Declaration Series III: It’s Not Wrong to Warn about the Future, the Bible Does

If I’m crazy or irrelevant for preaching about future challenges to the faith, then so is Moses, Joshua, Samuel, Ezra, David, Solomon, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, Matthew, John Mark, Luke, John, Paul, Jude, and even Jesus. They all warned of future challenges and called the people of God to ready themselves to persevere. I would venture to say that those men are good company and good examples to pattern one’s sermon material.  

I have to admit, evangelists and itinerant preachers have it much easier in preaching. Pastors, can I get an AMEN? While pastoring, I had to have a different sermon each week and often more than one. At times three different sermons, and at that traditional pace of three sermons a week—that’s over one-hundred and fifty messages a year.

Now that I’m doing the itinerant thing, the most I have to have is five different sermons when I preach a revival. But often I’m preaching the same message over and over again. Now I say this all tongue and check, it’s true pastors have a difficult task of continually to preach new messages, but I don’t think we should ever view it as having “to have” a sermon. Each time we preach should be a message or teaching that the Holy Spirit has led us to share with our congregation.

But it’s a good thing that I only have to have a message or two, because there is one thing I am overwhelmingly burdened to share—believers need to prepare to stand firm for challenges to their faith now and especially those in the future.

Yes, challenges in the future.

Future challenges that are both normative that we could face any day, as well as, those that are prophetic and will one day befall us. But often the response I hear towards preaching on being spiritually prepared for future challenges, is “That’s not the type of thing we talk about our church.” Or “We focus on messages that are relevant to everyone’s life and prophecy doesn’t really fit that.” And “We make sure we have practical messages that the congregation can apply to their life.”  

Listen, I’m glad churches have strategies and know the demographics of their congregation. I also know all too well that preaching on prophecy and end-times stuff has been greatly abused–the stigmatism is understandable. I’m also glad messages are intended to be relevant and practical, but as I wrote about in my previous post American Christians aren’t prepared to remain faithful.

Relevancy is not set by the culture or what we are doing tomorrow, rather the reality presented in Scripture shows what is relevant. And leaders of God’s people in history and the Biblical writers have felt that future challenges are relevant and important to their people. So, what has led us to change that precedent?

Moses warned of the challenges the Israelites would face in the land.

The prophets warned of the looming consequences if Israel did not return.

Jesus warned the disciples they would be hated and persecuted.

Paul called the believers in Ephesus to put on the armor of God for the pending attacks of the devil.

Peter called the believers scattered in the diaspora to be alert because challenges were prowling in the shadows.

John relayed the words of Jesus given on the Isle of Patmos, that the believers in the seven churches of Asia needed to be overcomers and hold on until the end.

It’s relevant for eternity and it’s relevant for our souls to hear messages about what lies ahead, even if that keeps us from hearing a relevant message of how to deal with our anger at work that next week.

Even before I became overwhelmed with the message to stand firm, I learned the

Find out what Jake believes we need to be prepared to face, and more encouragement to hold on.

hard way that pastors need to not only equip church members for today, but also prepare them for the future. In my time as a youth pastor, I focused on challenging students to live for Christ that week in their high school and how to date in a God-glorifying manner. Helpful stuff, but they were only in high school for four years, while they’re going to be adulting for the rest of their lives. I should have been preparing them to follow Christ for the long haul.

Believer please look past what you practically need right now and utilize the Word to prepare yourself for future trials. Pastor, small group leader, or Bible Study teacher, yes, your people need practical application, but that application also needs to extend to future challenges. It’s not wrong to warn about the future, the Bible does.

So, preach about future challenges and prepare for them. And if you’d like to invite me to help in the process, please do.
 
 
Also join our newsletter. Twice a month get a load of tools to help you prepare for challenges now and in the future. Register here

 

 
 
 
Jake McCandless is an award-winning author and the executive director for Stand Firm Ministries and Prophecy Simplified . A long-time pastor who is now co-pastor of the innovatve “above-ground underground,” online church, Endtime.Church., Jake has a B.A. in Bible and Pastoral Studies from Central Baptist College, and an Advanced Masters of Divinity from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. His latest book Spiritual Prepper released through WND Books, He also is a regular contributor to WND News with voices such as Joseph Farrah, Pat Buchanan, Ann Coulter, Ben Carson, Chuck Norris, Joel Richardson, Carl Gallups. He also writes for the The Baptist Press along with other publications. He is also a regular guest on national radio and streaming web shows, along with hosting his daily radio program Prophecy Simplified Radio and weekly podcast Hold On.  Jake is married to Amanda and they have two daughters Andrea and Addison. You can follow all Jake’s work at www.jakemccandless.com. 
  
 

 

 

 

 


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Declaration of War II: Churches Are Not Prepared, I Want to Help

I know it’s a strong picture and title for a pastor to use. Especially, when he’s not talking about physically picking up arms, but  rather fighting a war of ideals. I believe the strong language of this blog series and the force of the war imagery is necessary because this battle carries weighty resonating consequences. As I wrote, in the first article of this declaration of war series, many American Christians have left the church and the faith. The number one reason being the result a difficult  trial arising in their lives. When this happens, we’ll rarely step up and hold on, more often than not we’re going to split.

