Feb 27, 2017

Why Christians Should Support Religious Liberty for Muslims, Even When We Disagree With Islam

Recently there has been a bit of commotion within the Southern Baptist world around a stand Russell Moore took defending a Muslim congregation’s right to worship. Several churches have taken to hold money from the convention over this stand. We need to be clear, Moore did not come out in support of muslim beliefs. He did not give SBC money to the church. He simply defended their right to worship.

Baptists in general should be the grandest supporters of religious freedom for all. Baptists are born from puritans and anabaptists who fled Europe because they were being killed for their beliefs. When America was being founded, our country almost was launched without the protection for all to worship freely. Roger Williams, the founder of the First Baptist Church of America, led the state of Rhode Island to hold out from joining our country until the protection of all religions were guaranteed the right to worship and practice their beliefs. Baptists, as the severe minority, would not have survived if it were not  for these protections. Written into the DNA of Baptists is the freedom of worship for everyone.

In recent days religious liberty has come under attack. The questions of whether one’s religious beliefs can direct their business have already been lost in our increasingly secular age. The constitutional right of religious liberty is eroding quickly. Today, christians face the temptation of surrendering this constitutional right inadvertently. If christians state that Muslims do not have the same inalienable rights as they do, they will lose their own religious liberty.

If we say that muslims do not have the right to build a house of worship for themselves, we should not be surprised when we are denied the right to build a house of worship in communities where we are no longer the majority. Our religious liberty, from a political standpoint, is tied to the same freedom that Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and Mormons share.

This does not mean we believe that Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and Mormons are right. It means that we support their political freedom to practice their religion. We can disagree with their religious convictions yet still support their governmental freedoms.

Very simply, the day that Muslims are denied the right to build a mosque is the day we surrender our right to build a church. The day Muslims are denied the right to practice their faith is the day we are denied the right to practice ours.

Religious liberty is not real liberty if it only gives freedom to the majority religion. For religious liberty to exist in America, it must be a right granted to every religious group. As Muslim liberty goes so goes Christian liberty.

I stand with Russell Moore and the ERLC.

Feb 9, 2017

Should a Christian Watch 50 Shades Darker?

50 Shades Darker is porn. Let's be straightforward about it. 50 shades is not a romantic movie to watch with your significant other, and it is not a catalyst to spice up your relationship. It is porn.

We are now living in the full expression of the sexual revolution, and it is important for us as believers to understand the consequences of our actions. Going to watch a movie that involves any nudity or sexual act has far reaching consequences. 

1. Watching porn kills your relationship with God. 
As Christians, the motivation of our lives should not be whether something is permissible but instead whether our actions lead us further into a relationship with God or away. Let me be clear -- porn is a sin. Jesus states in Scripture that anyone “who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” 

John Piper articulates clearly what watching shows like 50 Shades or Game of Thrones does in his blog

2. Watching porn pollutes your mind. 
Porn works in the same way drugs work. The images consumed cause a reaction in your brain which demand more and more. When porn takes a foothold in your life, it will only escalate. Like a drug, you will not be satisfied by the images you previously viewed but will need more graphic and vivid forms.  

This article by The Gospel Coalition communicates the physiological changes that will happen in your mind when you consume porn. (There are videos at the end that are more easily understood.)

3. Watching porn will hurt your sexual life. 
The affects of porn on your sexual life are serious. An addiction is caused because porn both creates an unrealistic expectation of your partner and raises what is necessary for pleasure since the pornography has numbed your brain. Simply put, porn will destroy your sex life. In a time where people are turning to porn to spice up things, porn will actually cripple your sexual relationship. 

Fight the New Drug, communicates this point in detail here

4. Watching porn will destroy your marriage. 
Porn is selfish. It is gratifying yourself in an act which God built for trust. Porn will devalue your spouse, erode the trust of your marriage, make you see you partner as a sexual object and not a person, and eventually lead you to isolation.  Porn will destroy your marriage. 

Relevant Magazine details the effects of porn on marriage. 

5. Watching porn enables an industry of sex trafficking. 
Huffington Post makes the point more simply that I can, “As long as America’s men are being trained to think that violent, disturbing pornography is sexually acceptable, an enormous clientele for sex traffickers is being created every day in homes, college dorms, and apartments across the nation.”

With all of that said, don’t watch 50 Shades. Unsubscribe from HBO and create accountability in your home for what your eyes see. Porn is far more dangerous than you realize. Let's own up to this vile practice and take the steps necessary to remove it from our lives.

Feb 3, 2017

How the Church Should Respond to Muslim Refugees

In recent days in America, the discussion of Muslim immigrants has been reawakened. The discussion centers around whether America should open its borders to displaced Muslims and accept the risk that a fractional minority might come meaning harm or protect our people and close our borders until we can be sure of our safety.

I am going to be straightforward here. There are many people on both sides of this issue who are far smarter and have better information than I do and who would be better equipped to discuss this. I am in no way qualified to approach this topic with anything other than reaction, which is where most of us are.

