The American Dream Must Die

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When I was a student at Ambassador in the early 1990’s, I will never forget listening to veteran missionary Darrell Champlin preach in chapel. His message “Love With Shoes On” will always stand out in my memory. During one of his messages, I remember a statement that he made that, at the time, I honestly thought was harsh. He said, “The American Dream must die.” As a young student, I interpreted his statement as being unpatriotic and calloused. However, the longer I live, the more I understand why he said it.

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When I was a student at Ambassador in the early 1990’s, I will never forget listening to veteran missionary Darrell Champlin preach in chapel. His message “Love With Shoes On” will always stand out in my memory. During one of his messages, I remember a statement that he made that, at the time, I honestly thought was harsh. He said, “The American Dream must die.” As a young student, I interpreted his statement as being unpatriotic and calloused. However, the longer I live, the more I understand why he said it.

The popular sentiment in our country emphasizes the need for every person to live the American Dream. What exactly is the American Dream? While it could be defined in numerous ways, I believe one can sum it up as the pursuit of entertainment, enrichment, and education. What did King Solomon say about a life that is given to these pursuits? He addresses each of these in Ecclesiastes 2 and comes to this strong conclusion, “…for all is vanity and vexation of spirit.”

Before I go any further, let it be known that I am thankful to be an American. Not only am I an American citizen, I have also had the privilege of serving in an elected office. I am thankful for the freedoms that have been secured for me by many men and women since the founding of our nation. However, Christians in America need to realize that a life given to the American Dream of prosperity is a wasted and empty life.

In Ecclesiastes 2:1–3, the wisest man in all the earth told how he gave his heart to entertainment. After seeking pleasure and laughter, he concluded that his pursuit was vanity. While it is safe to say that the world is more given to entertainment than ever, many Christians seem to have adopted this pursuit as well. With more technological devices and the ability to stream entertainment directly into our homes, we as Christians are given more to entertainment than ever. Our first-world problems of poor internet service and no wi-fi reveal just how much we are given to entertainment. When these luxuries are not readily accessible, we go into a mad frenzy. While the ways we seek pleasure have changed through the years, one thing is for sure. Man loves pleasure any way he can get it.

If we are going to see a revival take place in our churches, we must quickly come to the conclusion that life is not about satisfying self, but pleasing God. The entertainment god has perhaps damaged us more than the Baals and Molechs of the Old Testament. In the end, one will discover that a heart given to pleasure will learn that it is vanity (Ecclesiastes 2:1).

Man has always had a problem with materialism. In Ecclesiastes 2:4–11, Solomon revealed his pursuit of enrichment. He sought out all of the modern conveniences of his day. Gardens, orchards, servants, silver, and gold were at his disposal. He even hired his own singers so he could listen to music whenever he wanted. Since there were no record players, cassette decks, CD players, and iPods, he just employed his own music group. Now that is impressive!

I am fearful that in our Christian homes, we have trained our children to live for things instead of God. People rejoice when they get a valuable possession yet sigh when they walk into the house of God. We have a stronger desire to be comfortable in our materialism than to be uncomfortable in the will of God. I believe with all of my heart that God is still calling many into His service, yet the desire for enrichment and materialism dulls the calling of God in many hearts. If the work of God is to intensify in our generation, then the desire for enrichment must die.

While it should be easy for Christians to realize that entertainment and enrichment will leave you empty, many do not understand that education can do the same. Solomon acknowledged that his pursuit for wisdom was vanity in Ecclesiastes 2:12–17. Being a college president, I believe that education is helpful and needed or I would not give myself to the task. However, education in and of itself is not the answer. Politicians are campaigning for a free college education for every student. Christian colleges are lauding the importance of accredited degrees.

Regardless of your position on the aforementioned political and Christian education issues, remember that the accumulation of facts and the academic recognition of the world will never bring true satisfaction to the soul. While the disciples were not ignorant men, they were perceived to be ignorant by the world. The world often times thinks the same of God’s servants today. Education cannot replace the power of God that is needed in the Lord’s work.

So, what is the answer? How can the American Dream die in the hearts of Christians? It must begin with preachers, parents, and teens being brutally honest before God and confessing the mistake of pursuing the American Dream. Until we are willing to confess our inordinate pursuits of entertainment, enrichment, and education, we will get nowhere.

The next step is for us to return to our first love (Revelation 2:4–5) and to realize that we are complete in Christ (Col. 2:10). There is nothing that this world can offer us to give us more peace or joy. Christ is truly all in all!