Statistics and experience show we’re not anywhere close to standing firm now in this present time in history, so how will we ever stand if there’s even greater tribulation—and there will be. And by greater tribulation, I’m not even talking about the coming time when the Antichrist and his ghoulish army march through the world chopping heads off those who don’t bow to his image or take his mark. But that too will happen as foretold in Scripture—and we’re not showing much promise that we’ll stand in that scenario.

Rather, I’m talking about national trials that could occur at anytime such as an economic downturn like the Great Depression, heck, just another 2008-like recession. I’m talking about the continual growth in access to immorality that web designers are busy preparing for us right now. I’m talking about restrictions on religious liberty as seen across the world. It doesn’t appear we’re ready for the coming challenges to our faith. Again, we probably weren’t ready for what we faced this morning or last night. We’re not ready for the loss of a loved one, a loss of a job, going broke, a friend stabbing us in the back, a disagreement at church, the seductive glance in the office, and the list goes on. We’ve been lulled asleep with the ideas that Christianity brings financial prosperity and its just all about making a positive difference. 

We’re not prepared.

Believers across this nation are not prepared.

Our churches aren’t preparing us.
 
And we’re not preparing our churches.

I have this strange life where I get to pastor a church and attend a church. I’ve got this dual membership thing going (if that really is a thing). I love the church I attend. It’s a magnificent church. Truth is proclaimed, people are baptized every week, we’re making a huge impact in our city, and a huge impact around the globe. Seriously, its one of the greatest churches in the nation. My pastor even preaches on end-time stuff and about the reality of the world around us. He has his finger on the pulse of the times and the culture.

Even being such a strong church, I sat in the morning worship service a few weeks back and peered around at the three thousand gathered. They were hearing the Word proclaimed, but as I looked a phrase came across my heart Those words were, “They are sheep headed to slaughter.” Although many around me are faithfully attending church, hearing the Word taught accurately and boldly, and going through one of the best discipleship programs in the nation—they’re still not prepared. They’re not ready to have their faith survive coming challenges. Heck, I don’t even know if I’m prepared—and I wrote a book about being prepared for such challenges.

In my book, Spiritual Prepper, I begin with a story of a father facing ISIS soldiers who were asking if he really was a Christian, a follower of the Nazarene. This father knew that if he said yes, then not only would he probably be killed, but his family—his wife and children–could be harmed even killed. And in that opening chapter, I boldly stated the Biblical truth that even if his daughters were sold to be child-sex slaves and his sons were beheaded, the Father would make the right choice by not denying Christ and holding on to his faith. Yes, I said that. And yes, it’s the absolute truth given in Scripture. Our confidence should be in God not in our own clever ways.

So, I wrote that and just the other day, I was stingingly reminded of what I had written. I was throwing myself a pity-party over not being able to provide certain things for my kiddos because at sixteen I made this crazy commitment to vocational ministry. And then I even veered off the less-than-lucrative path of pastoring to launch my own non-profit. This made even worse in that I might just be the world’s worst fundraiser. (Here’s a DONATE BUTTON by-the-way).

Yeah, so, I was whinning before the Lord, and then came that cut-you-to-the-bone chastisement from Him. “Jake, you wrote and encouraged people to remain faithful even to the point of their own child being beheaded, and now here you are wavering in your faith because your kids may never go to Disney Land.” Ouch. Hashtag ‘Murica by-the-way.

I really doubt I’m prepared. It’s highly likely you are not prepared. It’s more than likely your church is not prepared.

And I know the objections. First, I do know there are those of believers who would rise and remain faithful when things hit the fan, but I believe they could be even better prepared—I know I could be. Second, I imagine you’re thinking that every week we’re preparing our people or getting prepared by the preaching of the Word and from  Bible studies, but with statistics what they are of people leaving the church and faith, we have to admit that might not be doing the trick–we’re not prepared for the wimpy challenges Monday mornings pose.

I admit as a pastor I failed in preparing my congregation, even now I’m wrestling with what to do and how to better ready my people, but I do know this–we have to be intentional. We have to talk about it. We have to have the hard discussions.

Pastor, do it! Sunday School teacher share it! And I’d also love to come and share it as well.

But remaining faithful should be the goal, therefore we need to prepare.
 
And if you’re asking what should we be preparing to face then check out this article
 
 
Also join our newsletter. Twice a month get a load of tools to help you hold on and fight this war, too. Register here

 

 
 
 
Jake McCandless is an award-winning author and the executive director for Stand Firm Ministries and Prophecy Simplified . A long-time pastor who is now co-pastor of the innovatve “above-ground underground,” online church, Endtime.Church., Jake has a B.A. in Bible and Pastoral Studies from Central Baptist College, and an Advanced Masters of Divinity from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. His latest book Spiritual Prepper released through WND Books, He also is a regular contributor to WND News with voices such as Joseph Farrah, Pat Buchanan, Ann Coulter, Ben Carson, Chuck Norris, Joel Richardson, Carl Gallups. He also writes for the The Baptist Press along with other publications. He is also a regular guest on national radio and streaming web shows, along with hosting his daily radio program Prophecy Simplified Radio and weekly podcast Hold On.  Jake is married to Amanda and they have two daughters Andrea and Addison. You can follow all Jake’s work at www.jakemccandless.com. 
  