My passion and expertise are in the church. As this discussion has moved forward, I believe God has exposed the fear we live with which has paralyzed the people of God from ministry and evangelism to a people whom God has called us to reach. My care does not lie in the decisions of the White House but instead in the hearts of the people of God.

God has called the church to bring the Gospel to all nations. Within this command, God did not tell the church to go only to those who would be friendly to the church or go only to those who were our allies. He called the church to every people group across this world. This means we bring the message with our words and our actions that God has loved his enemies by sacrificing himself for them. This means we as Christians are called to take up the same cross of self sacrifice for those who are our enemies.

Paul, in the book of Romans, states that he is not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Many in the Roman church were growing weary of the persecution they faced on an everyday basis. Paul’s statement was an encouragement to continue to live out the bold love of Jesus Christ towards people whom they feared.

Christian friends, let's leave the politics to the politicians and embrace the call of Christ.Will you pray for the millions of Muslims across our world who do not know Jesus? When you see a Muslim family, will you intentionally go out of your way to know them and love them? Many foreign families long for community and friendships which become difficult in these politically polarizing times. Will you show the same love to them that Christ has shown to you? This summer, FBC Vidalia is going on mission to love and share the good news of Christ with Muslims. There would be no greater gift you can give to these people than the gift of life in Jesus Christ. Would you consider going?

Muslims are not our enemies. They are image bearers of God for whom Jesus Christ died. If Jesus Christ died for them, our call is to follow Him.

Jan 19, 2017

Ministry Depression is a Real Thing

After hearing several of my friends and fellow pastors talk about the emotional toll of ministry,  I thought it would be good to give you an honest take on the pain most of us carry.  

So you know how preachers are THE MOST confident, faith centered, strong people you know…

We’re not. We struggle, we doubt, and we struggle with depression.

This past week I came home from the office for lunch where I was still chewing on a gripe I heard. This gripe came from an unknown source, and frankly, I should have treated it as such. That said, I let it have a piece of my mind, and it burrowed deep with in my heart.

I came home and shared the gripe with my wife. I could see the hurt roll over her eyes as we both felt the pain of previous gripes and church wounds that we’ve never let go. We both felt the dizzying feeling of, oh no, not again. Deep within my chest, I could feel the tightening as 11 years of ministry hurts awakened in me.

Truthfully, this gripe wasn’t that great, but it was another straw on top of a mountain that I have never let go.

We preachers are not strong men. Most of us are weak and worn down. We walk with the wounds that we guard our hearts with.

After a moment of spiraling, my wife called me out of it. She looked at me and said “Wes, who are you called to serve?” I knew the question because it is the plumb line we return to when walking through ministry pain.

The pastor is a broken man who is called to serve God first. He is called to endure the pain of ministry and love churches who may or may not treat him right. In any pastor’s tenure, he will walk through pain and depression.

I guess I write this blog today to ask for your prayer. I imagine any preacher would say the same. I will gladly let you know that I carry the hurts with me… as does EVERY pastor.

Today, will you pray for your pastor?

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. Galatians 1:10

Jan 8, 2017

Why I Am Getting a Doctorate

This past week I had the honor of studying with sixteen godly men. Most of these pastors serve in Kentucky, though some traveled from as far as Texas, Louisiana, Florida, and Liberia. Every one of us is in pursuit of our Doctorate of Ministry in Church Revitalization. Each of these men has a passion for helping churches experience new life.

My pursuit of a doctorate began through a challenge from my wife. Over the course of the last few years she has encouraged me to pursue a doctorate, and I always brushed it off since I was not smart enough to pursue the next level of education. A little over a year ago, I remember sitting with my wife over dinner at an Uno’s Pizza in Orlando, Florida following the Ligonier’s Conference when the she asked me again why I was not pursuing this next step. This time the challenge stuck. I was wading through the questions of church health and discipleship among young adults, and I knew I needed more than the few books I was reading. At that table, Jenn and I began to look at the different focuses SBC seminaries offered. I could have studied preaching, leadership, or any other number of disciplines. One singular focus came forward as we perused concentrations, Church Revitalization. When I saw that Southern Seminary, the flagship seminary of the SBC, was offering this degree plan, my path was set.

About six months ago, I came in view of a call to First Baptist Church of Vidalia. During that weekend, I had the opportunity to answer questions from the stage of the church from any person who came. One of the questions that was asked to me was why I was looking at FBCV if my doctoral degree was in church revitalization. FBCV seemed to be in a good place. Giving was healthy, attendance was good, and the church had a thriving children’s and youth department. At that time, I fumbled through an answer which I can’t remember today. I knew God was calling me to FBCV and I also knew that God has called me to be a church revitalizer.

If I had another shot at the question, I think I would have a better answer. Every church needs revitalizing. A church who believes it does not is living in a false understanding of itself. Church revitalization is the discipline of focusing on the health of the church above gimmicks or personalities. As a pastor, I have a heart for the established church. Walking into any established church means you embrace their culture, traditions, and people. It means you work with the church over the course of years to build health and vision. The overwhelming majority of churches across our country need pastors who care about the health of their churches. U

When I began this journey,  I never realized that I was working to become a general practitioner, a doctor of health. This is who the church revitalizer is, a pastor who builds the long term health of the church. This past week I had the honor of sitting alongside 16 pastors who cared deeply about their churches. Many of these men bear the scars of churches who abused them as they cared for their needs. As the concept of church revitalization grows across our country, I am hopeful for the future of the established church. God is raising up men who love established churches, and He is giving them a vision to restore and renew their health.