When the American Dream dies in the hearts of God’s children, revival will come. I am convinced that when this subtle delusion fades in our hearts and minds, more people will hear God’s call for the ministry. My prayer is that Ambassador and other Christian colleges in America will seek to stamp out the American Dream and replace it with a heavenly one. A great love for entertainment, enrichment, and education is wood, hay and stubble. A fervent love for God will result in gold, silver, and precious stones.

The Overlooked Necessity for Ministry Training

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Few people realize the rich history of Christian education in America. The vast majority of colleges started at the beginning of this country were founded for the purpose of training people for the ministry. Harvard, Yale, Princeton; the list goes on and on. Sad to say, many—if not all—have changed their purpose or gone out of existence.

In the high-tech world in which we live today, what is the most essential element of training people for the ministry?

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Few people realize the rich history of Christian education in America. The vast majority of colleges started at the beginning of this country were founded for the purpose of training people for the ministry. Harvard, Yale, Princeton; the list goes on and on. Sad to say, many—if not all—have changed their purpose or gone out of existence.

In the high-tech world in which we live today, what is the most essential element of training people for the ministry? A casual survey of Christian colleges today will reveal that we place a lot of emphasis on facilities, friendships, and up-to-date content delivery in the classroom. While these things are not bad, they are not the most important. Training men and women for the ministry can take place without a nice building or a video projector, but it cannot take place without the Bible.

Sad to say, the Bible has been subtly deemphasized through the years in Christian education. Chapel services have been reduced. The number of credit hours required for Bible majors pales in comparison to the number required of Bible majors at the turn of the 20th century. Some may call this progress, but I believe it is a great failure on our part.

The Lord describes His Word as a fire and hammer through the prophet Jeremiah (Jer. 23:29). That hammer is needed in society today more than ever before. More and more hearts are becoming calloused toward the things of God, and no amount of eloquence can cause the change of heart that the Bible can. With this in mind, why would Christian institutions require less Bible, make chapel services more infrequent, or eliminate opening revival meetings?

The psalmist describes the Word of God as a lamp and a light in Psalm 119:105. This Light is unwelcome in a world of increasing darkness, but it is desperately needed. Our teenagers and young couples need to see the lamp of God’s Word shine upon the subjects of same-sex marriage and reaching out to those with whom we disagree. Our students need to understand that this Light is not outdated, irrelevant, or erroneous. The increasing hostility toward the Bible must be countered by an undying devotion to it.

The Bible also describes itself as being sharper than a two-edged sword (Heb. 4:12). One of the reasons preaching has become ineffective and anemic is that preachers have become better at wielding illustrations and dogmatism than the Sword of the Spirit. There needs to be a revival of strong Bible preaching in our churches and Christian colleges. In a day where there is a sense of entitlement among millennials and complacency among the older saints, we need to feel the cutting edge of the Word of God.

Through the years, the Lord has blessed Ambassador with adequate facilities and classroom upgrades. I am grateful for an air-conditioned auditorium and the video projectors that are in our classrooms. God has blessed certainly blessed us. However, all of that is for naught if the Bible loses its rightful place in training people for the ministry.

The Bible is the most indispensable, yet most overlooked, facet of ministry training. By God’s grace, Ambassador will continue to offer one of the strongest Bible curriculums found in Bible colleges today. Our undergraduates often graduate with more Bible (more than 60 hours) than many Bible majors and even graduate students in Christian colleges. Our Bible classes are not taught by graduate assistants and career academicians, but by seasoned servants of the Lord. This powerful combination of quality and quantity in Bible training is a distinct feature of ABC.

Several weeks ago, one of our faculty members shared a quote with me that was found in a March 1955 copy of Moody Monthly. Although the quote is ancient in the minds of modern preachers, it is just as relevant today as ever:

It would be better for us to have no school buildings and a most limited number on the faculty; indeed, it would be better to meet in caves along a river and instill in our students a hunger for God, a passion for souls, a life of godliness, and a genuine knowledge of the great doctrines of the Word of God, than to have all kinds of facilities and the highest accreditation without such results.

May God help us all to hold high the ultimate facet of ministry training—the Bible.

Five Ethical Mistakes of Preachers

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An unethical preacher is a great liability to the work of God. His actions often distract people from the powerful message he is supposed to proclaim. The Apostle Paul put a great premium on ethical behavior in the ministry in passages such as 2 Corinthians 4:1–2 and 6:3–4. If any of these following items are true in your ministry, they are weakening your ability to minister, whether you realize it or not.

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An unethical preacher is a great liability to the work of God. His actions often distract people from the powerful message he is supposed to proclaim. The Apostle Paul put a great premium on ethical behavior in the ministry in passages such as 2 Corinthians 4:1–2 and 6:3–4. If any of these following items are true in your ministry, they are weakening your ability to minister, whether you realize it or not.