 

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Declaration of War: People are Leaving the Faith, I Want to Help

I’m declaring war against an epidemic in America. No more timidity. No more holding back. There is too much on the line. What is at stake is too important.

If you follow Stand Firm Ministries or anything I’ve been up to the past couple of years, then you have heard my story. And I know, it’s yada, yada, but again–here I go. If you’re familiar with the story, you have my permission to skip the next paragraph, but not permission to exit the screen!

I was serving as pastor at a church I loved, with people I love. Life and ministry was great. We’d been there for 11 years. The church and the community were our life, and life was good! Then I began to follow a long-time prompting of the Holy Spirit to write. In doing so, somehow, I began to write about prophecies in the Bible that we often overlook, prophecies that not only tell about the political and doomsday-type stuff at the end of the age, but rather tell how we will be in terms of our faith and morality. The image Scripture gives us is not good. Matthew 24:10 warns, many of us will turn away. That prophecy opened my eyes to the reality all around us—many had already left the faith in America. An astounding forty-two million by 2015. When faced with challenges in life, many professed Christians are splitting from the church and often the faith. This was alarming, especially since other prophecies tell us those challenges will only grow more difficult.

In response to the leading of the Spirit and the findings mentioned above, I left that pastorate and began Stand Firm Ministries and Prophecy Simplified. Stand Firm Ministries was established to encourage believers to hold-on to their faith, and Prophecy Simplified to share Scripturally and simplistically the challenges that will come our way in the future.

My number one hope is to encourage local churches across the nation with the message to hold on to their faith and identify the coming challenges to the faith. Due to the stigmatism that accompanies prophecy, I have carefully guarded what I say, not wanting to hinder future opportunities. Let’s be honest, we tend to think prophecy teachers are tin-foil hat wearing crazies. At least I did. So, I have walked on eggshells constantly laying out the prayer-fleece, so I’d not cross the line into crazy-town. But I can’t walk that tight rope anymore. I can’t suppress the truth. Too much is at stake. 

Millions across the nation are departing the church and faith. Europe already has. This very morning, the Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting held a meeting on the possibility that the denomination was dying. Yes, part of all this turning away is just the “wheat and tares harvest”, but the causalities do not have to be so high. Church members need to be encouraged to hold the line now, and we need to begin ministries to welcome back those who have walked away.

We need to know what the Bible is clear about in terms of the end. We need to recognize what has been and is being fulfilled before our very eyes. We need to be prepared to remain faithful now and in the future.

There I’ve said it.

I put my foot in my mouth.

I committed myself.

I exposed a calling, I’ve carried out sheepishly.

I hope you hold me to it. The stakes are high. Therefore, I declare war. My gauntlet is thrown down. On this hill I die. I declare war on silence. I declare war on not shouting down warnings from the wall. I declare war on the challenges that are blindsiding Christians and causing them to abandon their faith. I declare war on not being chicken-little announcing the sky is falling because it is.

Please, consider having me share in your church about this message. More than that, declare war yourself, commit to hold on.

The stakes are high—Stand Firm.

 
Also join our newsletter. Twice a month get a load of tools to help you hold on and fight this war, too. Register here

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
Jake McCandless is an award-winning author and the executive director for Stand Firm Ministries and Prophecy Simplified . A long-time pastor who is now co-pastor of the innovatve “above-ground underground,” online church, Endtime.Church., Jake has a B.A. in Bible and Pastoral Studies from Central Baptist College, and an Advanced Masters of Divinity from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. His latest book Spiritual Prepper released through WND Books, He also is a regular contributor to WND News with voices such as Joseph Farrah, Pat Buchanan, Ann Coulter, Ben Carson, Chuck Norris, Joel Richardson, Carl Gallups. He also writes for the The Baptist Press along with other publications. He is also a regular guest on national radio and streaming web shows, along with hosting his daily radio program Prophecy Simplified Radio and weekly podcast Hold On.  Jake is married to Amanda and they have two daughters Andrea and Addison. You can follow all Jake’s work at www.jakemccandless.com. 
  

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Uncertain About What’s Next

The tassels on each end of the golden honor chord, bright against the black collegiate gown, swayed slightly with each step. She paused, took a deep breath, and waited for what came next. As our daughter’s full name was announced, followed by, “Bachelor of Science, Missions, Magna Cum Laude,” Marinna crossed the stage, shook the hand of the college president and received the degree she worked so hard to earn – with honors.

Mixed emotions flooded my soul. Pride, awe, relief, joy, fear, confidence, peace, and uncertainty for what comes next.

Pride, because from the beginning of her college search, she targeted one place for one reason. She chose a specific private Christian college to equip her to serve the Lord in ministry. To be sure of her convictions and her calling, my husband and I offered options. She held firm to her decision and received the necessary scholarships to resolve any financial obstacles. What Christian parent wouldn’t be pleased with that?

Marinna felt God directed her, and she held on believing He would provide.

He did.

