One of my preaching mentors wrote: “I have been with my current congregation for 18 years. On my first Sunday in the pulpit, I promised the church that I would never stand before them unprepared. I believe I can say with integrity that I have kept that promise. Could I ‘wing it’ after three and a half decades of preaching? Yes, I could. But I would know, and God would know…”
How does he do that? He simply works diligently enough all the time to be prepared at any time. That perspective is one which he did his best to instill in me, and I am willing to make the same promise to my church family at Eastland. I will never stand before them unprepared.
That perspective is obviously noble when it applies to preaching. It also makes for a great perspective on living. Jesus said, “the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Matt. 24:44). In the course of the next chapter, he went on to give five reasons why his followers must work diligently enough all the time to be ready at any time. He asks us not to stand before Him unprepared.
I think sometimes we imagine that the end of our time will come like the end of Paul’s time. We will see our end on the horizon and be able to calmly say, “I have fought the good fight… there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness” (2 Tim. 4:7-8). But Paul’s circumstance was unique. He was a prisoner, facing the death penalty. Paul could see his end coming. We are not likely to find ourselves in that same situation, but we can live with such diligence that we are ready even today to say, “I have fought the good fight… there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness.”
That same preaching mentor was wont to say, “Sunday will come every week, whether you’re ready or not.” It only took about 1 month of full-time preaching before I realized how right he was.
Take this simple reminder to heart: The final day will come once (Heb. 9:27), whether you’re ready or not.
Be diligent to be ready… today.
- Dan Lankford, minister
When he came home from the war zone due to combat injuries, US naval officer LtCdr. Eric Greitens started talking to other wounded troops in the military hospital where he was recovering. He asked his fellow wounded soldiers, "What do you want to do next?"
The answer was always the same: "I want to go back to my unit." Despite some of them having suffered truly debilitating injuries that prevented them from ever serving in the armed forces again, their determination to serve their country remained undaunted. All these men had volunteered, and their love for country permeated their attitudes so deeply that they wanted to continue to serve.
In our modern American culture, it is very common and polite for us to tell a soldier or a Marine, "Thank you for your service." LtCdr. Greitens would tell the men, "Thank you for your service... and we still need you." He told them this because their countrymen DO still need them. We need these soldiers as leaders in the workforce, in our schools, in our local governments, in our neighborhoods, in our big government, and in their own families.
If you've been wounded by unbelievers in the service of the Lord's army, can I say, "Thank you for your service... and we still need you"? If you've grown older and become tired in your service of the Lord's army, can I say, "Thank you for your service... and we still need you"? If you've been wounded by friendly fire—fellow Christians' bad choices—in the service of the Lord's army, can I say, "Thank you for your service... and we still need you"?
The church needs the leadership, the example, the teaching, and the fellowship of those who are tired and yet continue to press on... of those who are wounded and yet continue to press on... of those who are discouraged and yet continue to press on. Your brothers and sisters still need you to fight against the devil alongside us. And in fact, sometimes you are the ones whom we need most because you have the most direct and long-term experience with our great enemy.
That's why we need you to teach us in our Bible classes, to mentor us in our family lives, to encourage us in our battles with temptation, to love us in our weakness and show us God's grace to overcome, to be our leaders in our churches, and to share the lessons you've learned from walking the path of the faithful.
You can be the ones who show us that God always wins! You can be the ones who show us not to grow weary in doing good (2 Thess. 3:13)! You can be the ones to show us what it means for God to be "all in all" (1 Cor. 15:28).
Thank you for your service, beloved brothers and sisters... and we still need you.
- Dan Lankford, minister
The Mission Continues is an organization developed by officer Greitens to help soldiers continue serving their country in powerful ways as civilians when they retire from the military. The organization's efforts have helped a great many soldiers overcome the struggles of PTSD by focusing their skills on the greater good of serving others.
Tuesday's news was mainly given to campaign quotes and Super Tuesday hopes & results. Regardless of how you feel about the candidates in this year's presidential election, and regardless of what you anticipate the future will be for this country, remember a couple of these things above all those things:
"Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment." (Rom. 13:1-2)
"[The king of Babylon] was driven from among the children of mankind, and his mind was made like that of a beast, and his dwelling was with the wild donkeys. He was fed grass like an ox, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, until he knew that the Most High God rules the kingdom of mankind and sets over it whom he will." (Daniel 5:21)
"My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world." (John 18:36)
"First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus..." (1 Timothy 2:1-5)
"I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
We are excited to host our first Invite-A-Friend Sunday in 2016. If the Lord wills, we'll have a special message on Sunday morning, April 3, for our members and guests alike. As a church family, we always enjoy meeting a host of new folks on these particular Sundays. And we pray that in your time with us, you will hear and see that we are about even more than a great church family atmosphere... we're all about Jesus Christ!
On this particular Sunday, we plan to talk about HOPE. It has been said that "hope is not a strategy," and so you cannot make plans based on a hope. But when the Bible talks about hope, it's something far more solid and secure than that kind of hope! It's something you can depend on! It's something that will see you through life's hard times with a promise of better things to come! King David said, "For who is God, but the Lord? And who is a rock, except our God? ... He made my feet like the feet of a deer and set me secure on the heights" (Psalm 18:32-33). How can we have the same kind of secure hope in God?
Join us for our small group Bible studies at 9:30am, and for our worship assembly at 10:30am on Sunday, April 3. We'll be glad to have you as our guest!