Have you hired a staff member from another church or ministry without speaking to their pastor or ministry leader in advance? If so, you have more than likely engaged in unethical behavior. Even in the business world, it is respectable and honorable for a potential employer to contact a prospect’s current employer before hiring. I fear that the world has higher ethical standards than some preachers. The same can be said about receiving members into your church without contacting their previous pastor. Don’t let the desire for a larger congregation curb your desire to be ethical and right with men and God.

Have you ever been unclear about the purpose of an offering in your church? Don’t say that the offering is going in its entirety to the guest evangelist or missionary if it isn’t. If the offering is going to help cover the expenses of the meeting also, be sure to say so. If you want the entire offering to go to your guest preachers, then allow space in the budget of the church to cover the expenses of the meeting. While there are hucksters in every profession (including the ministry), I believe that this mistake is made mostly because of a lack of planning and forethought.

Have you ever passed along a piece of speculation about another ministry or preacher that was not a verifiable fact as if it were indeed true? If you want to hurt the brethren, just disseminate information that is not true or that is true but unnecessary for everyone to know. Preachers are often privy to the most sensitive information. Keep your confidences and don’t help the devil do his work by spreading things that are unsubstantiated or untrue.

Are you handling the Word of God in a less-than-honest fashion? While all preachers should beware of this, those who are constantly preaching “hobby horse” sermons should especially beware. If you are not careful, you will begin to see Scripture through the lens of your favorite issue rather than seeing your issue through the lens of Scripture. Be sure that your messages are true to the context and the grammatical and historical interpretation of the passage.

Have you been lazy and undisciplined about the time you devote to the work of the ministry? The schedule of the preacher is unlike any other schedule I have ever seen. There is no punch clock, and the hours are indeed irregular! Sad to say, some laymen in our churches are working 40–60 hours a week while some preachers are getting their sermons on Saturday nights from the internet and thus neglecting the sheep. If a considerable part of your time is spent on blogs and social media, you are robbing your people and ultimately God. Don’t let it be said that those in the business world are more conscious of their time than those who are in the ministry. The minister of God ought to be more conscious and conscientious of time than anyone else because he remembers that time on this earth is limited.

As preachers of the Gospel, may we conduct ourselves in a way that “the ministry be not blamed” and that the “hidden things of dishonesty” are renounced. If I am going to be a preacher with God’s power and blessing, then I must be an ethical preacher. By God’s grace, Ambassador Baptist College will be a part of producing ethical preachers in an unethical day.

Leaving Your Nets

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Woodrow Kroll stated, “In contrast to the number in the general population, the ministry workforce is vanishing before our eyes.” His observation leads me to ask the following question: “Why are fewer teens and adults in our independent Baptist churches going into the ministry?”

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Early in his opening Gospel of the New Testament, Matthew recorded the instance when Jesus called Andrew and Peter to follow Him. The brothers were seasoned fisherman and had just cast a net into the water with the hopes of making a living. After hearing the call of Jesus, “Follow me,” they left their nets and followed Jesus (Matthew 4:20).

Several months ago, I reread a challenging book by Woodrow Kroll entitled The Vanishing Ministry. In his book, Kroll expressed a great concern for the dwindling number of people who are surrendering for full-time ministry. While I do not agree with all of his associations and positions, I certainly agree with the thesis of his book. In the introduction, he stated, “In contrast to the number in the general population, the ministry workforce is vanishing before our eyes.” His observation leads me to ask the following question: “Why are fewer teens and adults in our independent Baptist churches going into the ministry?”

I am afraid that we have emphasized to our children the importance of making a living rather than doing the will of God. If modern day career planning had been taught in Peter’s and Andrew’s day, they would have never left the fishing business to become a disciple. Many parents teach their children to make career choices based on job security, pay scale, and advancement. I am afraid that we will not see an increase in full-time Christian workers until we return to emphasizing the importance of God’s will.

Every year, a number of high school graduates enter our one-year Bible program. Many of them have no clue about their future plans, but they want to focus on the Scriptures and seek the Lord during a year of college. It is amazing to see the clarity and growth of these students during the course of the year. Some return to ABC to prepare for the ministry, and others leave to train in some other area with confidence and a determination to serve the Lord in that field.