I stand in awe of her spiritual growth, focus, and her Christian convictions. While far from perfect, as a deacon’s kid and a pastor’s kid all her life, Marinna’s consistent exposure to the Word of God set a firm foundation for her. However, a strong-willed, openly opinionated child combined with our parenting faults and failings, created a real opportunity for quite the opposite. More so, I stand in awe of all God placed before her despite our parenting mistakes. I praise Him for giving her the wisdom to make good choices. As her parents, we hold on trusting God to finish the good works He started in her. (Phil 1:6)

As our graduate paused next to the college president, turned, and smiled at the camera, I released a long, slow sigh of relief as if letting go of the spiritual breath I held since her adolescence. The challenging seasons of preteen, teen, and college passed without irrational decisions, irresponsible behavior, or irreparable damage. The chick in the nest remained safe and ready to fly.

With college finished, for now at least, joy fills us for many reasons: her ministry focus; academic accomplishments; finishing college without debt. But what fills me most with joy is witnessing her growth in the Lord – both scholastic and spiritual.

Is she still strong willed, opinionated and stubborn? Yes! Imagine those traits, coupled with quick wit and a fearless nature all focused on the Lord and not the desires of this world. I fear for the opposition she will face, for her sake and theirs. Strong-willed individuals are famous for their relentlessness – a doubled edge sword for sure. Oh, the stories I could tell, but I won’t – not yet, anyway.

Marinna exudes confidence and self-assurance. However, my confidence in her arises not from her own, but from God. I hold on knowing God clasps my daughter in the palm of His hand. Wherever He takes her, whatever He calls her to do, whomever He calls her to be, He will equip her, supply her needs, and finish His great work in her. As long as she remains in the center of His will, peace settles in my heart.

Then, uncertainty disrupts the peace when my mind speaks louder than my heart. The mental conversation seems more like a ping pong match between the two. So many unsettled questions served up in one part of my mind end up answered by another. “What’s next? Will she be close, or far away? Will she immediately find vocational ministry, or remain in a secular job?” Then, “God knows. God’s got this. God’s got her.”  Letting go proves difficult, especially for the parents of an only child.

            Maybe you feel the same. Whether your child is graduating kindergarten, high school, or college, maybe you also wrestle with the uncertainty of the future even as you know, “God’s got this.” Or maybe a heavy heart weighs on you as our cunning enemy lures your child away from God. Are you burdened with guilt, questioning every parenting decision you ever made, wishing things for your child would turn out differently? Maybe even as a model parent, your child chose a path contrary to the Will of God leaving you standing by, stunned, and unsure of anything.

            Maybe you are the graduate and you are fighting the fear of an uncertain future.

            Read these words.

            Hold on.

            Do. Not. Give. Up.

Trust God no matter what. Hang on in faith and pray.

Please understand, I know those words are easier said than lived. God never promised our walk with Him would be easy. Our strength for the required endurance comes from Him.

While we are proud of our daughter, God is the hero of this story – not Marinna, and certainly not our parenting skills. [If only you knew!] Even just one wrong choice opens the door for a very different outcome. Sometimes someone else’s wrong choice impacts us and changes everything.

As parents, we desire the best for our children. We want to protect them.

We know the dangers of this world, potential pitfalls, and the active work of an enemy who wishes to kill, steal and destroy (John 10:10). We see evidence of his destruction and evil every day. We pray – and we should, without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

God holds the answers to all things, is everywhere, and can protect my daughter no matter what. Knowing this gives me peace and provides comfort when I am uncertain about what comes next.

I pray you find peace and comfort in that as well.

           “For I know the plans I have for you – this is the Lord’s declaration – plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11 HCSB)

 

(Editor’s Note: Thank you, President Terry Kimbrow, and the faculty and staff of Central Baptist College of Conway, AR, for our daughter’s quality Bible education.)

Rita Halter Thomas is a staff writer for Prophecy Simplified, providing HOLD ON Stories to encourage you to hold on to your faith. She is a pastor’s wife and the mother of a college missions major.  She is also an award-winning writer, the founder of The Write Editor, http://thewriteeditor.com, and a former newspaper and magazine publisher with 23 years’ experience in print and digital media. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
 
  

 


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Roots to Stand Upon

                “Oh, yay! I will finally have roots,” our eight-year-old daughter squealed.

            I remember well that day in 2004. My husband and I felt God calling us back to Arkansas from the Midwest, so once our direction became clear, we shared our plans. Marinna’s response to our announcement struck a chord in my heart.

            Roots. That word settled deep in my soul.

            Why I never thought about her absence of roots, or her need for it, I really don’t know. Preoccupied? Oblivious? Who knows? But in her excitement I realized she spent more time without extended family surrounding her than with them. When we left our home state five and a half years prior, Marinna was only two years old. Her young mind remembered very little of the years we lived near family.

            Living 750 miles away, trips home were limited to once or twice per year.

            She wanted roots.

            Without family in the area when we moved to Nebraska, we depended upon new relationships to fill the void. (God intervened, and that’s great story for another day.)  With a fourteen-hour drive one way, weekend visits were not an option. We also moved four times in five and a half years for my job.

            No family ties. No roots.

            Not in Nebraska.

            Not in South Dakota.

            Marinna attended schools with children whose families lived in the same area for generations. The towns were small so many of her friends’ classmates attended school with their cousins. She desired that familial connection. She wanted that link to her history and her heritage.

            She needed roots.

            No wonder the news of our return to Arkansas resulted in her spontaneous squeal of excitement.