Jan 2, 2017

Your Church Has a Porn Problem

I was reading through a few blogs I never published over the last year. This one caught my eye. 

A scary new trend has begun to infest churches across America. It is the trend of church pornography. The people of the church have begun consuming lustful images of each other. Members dissatisfied with the wife God has called them to have begun to idealize each other’s brides thinking they would be far happier with false the pinups of another church. Once the members begin to consume this kind of religious porn, each member becomes more and more dissatisfied with their own bride since she is not the porn  they have consumed of another church.

What are the sultry images we consume?

1. Another church’s/ musician’s worship.
This may be the greatest cause of lust in the church. Many churches have convinced themselves that if they had a certain style or quality then they would be a worthwhile place. What happens when you consume the porn of worship lust is that you prevent yourself from actually worshiping God. We make worship conditional on preference. Worship porn prevents good Christians from participating in real worship.  When your heart is consumed by lust of style it will be impossible to approach the throne of God.

2. Another church’s  programs.
In many ways, we have all become consumers of church. We shop for churches like we shop for restaurants. When you grow bored of the menu of the bride you married, you begin to shop around to find a church that offers you the most bang for your buck. As we begin to look at another church’s offerings, we grow more dissatisfied with our own. We lust for what we don’t have, taking for granted what we do. Once the lust of programs consumes us we forget we exist to serve in the church and begin to think the church exists to serve us.                 

3.  Another church’s pastor.
God has called pastors to serve His church. When they get up to speak they are called to take the timeless word of God and apply it to the circumstances of the people in their own church. They are called to love, shepherd, and lead the church to follow Jesus. Many pastors lust after their next church and many churches lust after another pastor. When either one becomes infatuated of the playboy image of another the church suffers.  When this lust contaminates the church, both the pastor and the church stop seeing each other through the eyes of love and begin to look for each other’s faults.

Israel struggled in this same way. They had God as their leader but had no king. Lusting after their neighbors, they forsook the fulfillment of God to chase after the lustful image of a king. In a sad step away from God, they settled for an idealized image that would never fulfill them.
When the church consumes the porn of music, programs, or pastors they are making the statement that God is not enough.  God gave us music to worship Him with. God gave us programs to serve Him with. God gave us pastors to proclaim His word through.  When we grow dissatisfied with our bride we in turn make God’s gifts into idols to serve ourselves through.

I know I am not perfect. I struggle in many of these areas. I know God’s call for both you and me is to love our church for who she is, not who we want her to be.  Do you love God’s bride, your local church, for who she is? Have you made an idol out of the lustful longings of another’s bride?

Jan 1, 2017

My 2017 Goals

As an ADD/Dyslexic pastor, I have learned that without specific goals in my life, my schedule tends to overwhelm my best intentions. I intend to read, but few books get read. I intend to blog, but you can see by my history how well that works. I have all the best intentions but without specific goals and plans, my intentions are well... pointless intentions.

In 2016 I set three goals before myself: 1. To embrace daily prayer in my life. 2. To read at least one chapter of a nonfiction book a day. 3. To bring discipline to my eating habits.  I am glad to say that I succeeded in 2 of my three goals for 2016.

For 2017 I am going to place before myself 7 goals (you can call them resolutions) to guide my coming year.

1. My Struggle: I have yet to overcome an addiction to food or the shame of over eating. My goal for 2017 is to gain control over what goes into my body, both in substance and in quantity. I am learning as I grow older that there is nothing that affects my mood, my energy, and my life quite like food.

2. My Church: As a pastor, I am a people pleaser. I love to make you happy, often to the detriment of the church as a whole and to the detriment of my family. Truthfully, I have a hard time saying no to anyone. I despise confrontation. My goal for 2017 is to learn to say no to what is not healthy for the church, as well as what steals my time from first priorities.

3. My Study: This past year I took a refresher course on the Greek language. Through this class,
 I began the practice of daily translating a passage of Scripture and dwelling on its meaning.  My goal for 2017 is to translate a passage of Scripture from the Greek text every single day.

4. My Writing: Hello Blog, it’s me, you’ve been neglected. My goal for 2017 is to write weekly on WesFaulk.com. I am looking forward to writing about ministry, running, small town life, family, and doctoral studies.

5. My Reading: Over the past year I have become a reader. My goal for 2017 is to read 30 non fiction books. I’ll take any recommendations you have.

6. My Family: There are many day I have allowed stress, time, and exhaustion to steal important moments away from my kids. There are many nights I come home, say hi to my girls and then kiss them goodnight. My goal for 2017 is to spend quality time with my children daily.

7. My Running: Running is how I have learned to deal with stress. My goal in 2017 is to run 1000 miles. This equates to about 3 miles a day.

These are my goals for 2017, how about you? What are your goals for 2017? It is going to be a great year!