We have also raised a generation that is more concerned with comfort and pleasure than submission and obedience. In all fairness, we should not lay all of the blame for this on the youngsters. We parents and grandparents have bought into the American dream of entertainment, education, and enrichment and taught it to our children. We have focused on pleasing ourselves rather than pleasing God. We have taught that more education will solve our ills. We have created such an appetite for materialism, that we are more content with our material possessions minus God than we are with God minus our material possessions. With the help of sincere but misguided Christians, the world is drowning out the call for preachers and full-time Christian workers. To see this trend change, we must stress the importance of having a life submitted to God and ready to obey His will.

A lack of faith has always hindered people from responding to the Lord’s call to the ministry. In Exodus 3 and 4, the Lord gave Moses a very definite call and equipped him for the task. In spite of those things, Moses still doubted God and experienced His wrath before submitting to God’s leading. A number of men have been called to prepare for the Lord’s work but faltered when financial and sentimental pressures challenged their calling. Faith in God will move us to do the impossible. Through the years, I have seen a number of men uproot their families, leave established careers, and go to Bible college to prepare for the ministry. All of them had to walk by faith and not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7).

I believe with all of my heart that God is still calling people to “leave their nets.” When is the last time you have seen a fellow church member or friend surrender for the ministry? I have often said, “Not everyone is called to the ministry, but everyone should be willing to go.” Are you willing to leave your nets and follow Jesus?

Removing the Candlestick

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A message that I heard recently emphasized the promise of Jesus in Matthew 16:18 that the gates of Hell will not prevail against the church. As I left the service, a question popped into my mind, “Why are churches closing in America?” When a church closes its doors, does that mean the Devil has prevailed?

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One of my favorite things about the Christmas break at Ambassador is being able to sit under good preaching at my home church. After an intense schedule of preaching in revival meetings, camps, and youth rallies, it is a welcome change to soak in the preaching of the Word with my church family. One of the messages that I heard emphasized the promise of Jesus in Matthew 16:18 that the gates of Hell will not prevail against the church. As I left the service, a question popped into my mind, “Why are churches closing in America?” When a church closes its doors, does that mean the Devil has prevailed?

A few minutes later, the Lord reminded me of his admonition to the church of Ephesus in Revelation 2:5: “Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.” What are the candlesticks? In Revelation 1, the seven churches mentioned in Revelation 2 and 3 are pictured as candlesticks.

The church (candlestick) of Ephesus is no longer in existence today. While I am sure the Devil hindered and fought against the church, the ultimate reason it disappeared was its refusal to repent and return to its first love. The same thing is happening to churches in America today. God is removing His candlesticks because of indifference.

The church of Ephesus was not a liberal church. It was orthodox in its beliefs, demonstrated biblical discernment, and worked hard for the Lord. From all appearances, the church of Ephesus appeared to be healthy. In spite of appearances, Jesus later removed this church.

Sadly, many of us have not learned the lesson that Jesus taught through the church of Ephesus. It is possible for a church to work hard, believe right, and separate from compromise and unrighteousness, and still be displeasing to God. Many churches are no longer in existence, but I wonder how many have fallen to the wayside because they had great doctrine, but no “first love” for Jesus Christ.

While we have a necessary emphasis on church planting, we also need a resurging burden for revival and strengthening the churches that exist. We need to have an undying loyalty toward God and His Word, and we need a passionate love for our Savior reminiscent of our love for Christ at the time of our salvation. We cannot settle for any less.

Will your church be in existence in twenty years? Only the Lord knows the answer to that question. Had the church of Ephesus been asked that question, I think they would have answered, “Yes.” Some churches no longer exist because of division and strife. Others pass off of the scene because of a lack of evangelism. Compromise and a lack of discernment have claimed their fair share.

Just remember that God was the One who removed the candlestick (church) of Ephesus. He said He would remove it if they did not repent and return to the first works. I believe the same thing can happen today. Let’s return to “first love” Christianity.

Grieving God

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When I read the first several chapters of the book of beginnings, I always have mixed emotions. In one glimpse, I hear the voice of God speaking the creation into existence. God’s majesty and power are so clearly seen. A closer look reveals to me the disobedience of man and his tragic fall. For the first time in his existence, man felt grief and pain. Adam was separated from God and destined to experience hardship and toil.

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At the beginning of the year, I decided to try a Bible reading plan that I have never tried before. Like most Bible reading plans, it had me starting in the book of Genesis. When I read the first several chapters of the book of beginnings, I always have mixed emotions. In one glimpse, I hear the voice of God speaking the creation into existence. God’s majesty and power are so clearly seen. A closer look reveals to me the disobedience of man and his tragic fall. For the first time in his existence, man felt grief and pain. Adam was separated from God and destined to experience hardship and toil.