            But not just anywhere in Arkansas.

            Central Arkansas.

            Home.

            Finally, Marinna connected with her roots. Family – not friends who became family – a blood link.

            My friends, as Christians, we have a blood link through Jesus Christ. We are family, adopted heirs of the throne through our faith in Jesus, by the blood He shed for us as an atonement for our sins. When we accept Him as our Lord and Savior, we are rooted in the family of God.

            When we accept Him, we have roots like no other roots.

            When we accept Him, we have a home like no other home.

            When we accept Him, we have family like no other family.

            There is no distance too great for Him to cross every single moment of every single day.

            There is no place beyond His reach; no hurt He cannot heal; no family He cannot repair; no home He cannot rebuild; no promise He will ever break.

            Are we dysfunctional at times? Without a doubt. But while we are flawed human beings, we are His children. He is our Father.

            Christian, trust Him with everything.

            Stand firm on your Heavenly roots.

            Hold tight to your Holy family tree.

            Fourteen years ago, our young daughter erupted with excitement about finally being home with family, firmly planted in her roots.

            God rooted deep within us a desire in our hearts for Him; the want to be near Him; to need Him.

            As Christians, when we make our heavenly move home, we will no longer feel unsettled, restless, or sometimes distant from the one and only God who loves us so much, He gave us the life of His son, Jesus.

            That’s some kind of deep root.

            That’s some kind of blood link.

            That’s some kind of love.
 
 
 
 
Rita Halter Thomas is a staff writer for Prophecy Simplified, providing HOLD ON Stories to encourage you to hold on to your faith. She is a pastor’s wife and the mother of a college missions major.  She is also an award-winning writer, the founder of The Write Editor, http://thewriteeditor.com, and a former newspaper and magazine publisher with 23 years’ experience in print and digital media. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
 
  
 

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A Forgotten Responsibility of the Pastor

Since high school I’ve been working in churches, and the past ten years as a senior pastor. And I believe pastoring is one of the most difficult jobs in the country. For me it was the wearing of the thirty million different hats that made it so difficult. You know how it is—as a pastor, we must be administrators, counselors, wedding planners, funeral directors, chaplains, architects, janitors, teachers, preachers, and the list can go on and on, right? So, the last thing I want to do is add something to your already overwhelming list.

But I want to tell you of a forgotten aspect of pastoring that is absolutely necessary for this time in history we now live. It’s a responsibility that pastors of the past and in other parts of the world today carry-out, but not so much here in America.

In the midst, of all the different hats we wear and activities we do, we’re driven by God-given spiritual tasks that we as pastors seek to accomplish within our congregations. As a pastor, we know we are called to evangelize. In each activity within our ministries, we try to share the Gospel with our flock. We also know we are called to disciple and again in each thing we do, we work to foster spiritual growth within our congregation. We also have been given the spiritual task of equipping our congregation for missions and ministry. These three spiritual tasks are why we plan the events that we plan. These tasks are why we establish the programs in our churches. They permeate every different proverbial hat we wear out within the pastorate.

But one other task needs to be weaved in the mix. Pastors, we have a responsibility to prepare our congregation.

Maybe you know this, but I didn’t. I never looked at one of my pastoral responsibilities being to prepare my congregation to stand firm and hold on to their faith in difficulties now and in the future. The books I read and conferences I attended, encouraged me and helped me assimilate new members, share the Gospel more effectively, train leaders, take members deeper in the Word, and how to structure our church; but, never once did I hear anything about preparing my people.

In the process of preaching through the Olivet Discourse in Matthew 24, I was captivated by Matthew 24:10 in which Jesus warns that “many will turn away.” Each time after this moment, when I stood in the pulpit and looked out at my congregation, my heart was haunted with the question—have I prepared them enough to not turn away? This verse warns that a majority of those who profess to be Christians will turn away; therefore, if my congregation faces that prophesized time many of them will turn away.

As I was asking myself this question, I realized if you took our “membership roll” you would see that many had already turned away. And for many of those on that list, they had shared with me their story. When I would follow-up on members who were no longer attending our church, the conversion typically went, “Pastor, I used to attend church and was involved in this and that, and then this or that event happened in my life and I just left.” In other words, when faced with difficulty, they turned away. I began to realize that I had these conversations all the time. Usually, the event that caused the turning away was the loss of a family member, a divorce, or hurt feelings within the church.

Not only did I realize this was happening in my neck-of-the-woods, but as I began to write my book, Spiritual Prepper, on the issue, I saw that the statistics pointed to this happening all over the nation. In fact, 42 million professed Christians who once attended church were no longer attending. So, chances are you are hearing the same conversations I was hearing. Like me, I’m sure, you’re frustrated with the lack of commitment and participation you see from your congregation.

Now I don’t know if we are at the prophetic fulfillment of Matthew 24:10 because Jesus was talking about a specific time—the birth pains. But regardless, we are seeing people under our pastoral care leave the church.

Are we preparing our congregations to remain faithful?

Now, there is no doubt that we have taught the truth enough that our congregations should have the ammunition to remain faithful. But have we intentionally prepared them to remain faithful?

Pastor, I believe we need to start.

Of course, since I’m so passionate about this subject I have some suggestions. But more than sharing those thoughts, I hope you become captivated by the need to prepare your congregation as I became captivated.


