are not fully developed spiritually yet, thus the need for adult guidance; but I have seen wonderful growth in the lives of teens when you give them biblical guidelines and allow them to take some ownership in what they are doing.  None of us simply like to be lectured.  Most of us, I think, want to be told what to do . . . and then go and apply it.  Teens are no different.  Give them direction and give them guidelines, but give them some ownership in the ministry and see if the ministry and the youth do not grow spiritually.

9.  Service projects are good, but Gospel-living is better.

            Over the past 10 years or so I have seen so many youth groups start to do service projects in their communities.  There are even entire summer and winter camps that are built around doing service projects.  I rejoice in the fact that youth ministry is striving to put feet to their faith in DOING something for the Kingdom and not just expecting to be served.  However, my fear is that so many leave their “Jesus” behind when they leave the service project.  God has called us to live a gospel life, not just a gospel moment.  Let’s not get so caught up in the moment of serving someone in the name of Jesus that we hold that on a higher pedestal than the everyday life where we are supposed to be living for Jesus.  Let your whole life be a project for God, and not just a few hours on Saturday.

10. Conferences/Camp can be dangerous, but can also be delightful.

            I have been to my share of summer camps and winter retreats.  Some have been great, while others have been . . . uh, not so great.  I will be honest: sometimes I dread going to these types of things.  Often, a partial gospel message is presented and an alter call extended.  So often it is the same youth who are making the same decisions year after year.  I get frustrated at times because I feel the people on stage are playing with people’s emotions.  Often 2 weeks later, nothing has really changed in the life of that person.  The gospel did not capture them . . . emotion did.  For this reason, I think these types of things can be dangerous.  On the other hand, I have seen the Lord use these camps in a mighty way for His glory.  It is an awesome thing to see the Lord bring someone to their knees and witness their life changed forever.  This is delightful.  So my conclusion is that we simply need to be discerning what camp/conference we choose and try to make sure that it is one that is gospel-centered and God exalting.

11. More of a mentor and less of a “friend.”

            When I first started youth ministry I was 21 years old.  What I wanted was for these youth to see me as a cool older brother.  I enjoyed being that guy for several years.  That is until I started to see my role in light of Scripture.  When I started to see myself as a mentor who would speak truth even if it hurt in a loving way, rather than a “friend” shying away from truth because I didn’t want to lose their friendship, my approach to ministry really changed.  Ultimately a youth pastor is an elder, biblically.  There is a long list of things an elder is supposed to be . . . and a buddy who just wants your love is not on that list.  Friendship is great, but in youth ministry it MUST come second to the elder/mentor role.

12. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of Youth Ministry.  

            When all is said and done we are called to fear the Lord.  “What is the chief end of man?  Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”  What is the chief end of youth ministry?  It is the same as the chief end of man.  You glorify God by first fearing him.  Making much of Christ must be the starting point and finishing point to any youth ministry.  There are a wide variety of ways to do this within the youth ministry context.  No matter what we do, let us all make sure that the fear of the Lord is in view.  Let’s make sure that Christ is the hero in our ministry.  Let’s make sure the He is the one getting the glory, and not our cool little group.

I have greatly enjoyed my 12 years of ministering to/with youth and their families.  I pray that as long as the Lord desires to use me in this capacity that I will continue to reflect and move on those things that honor God the most, and put to death those things that elevate us and diminish Him.

 

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B Burrell