Romans 5:12 reminds us of the tragic ramifications of that day. Death, both physical and spiritual, is perhaps the most obvious consequence of the fall of Adam. Anyone who has lived for a good amount of time can bear witness to the grief that death brings. On a number of occasions, I have witnessed the grief that people have experienced as they stood by the casket of a special loved one. Their eyes were filled with tears and their bodies shook with emotion as their hearts were pained by their loss. Just live a few years, and you will experience grief.

While grief is predominately thought to be only a human emotion, do you realize that the Bible teaches that God can be grieved as well? After surveying the wickedness of mankind on the earth, “…it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart” (Genesis 6:6). Thousands of years later in the New Testament, Paul admonished believers to “…grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption” (Ephesians 4:30).

Is it really possible for an omniscient and omnipotent God to be grieved by His creation? Doesn’t this imply that God must have some inherent weakness? If we know that we grieve the heart of God when we disobey Him, why do we choose to hurt the One that loves us the most? These are some good questions, and the answers are very simple.

We grieve the Holy Spirit of God every day. Immediately after Paul made his plea not to grieve the Holy Spirit, the sins of anger, bitterness, and division, along with others, are condemned in Ephesians 4:31. Too often, we condemn the “big” sins such as murder and stealing, and we excuse the sins of the spirit. It is the unkind word or unpleasant thought that can grieve the heart of our Creator and Lord. While God transcends our thinking in every way, He is still personal and affected by obedience or disobedience.

Just because the heart of God can be grieved by His creation and children does not mean that He has some flaw or imperfection. It does mean that He loves and cares about humans. In Hebrews 12, we are reminded of the discipline that God administers to His children when they stray from Him. Just because the children sin does not mean it is the Father’s fault! If anything, God’s grieving over our sin is not a sign of weakness, but rather that of strength. Instead of writing us off quickly, He chooses to experience that grief with the desire to draw us back to Himself. I am so thankful that “The LORD is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy” (Psalm 145:8).

Too often in life, we choose self and sin over God and grieve Him. Is this not what Adam and Eve did in the garden? Before you are too hard on the likes of Samson or David, remember that the same possibilities lie within each of us. While God has done so much for us, we still sometimes choose to grieve Him with our disobedience and foolishness. Our human nature is fixed on destruction, and we cannot let it have its way.

Through the years, I have heard many people say something like this: “I would have rather taken a beating than to see the hurt in my parent’s eyes.” Maybe if we focus more upon the grief that we cause our Heavenly Father when we break His heart, we will stop grieving Him. Revival will come when we are overwhelmed at what our sin does to the heart of God.

A Reason To Rejoice

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I love reading the book of Nehemiah. It begins with sadness as Nehemiah ponders the sad state of the city of Jerusalem. By the time the book ends, the nation of Israel is found rejoicing greatly. After the walls of Jerusalem were dedicated, “…they offered great sacrifices, and rejoiced: for God had made them rejoice with great joy: the wives also and the children rejoiced: so that the joy of Jerusalem was heard even afar off.”

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I love reading the book of Nehemiah. It begins with sadness as Nehemiah ponders the sad state of the city of Jerusalem. By the time the book ends, the nation of Israel is found rejoicing greatly. After the walls of Jerusalem were dedicated, “…they offered great sacrifices, and rejoiced: for God had made them rejoice with great joy: the wives also and the children rejoiced: so that the joy of Jerusalem was heard even afar off.” (Nehemiah 12:43).

We live in a day when many people celebrate at sporting events, concerts, and recreation. When is the last time you have celebrated because of a spiritual milestone or decision in your life? Nehemiah and the Israelites did, and we should too!

The beginning of the 2013–14 school year at ABC marks our twenty-fifth year of “training God’s servants for God’s service.” Like the people of Nehemiah’s day, we are rejoicing in the strength, provision, and power that God has granted us through the years.

Prior to celebrating, the Israelites had just completed a monumental task. In spite of opposition and poor conditions, they managed to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem in fifty-two days. Just remember that there were no large cranes and trucks to move and haul the stones—it took manual labor and determination got the job done.

In twenty-five years, God has given us so much at Ambassador. In the early days, we had a rented campus, temporary dorms, and crowded classrooms. Now we have a campus of our own, permanent dormitories, and space to expand. Although the college incurred indebtedness in the move from Lattimore to Shelby, the Lord has provided more than $3 million in cash to totally fund the construction of new dormitories and several capital improvement projects at our current campus. With God’s help, we hope to pay off our remaining debt so we can invest more into the lives of our students and the servants on our staff. The Lord has blessed us materially, and we rejoice in it!