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8 Realities American Churches Must Be Prepared to Face

If you have read any of my posts or books, or if you have heard me speak, then you have heard me say that as individuals and churches we need to be prepared. And you have heard me say that pastors need to prepare their congregations. So, the question then becomes—in what areas do we prepare?

Good question! So, here are eight realities in which we need to be prepared to face.

 

  1. The personal trials and tribulations we face are a normal part of following Christ.

Depending on your interest level of end-time prophecy this first reality is either disarming or a let-down. I feel strongly that we need to preach, teach, and hear more about the end-times. The Bible supplies so much that we can know. But I don’t know how we can even talk about the perils of the end-time events when we can’t even survive difficult trials today. A prolific biblical point is that followers of Christ will face trails and tribulations on a regular basis. The fact of the Christian facing trials is not a matter of “if”, but a matter of “when”. We see this over and over again in passages like 1 Peter 4:12: 

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.1 Peter 4:12 (NIV84)

Unfortunately, therapeutic and prosperity brands of Christianity has deceived most American Christians into thinking following Christ is just a bed of roses. There will be challenges to the faith, and as American Christians, we don’t know this; and, American pastors aren’t telling us anything different. Therefore, we are sheep headed to the slaughter. Right now, 42 million professed Christians in America have given up on their faith, and most of which did so when faced with a difficult trial. American Christians have to be prepared to face difficulties.

 

 

  1. The Christian persecution seen on the news is a normal part of following Christ.

Along the same lines as the previous point, Christians should expect difficulty. Scripture even goes as far as to teach that we should expect persecution. Listen to what Jesus said in Matthew 10:22-23:

All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. When you are persecuted… – Matthew 10:22–23 (NIV84)

Did you catch it said “when” you are persecuted? America, has been an anomaly compared to Christian history and most of the world today. Persecution is the default response from the world to Christians. So, as stories of Christian persecution in the Middle East, Northern Africa, and North Korea shock us in America, we must realize that is the norm. We also need to know that we are called to remain faithful when faced with persecution. American Christians need to know that God has called us to be martyrs and not to deny our faith. And unfortunately, we must know this because at some point towards the end-times there will be universal persecution. If America is around at that point, then one can guarantee Christians in America will be persecuted.

 

  1. The United States will not exist as a world super power forever.

You were probably tracking with me until I put on my tin-foil hat and wrote this, but it is absolutely true. Contrary to what is often said, we are given many clear details of the end-of-this-age. In those details, we can know the nations involved in the empire of the Antichrist and the Battle of Armageddon. Even within the aspects that are debated, it’s clear that America is at best diminished in power before the Antichrist rises to power, which is before the seven-year tribulation. And for America to at the minimum diminish in power, there has to be difficulty in the nation. At the minimum, this would be economic hardship, but could easily range to far more difficult tribulation. And if we’re struggling to remain faithful now in America, we’ll fare even worse in the face of national calamity. We need to prepare to remain faithful when life is difficult.

Now, I don’t pretend to know a time-frame for this. It may not be for another 100 years, but there are some clear signs that point to us being near the end-of-the-age. I write more about that here. But one sign that brings near certainty is the fact that Jews are back home in Israel.

 

  1. The American Church as we know it will change.

This reality that we need to prepare to face, goes hand-in-hand with the previous reality. If America faces tribulation and change so will churches in America. But I believe church as we know it can change far before that point. Under the eight years of Obama, it appeared the freedoms of our churches were headed for fundamental changes. One possibility I have heard mentioned is the possibility of church giving losing its “tax-deductible” status which  threatens to change church as we know it. What happens to Christians in America when there aren’t elaborate children’s ministries? What happens when the cutting-edge music has the plug pulled? What happens when there are not full-time pastors? What happens when big buildings can’t be afforded? Again, if we are struggling to remain faithful in such times of blessings how will we then? Whether that is a way in which things for the church will change who knows? And at that, the loss of giving is probably the least of what could happen to the the American church. 

 

  1. The Rapture may not be pretribulation.

Don’t “x” out yet! Please hear me out! For most American Christians who do have an inkling of care about the end-times, they predominantly believe there will be a rapture before the seven years of tribulation. For one, in the previous points I have argued that tribulation may come to our lives long before the actual seven years. But we need to consider that the rapture might not happen before the tribulation. I have been a long-time pretrib guy, but when I finally studied the passages used to defend that view I realized they are very shaky. And when I approached the Bible with an open-mind about the rapture it actually seems to say the opposite of a pretribulation rapture. Take 2 Thessalonians 2 for an example, the passage clearly says that the Antichrist will come first. But regardless of what view is right, we need to understand that we may have to face the tribulation. We need to realize that the pretribulation rapture view is not solid. Because if we go into the tribulation without being raptured that alone will cause some of us to give up on God because we have taught that to be the truth.

 

  1. The Restoration of Israel is central to the story.

The doctrine of God restoring the nation of Israel at His return is hotly debated, but it shouldn’t be at all. Many teach that the Jews and the promises made to them about their coming kingdom, no longer applies to them, but now apply to Christians. To believe that Gentile Christians have replaced Israel is absolutely erroneous. Believing this is true is to basically discard the entire Old Testament. It is important that we are prepared to see that the whole story of the Bible and salvation history will center back on Jerusalem at the end-of-the-age and the age to come. This is made very clear in Romans 11:25:

I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in.Romans 11:25 (NIV84)

 

  1. The Empire of the Antichrist may be rising.

As I have spent the past five years of my life diving into the study of the end-times, I have been shocked out how little critical study has been given to the end-times. Many of the prevailing views have extremely shaky biblical support—one of which is the restoration of Israel. The predominant view of replacement theology flies in the face of the bulk of biblical support. This phenomenon is also true when it comes to the location of the empire of the Antichrist. Nearly uncontested since the first century, Christianity has held to the idea that the empire of the Antichrist would be a revised Roman Empire in Rome. But the biblical support for this is very weak, while all the while there is clear evidence in Scripture for a Middle Eastern location of the Antichrist’s empire. It is also clear that empire of the Antichrist will be a revised Ottoman Empire or in other words, an Islamic Caliphate. With this being the case, the present rise of Islam and especially Turkey means that the empire of the Antichrist could be rising.

 

  1. The Millennial Kingdom will be awesome.

The previous seven realities dealt with negative tribulations that we need to be prepared to face. Seven challenges that could cause us to turn away from God. But this final area is a positive that we are not prepared to enjoy. Listen, we do not make Heaven as awesome as it will be. And when we study about Heaven, we see that first there will be a 1,000-year time period in which Jesus will rule on earth from Jerusalem. He will sit on the throne of David and rule His Eternal Kingdom. This is real and tangible. And we will be able to enjoy it. We need to be prepared for the awesomeness of the Millennial Kingdom.

 


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Does the WHOLE Bible Story Guide Your Church Leadership?

What part or books of the Bible do you believe most sermons today are derived from? What about your own sermons? I wish I had a scientific survey, but I don’t. But I do have the fact that I have heard a lot of preaching! And I believe it’s a safe bet to say that most present-day preaching is derived from the Gospels, the Epistles, and occasional blockbuster Old Testament stories. Would you agree? My sermons were. The Gospel of Matthew probably leads the way in my sermon history.

I’m not here to debate what our sermon passage quota should be, but I’m hoping you can visualize how that if most sermons are from the teachings of Jesus and teachings in the Epistles then therefore our churches and Christian practices reflect those sources. And it does, doesn’t it?

In this post, I start with the biblical root of our sermons because that picture is easier to see. If I preach on the instructions Jesus and the apostles gave then my congregation is going to focus on living out those teachings.

But now, think with me, what part of the Bible or Bible book does our philosophies of ministry, mission statements, vision statements, etc. for our churches and ministries derive? What biblical instruction shapes your paradigm for pastoring and church leadership?

Again, I wish I had a scientific study, but I’ve been to a lot of church growth conferences and have read most of the books on the subject. And again, the Gospels and the Epistles lead out with the addition of The Book of Acts. Our church leadership is modeled after the apostles. Our leadership paradigm is motivated by the instruction of the Great Commission. And this is definitely how it should be, for the Great Commission is our mission. I’m not opposed in any way to this foundation for our church leadership practices.

But, I believe we lead our churches without considering the whole story of Scripture and the whole story of salvation history.

Digressing a bit, but at some point, in my elementary career, I was told the easiest way to complete a maze was to begin at the end and work our way out. It’s definitely easier to begin at the end of the maze, right? Do you know this secret? If not, try it!

Now if we only had the knowledge of the ending of the mission of church and ending of salvation history, then we would have the end of the maze of life, right?  We then could lead our churches through the maze much easier. Pastoring would be much easier!

Wait a minute! We do have the end. In Scripture, we know how this age ends. We know what the age-to-come is like. We know how the church age will wrap up. Yet, how many church leadership decisions are we making based off this knowledge? Yes, our mission will always be the Great Commission, but The Book of Revelation and prophecy throughout the Bible provide even greater clarity and motivation for the Great Commission.

Pastor and church leader, we are leading through paradigms that only consider part of the story.

Pastor and church leader, we are leading from the middle of the maze and not the end. When we actually have the end of the maze!

Pastor and church leader, we need to look at the end, and let it show us how to lead now.

And pastor and church leader, looking at the end will give us a leadership paradigm that priorities preparing our congregation to remain faithful—to stand firm.

 

 

Connection: So, if we need to prepare our congregation then what do we need to prepare them to face? Learn here!

 


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15 Ideas to Be a Stand Firm Church

 

  1. Host a Stand Firm Emphasis Sunday.

 Yes, this is self-serving, but experience proves that ministries, issues, and doctrines that are set-aside to be remembered in an emphasis day or some other like event in our churches become important to the church. They become interwoven into the church’s DNA especially when that emphasis day becomes an annual event. Churches that recognize the Sanctity of Life Sunday—become pro-life champions. Churches who remember the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church become churches that know and care about the persecuted church. This is true for missions, family, and any other issue that is set aside in the form of a special day. Regardless, if you choose to let SFM lead your Stand Firm Emphasis Sunday you need to do one. But there is value in bringing in a guest speaker especially for your first Stand Firm Emphasis Day. SFM also is able to provide you with pre-event messages, post-event lessons, and focused experience on the subject.