In those early days, God brought some special people to Shelby, NC, to help lay the foundation of ABC. They came with no promise of a great salary and benefits package, and yet they devoted countless hours to work in those early days. Many years later, the Lord has given us a wonderful team of committed servants who want to pour their souls into our students. While several of the founding members of the college are still on the faculty and staff today, the Lord has brought us other men and women to fill the gaps. Even though they are from different backgrounds, these new staff members share the ministry philosophy of the college. When I look at these dear folks, I rejoice!

Without students, there would be no Ambassador. When we opened our doors in 1989, we welcomed thirty-six students to our small campus. Today, we have hundreds of graduates who are serving in almost every type of ministry you can imagine. In any given year, our students come from more than thirty states and six foreign countries. During the school year, they give testimonies every week about how God is blessing in their lives and local churches. Twenty-five years later, ABC is greatly blessed.

Recent history has taught us that Christian colleges and seminaries come and go. Campuses that were once bustling with spiritual energy are now a distant memory. If the founders of those institutions were resurrected from the dead, they would find the schools they started either non-existent or vastly different philosophically. At Ambassador, we have a great reason to rejoice in our twenty-fifth year and a great responsibility to remain true to our foundation.

Rejoice with us during this special milestone in the history of the college!

The Evangelist: A Gift to the Local Church, Part 2

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How does the ministry of the evangelist help the work of the ministry? Sometimes, evangelists are cast to be shallow preachers who slow down the ministry of a local church. Is that generalization true? I believe that the God-called evangelist will assist and help the ministry of the local church and the pastor.

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Read part 1 here.

Contrary to the belief of some, the evangelist has a ministry to the saint as well as the sinner. This is made very clear for all of the ministry gifts listed in Ephesians 4:11–12. They were given for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, and for the edifying of the body of Christ.

How does the ministry of the evangelist help the work of the ministry? Sometimes, evangelists are cast to be shallow preachers who slow down the ministry of a local church. Is that generalization true? I believe that the God-called evangelist will assist and help the ministry of the local church and the pastor.

Every church needs evangelistic preaching! While pastors are commanded to do the work of an evangelist (2 Timothy 4:5), the evangelist specializes in delivering evangelistic messages. The preaching of the evangelist will complement the preaching and teaching ministry of the local church pastor.

Evangelistic preaching gives believers the opportunity to get their friends and loved ones under the sound of the Gospel. Few things give me greater joy than watching a child of God rejoice over the salvation of his loved one during a revival meeting. God’s people should have the assurance that their friends and family will hear the Gospel when they come to church. When pastors do the work of an evangelist and coordinate special seasons of evangelism with an evangelist, people will hear the Gospel.

Evangelistic preaching also teaches believers how to share the Gospel with other people. Many people learn the “Romans Road” when learning how to lead people to Christ. Sadly, some believers fail to realize that there is a host of narratives and verses that one can use in pointing people to Christ. Whether it is the woman at the well in John 4 or the Philippian jailer in Acts 16, many individuals in the New Testament are great examples of salvation through Jesus Christ. When believers hear Gospel preaching, they are learning how to present the Gospel to other people. Every church needs this kind of preaching.

Another reason churches need evangelistic preaching is that it challenges people who are in the church but are not saved. Just because people regularly attend church services does not mean that they have trusted Christ as their Savior. Just as being in a garage does not make you a car, neither does sitting in a pew make you a Christian. A church that does not have a Biblical emphasis on preaching the Gospel risks leaving a younger generation unexposed to the news of salvation. What a tragedy! Some people will attend church services on a regular basis to soothe their conscience, when their real need is to hear the Gospel story and believe it. People who have attended church for years have been saved in revival meetings. We need to be careful not to assume that everyone in our churches is saved.

My point is not to promote the extreme of “Gospel-only” preaching. There is a great need for strong doctrinal and expository preaching to strengthen believers. However, some have gone to extreme of saying that evangelistic preaching is useless and does not help believers at all. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Evangelists have also been used through the centuries to challenge churches in the area of revival. When believers experience true revival, their evangelistic endeavors will increase. They will become more soul-conscious. Just as Jonah learned many years ago, believers must get right with God before they can be used of God to reach lost souls. This is why the evangelist must preach on revival themes. In the end, evangelism will be strengthened.

I am glad that God is still calling men to the ministry of evangelism. There is a great need for Spirit-filled men who are called of God to preach the Gospel and challenge the saints. May the Lord raise up many to preach the Gospel to the sinners and to challenge the saints!