 

 

  1. Continue Holding Annual Stand Firm Emphasis Sundays.

As mentioned above, Stand Firm Emphasis Sundays are powerful in establishing the importance of commitment, endurance, and perseverance in your church. These truths become part of your church’s DNA when it becomes an annual event. To encourage you to make this an annual day on your church calendar, each year SFM will make available free a message outline, presentation slides, and promotional material for you each year after we partner with you to host your first Stand Firm Emphasis Day.

 

  1. Listen and read our Hold-On Stories.
 
And again, this is self-serving I realize, but we are creating a large library of Hold On Stories written and in podcasts to be available for you to use. Research and experience shows that people are more likely to hold on to their faith when they hear they are not alone with the struggle, and that others have been through the same issues. Our Hold On Stories are available free on www.standfirmministries.com.
 

 

  1. Tell Your Own Hold On Stories.

Stories and testimonies of struggling to hold on to one’s faith are powerful tools to help someone not give up and leave the faith. Yes, we provide stories, but your church would be strengthened if church members shared their own stories at your church from the stage, in videos, in newsletters, etc. Let your people share their struggles to keep the faith and how they held on.

 

 

  1. Talk about Standing Firm & Holding On.

The word “talk” was chosen intentionally. The next idea is to “preach” on standing firm and holding on. As you know, our sermons are quickly forgotten. They are important, but each week we go from subject to subject and passage to passage. The messages that truly takes hold in our congregations are those we “talk” about all the time and in all the things we do. They are the subjects we share when we share our “hearts.” They are what is said in conversations, in song choices, in small group discussions, in newsletters, in social media posts, etc. Make standing firm and holding on just part of the natural flow of your conversations.

 

 

  1. Preach On Standing Firm & Holding On

 Although what we “talk” about becomes more of the DNA of a church than what we “preach,” you need to regularly preach on standing firm and holding on. One of the responsibilities of the pastor is to prepare their congregation. These subjects don’t even have to be the primary focus of every sermon, but you will have opportunity after opportunity to bring out this point in most sermons.

 

  1. Talk & Preach about Persecution.

Since the distinction has been made between “talking” and “preaching” from here on out on this idea list the two will be combined. Persecution has been a regular topic for churches in Christian history and throughout other parts of the world but has not been addressed regularly in our churches in America. One of the most effective ways to inform your congregation, is to celebrate another emphasis day—the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church.

 

  1. Care about the Persecuted Church.

Again, it’s not enough to just preach or teach on a topic, if you want to bring that issue into the continual conscious of your congregation. Encourage your church to continually care about the persecuted church. This begins with celebrating the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church and preaching on persecution. But take it further by incorporating regular updates and sponsorship of ministries like Voice of the Martyrs, Open Doors USA, and others. One of the most, helpful tools we utilized in our church was to have a church member become a “church voice” for VOM within your church. Also I highly recommend Author Tom Doyle’s books.

 

  1. Talk & Preach About End-Time Prophecy

As Christians who have the Word of God, we can know a lot about what is coming. We have the TOOL to prepare our church for what lies ahead. We have 25% of our Bible that has prophecy. We just have to TEACH it. Navigating the subject can be tricky but check out our partner ministry www.prophecysimplified.com.

 

  1. Talk & Preach about Heaven.

Not only does the Bible provide us with what is going to happen through end-time prophecy, but we also have the greatest motivation to “hold-on” and “stand firm.” Just as we are given many details of the end-of-the-age, we are told a lot about Heaven and the coming Kingdom. This is our motivation, keep it before your people. Look forward to our soon to release book on Heaven.

 

  1. Talk & Preach about Faith.

No matter how much we talk about endurance and provide the motivation of the eternity to come, ultimately holding on to our faith and standing firm will come down to faith. Continually preach on the need for faith and share stories of faith to build-up the faith of your congregation.

 

  1. Provide Accountability.

We have to talk and preach about the subjects mentioned above, but talking and preaching can only go so far. No matter how much you intentionally preach on these topics and these Scriptures to encourage your congregation to remain faithful—they will turn away. Realize this and build-in programs to help them hold on. Create accountability so that when someone has a weak moment of faith, they can be encouraged and held to the commitments they have made.

 

  1. Keep Track of Attendance & Follow Up.

One on one mentorship is the best method of accountability. Small groups or life groups follow in second. But just simply tracking attendance and actually following up when someone is out of church goes a long way. Not tracking attendance nor following-up tells your congregation that you don’t value their commitment or attendance. There are great software programs and practical methods to keep track.

 

  1. Go After ‘Em.

 Don’t give up on church members who go astray. If you are keeping track of attendance and do follow-up when someone is absent, don’t give up going after them! Show them how important their faith by leaving the ninety-nine and going after that wayward one.

 

  1. Engage Your Church in Something Big.

A few ago, America, saw many young girls leave the freedom of the United States to travel across the world to become young wives of ISIS soldiers. The phenomenon seems absolutely crazy, but ISIS propaganda fed them a message of being part of something big. Churches fail to show the grand scope of our involvement in ministry and mission. We are a part of sharing the greatest message the world can ever know and each one of us is needed—make sure your people know this. Build up their participation and celebrate that participation and volunteerism.


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