Special note: In my last article, I made a statement that bears some clarification. I stated, “Since the ascension of the resurrected Christ, no one has heard Christ’s audible voice or seen Him with their eyes.” I failed to mention that there is one Biblical exception to this. In 1 Corinthians 15:8, Paul stated, “And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.” Paul saw the Lord after His resurrection, and therefore, was qualified to be an apostle. I desire to rightly divide the Word of truth (2 Tim. 2:15).

The Evangelist: A Gift to the Local Church, Part 1

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Every Christmas, our family gathers around the Christmas tree to open gifts. Before the wrapping paper is torn and ribbons are peeled off the packages, I always open my Bible and read a passage about the birth of Christ from the Old or New Testament. Afterwards, we bow our heads together and thank God for the greatest Gift ever given to man—Jesus Christ. Every year, people receive material gifts, but if you are a child of God, you know what it means to receive the gift of salvation. Did you know that the Bible teaches that God has given gifts to the church?

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Every Christmas, our family gathers around the Christmas tree to open gifts. Before the wrapping paper is torn and ribbons are peeled off the packages, I always open my Bible and read a passage about the birth of Christ from the Old or New Testament. Afterwards, we bow our heads together and thank God for the greatest Gift ever given to man—Jesus Christ. Every year, people receive material gifts, but if you are a child of God, you know what it means to receive the gift of salvation (Rom. 6:23).

Did you know that the Bible teaches that God has given gifts to the church? These gifts are not wrapped with paper and tied with ribbons, but they are very essential to the ministry of the local church. These gifts are not found under a tree, but in Ephesians 4:11: “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers.”

In New Testament times, God used apostles and prophets to lead in the foundational days of the church. The apostles were men who were personally called by Christ and saw the Lord with their own eyes. The prophets continued the ministry of their Old Testament fathers by foretelling events and boldly proclaiming the truth. Both of these gifts are extinct for very simple reasons. Since the ascension of the resurrected Christ, no one has heard Christ’s audible voice or seen Him with their eyes. The qualifications mentioned in Acts 1:21–22 cannot be fulfilled by anyone alive today. Prophets throughout the Bible gave advanced revelation and spoke with Divine sanction and authority. We now have God’s complete revelation in the Bible. Therefore, apostles and prophets are not functioning in the church today.

That leaves us with two distinct gifts: the evangelist and the pastor/teacher. Without a doubt, most Christians are familiar with the gift of the pastor, and rightfully so. Most churches have a pastor. Every church needs a shepherd to guide, to feed, and to lead. When a church goes without a pastor for an extended period of time, the devil will do his best to scatter the sheep. As a matter of fact, we would be very concerned about the health of a church if it did not have a pastor and use his gift. Just as a church’s well-being is hindered by not having a pastor, I believe the same is true when it fails to use an evangelist in his God-given capacity.

While many church members are familiar with the ministry of a pastor, fewer and fewer in our Baptist churches are familiar with the ministry of the evangelist. A number of pastors through the years have discounted the ministry of the evangelist because they knew of churches that were hurt or even split by unwise evangelists. Some have gone as far as to say that they would never use an evangelist again. Any pastor that believes that line of reasoning is on dangerous ground, and here is the reason. If church members used the same logic, they would eliminate the use of the pastor also. Some churches have been hurt by pastors who were hucksters or spiritually abusive in their leadership. Does this mean that we should not use pastors? Of course not! It is unfair and wrong to deny the legitimacy of the gifts of the pastor or the evangelist based on past failures and disappointments. God gave them to the church, and they should be used.

What is an evangelist? Some people believe that he is a preacher who travels around and preaches all the time. If that were the sole qualification, then there are a lot of pastors in independent Baptist churches that are also evangelists. Did you know that the Bible gives us the job description of the evangelist?

He is a preacher of the Gospel message. The very meaning of the word evangelist is a “herald of the good news.” The heartbeat of the evangelist is to preach the life-changing message of the Gospel and to see people saved. Only one man in the Scriptures is specifically called an evangelist—Philip (Acts 21:8). He clearly demonstrated his gift in Acts 8 as he was preaching in the cities of Samaria. God had him preach not only to the masses but also to the individual. If a church wants to reach souls for Christ, it should use the evangelist.

Some men have taken this description and said that the evangelist is just a soul-winner in the church. This great oversimplification humors me. We are all commanded to be witnesses of the Gospel (Acts 1:8). In the history of the church, it is obvious that the callings of apostle, prophet, and pastor were divine and required special enabling. The same is true of the evangelist. He is a specialist in preaching the Gospel and motivating others to share the old story, too.

Not only does the evangelist have a ministry to the lost, but he also ministers to the saved. In Ephesians 4:12, he is to help with the perfecting of the saints, the work of the ministry, and the edifying of the saints. More will be said about the revival ministry of the evangelist in the next article in “The Ambassador.”

Evangelists have had a great impact throughout church history. They have been a part of awakenings and revivals, started Christian schools and colleges, and been a blessing to many local churches and pastors. For that impact to continue, churches and pastors must return to using the gift of the evangelist. By God’s grace, Ambassador will continue to train evangelists and pastors who believe in the gift of the evangelist because the New Testament demands it.

Will the Music Change at ABC?

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At the end of the 2010–11 school year, another important transition took place at Ambassador Baptist College. After twenty-two years of leading the music department at Ambassador, Dr. Don Scovill stepped down as the music chairman and was replaced by his son Todd.

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At the end of the 2010–11 school year, another important transition took place at Ambassador Baptist College. After twenty-two years of leading the music department at Ambassador, Dr. Don Scovill stepped down as the music chairman and was replaced by his son Todd. In 1995, the Lord brought Mr. Todd Scovill to ABC from a thriving local church music ministry. Upon his arrival, he led the college chorale to begin our yearly tradition of singing excerpts of Handel’s Messiah as a part of our Thanksgiving festivities. Visitors from the surrounding area are amazed that a college of our size is able to do such a quality presentation of this familiar and classic literature. Mr. Scovill’s training in the instrumental realm has been invaluable in assembling various instrumental groups and ensembles. I believe that Mr. Scovill will continue the strong foundation that has been laid by his father through the years and will build upon it.

In light of this transition, will the music change at ABC? I am sure that Mr. Scovill will do some things differently than his father. When a church gets a new pastor, the new pastor usually does not preach exactly like the former pastor because they are different personalities. They may use a different approach in their sermons. Their ministries have different strengths, yet their philosophy is the same. I am confident that this is true of the Scovills. While the faces of leadership have changed, our philosophy of church music will not.

Since day one, ABC has had what has been commonly labeled as a traditional and conservative style of music. The terms traditional and conservative are not confined to time, but rather to style. The church has been blessed with good music that was written in the 1800’s and continues to be blessed by music that is written in 2011. The issue is not the era in which a song was written, but whether or not the style and content is honoring to God. While some leaders are convinced that no biblical text guides the style of music, we firmly believe that the Bible does give us guidelines to govern the style of our music. Some of these texts are applied to the Christian’s life in general (Romans 12:2; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Romans 7:14–25). John gives a general principle for the Christian in 1 John 2:15: “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” The Christian is not to love the things of this world, including the music of the world. Other texts refer specifically to music (Ephesians 5:19; Revelation 5:9). Paul gave a specific application to music in Colossians 3:16 when he admonished believers: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” Both general and specific verses teach us that there is a difference between carnal and spiritual music. Therefore, our music cannot be fashioned after the world.

As a result, we will continue to reject the music philosophy of Contemporary Christian Music (CCM). There is a growing acceptance of using CCM in independent Baptist churches. Some churches use it with no reservations, and others borrow from various CCM groups and “clean up” the songs. While the motives of Christian leaders who are doing this may be sincere, I am afraid the result will be disastrous. Worldly music will lead to fleshly living. In Ezekiel 22:26, Ezekiel pointed out a grave error made by the priests: “Her priests have violated my law, and have profaned mine holy things: they have put no difference between the holy and profane, neither have they shewed difference between the unclean and the clean, and have hid their eyes from my sabbaths, and I am profaned among them.” They put no difference between the clean and unclean. We do the same when we try to put the world’s music with good words. CCM and those who use it make the same mistake as the priests in Ezekiel’s day.

Our focus will remain on training young people for the local church music ministry. Our goal is to train men to be effective congregational song leaders and choir directors with a biblical philosophy of music. By requiring two years of piano for all our ladies in a four-year program, they are encouraged to develop their musical skills so that they can be a blessing in the music ministry of their local churches. Although our students are taught to play skillfully, their music is not to be about performance, but rather ministry. Music is to exalt the Lord, not ourselves. There is a great need for men and women to serve in the local church music ministry.

We will continue to teach that the words of the music must exalt Christ and teach sound doctrine. A common trend in church music today is to bring God down to man’s level, when in actuality our music ought to exalt Him. The text of the music must be true to the Word of God. Unsound doctrine sometimes creeps into the church through music long before it makes it into the preaching.

Since our founding in 1989, it has been said that at Ambassador Baptist College, preaching is king and music is queen. I look forward to seeing how the Lord uses Mr. Todd Scovill and our talented music faculty to train the next generation of local church musicians.