In just six days, God brought the universe into existence by the power of his words. On the seventh day—the very first Saturday, God himself took a day of rest. This Saturday of rest became a pattern for the people of God through the time of Moses, David, and into the time of Christ.
However, when Christ rose from the dead on the first day of the week, Sunday suddenly became an exceedingly special day to Jesus’ disciples—those who believe the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy in him. His resurrection makes every Sunday a day of crucial importance for Christians.
On Sunday, we honor Christ. Above all else. We celebrate the coming of God's light into this world. We rejoice in the power of his light that could not be overcome by the darkness of death. We worship God as the source of all creation and the source of our new creation in Jesus Christ. We listen intently for his word; wanting to know all we can about his nature and our responsibility toward him. We honor him as our Lord with adoration and song and humble obedience from the heart. On Sunday, we honor Christ.
On Sunday, we spend time with family. When Jesus was told that his mother and brothers had come, he plainly taught that his true family are those who need him, who follow him, and who obey him. The same is true of us. We are brothers and sisters with each other because of our common connection with him. Christians of all eras have understood the tremendous value of fellow Christians in their lives. Especially in view of the facts of Sunday—that Christ was raised and that we will be raised together with him. We need these connections, and we get to enjoy them on Sunday.
And on Sunday, we look forward to heaven. Because of the resurrection of Christ—because light was not overcome by darkness, we have hope firmly set in the presence of God in heaven. And it is not the kind of hope that world gives. That kind of hope can disappoint. The kind of hope we have is an anchor for our souls. It keeps us focused. It reminds us to be joyful. It gives us strength to see the light even when it seems most dim. This hope makes us long for more Sundays here, but even more than that, it makes us long for our own resurrection—when we can forever be with the Lord!
- Dan Lankford, evangelist
"And they said, 'Let us rise up and build.' So they strengthened their hands for the good work." (Neh. 2:18)
When God's rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem under Nehemiah's leadership, they did so for the glory of Zion—Jerusalem—the city of God. In the New Testament, the church is called Zion—the new Jerusalem—the city of God. Our vision for church growth is based on these concepts. We want the church to grow, not for our own glory, but for the glory of God!
Our elders' vision for 2016 sets a framework for everything we do as the people of God. From personal character development to evangelism to greater service... this vision gives a Biblical framework for the entire process of growth. We believe that what we do must all be centered in the word of God — his design for his churches. We are committed to following God’s will in both the spirit and the pattern of his kingdom.
The three key elements of this vision are:
Rise Up & Build... Your Life On The Rock
Goal: Living the Gospel
Jesus said, “He who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock” (Matt. 7:26). We hope for every Christian to desire and develop the essential virtues of faithful saints. In 2016, we, as a church will participate in:
• Spring & Fall Lectures Series
• Vacation Bible School (Theme: “Truth Hunters”)
• Regular Assemblies and Bible Studies
Rise Up & Build... Sinners Into Saints
Goal: Sharing the Gospel
Jesus said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19). We intend to work together as a church family to spread the Gospel. Toward this end, we, as a church, are committed to the following:
• Improved Guest Relations & Increased Personal Studies
• Three Invite-A-Friend Sundays
• 1-On-1 Evangelism Training
Rise Up & Build... The Body of Christ
Goal: Participating In the Gospel
The Holy Spirit said, “he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (Eph. 4:11-12). These ideas will lead us as we strive for improvements within our congregation. Toward this end, the church is committed to the following:
• Improved Bible Classes for Children and Adults
• Training For New Teachers and New Leaders to Serve The Church
• Deepened Relationships Within Our Church Family
We are excited about pursuing this vision, and we believe that God will bless us with growth as we follow him in faith.
Let Us Rise Up & Build!
On Sunday morning, January 24, our elders will present their plans for the year 2016. "Rise Up & Build," a plan and theme based on Nehemiah 2:18, will give us a framework and a definitive set of Bible-based goals for church growth.
Join us at our 10:30 worship service on the third Sunday in January to hear some ways that you can help us "Rise Up & Build" the Lord's kingdom!
The apostle Paul said, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek." (Rom. 1:16). He knew the power of the word of God! He understood that the real power for salvation was not in himself and his ideas. He understood that the real power for salvation was not in a particular sect of Judaism or Christianity. He understood that the real power for salvation was not in the good deeds he might do.
Paul understood that the real power to save comes from God alone. And that power comes through the Bible—the gospel—the good news of Jesus Christ. This is why it is so imperative that we follow only the Bible’s teachings on what we do and how we think.
This past week, I had a tremendously enjoyable Bible study with two young men from the University of Louisville. They had recently visited our services, and so they asked about why we don’t use instrumental music. They knew some other people who attend a church whose sign reads, "Church of Christ," and their congregation sings a cappella. So when we examined what the Bible says (and doesn’t say) about music in public worship, one of them said, "I didn’t realize it was a Bible thing. I thought it was a Church-of-Christ thing."
I was actually quite encouraged by this response. And there are two perspectives I would encourage us all to think about from this.
Number 1: If you are a guest with us here at Eastland, we welcome you. And we want you to know that we are an independent congregation. We are not part of any denomination. We simply do our best to follow the word of God—not to do anything just because "it’s a church-of-Christ thing." But because we, like the apostle Paul, believe that the power of God is found in the Gospel; not in ourselves. If you wonder about something we believe or practice, it's our goal to be able to show you that belief or practice clearly in what the Bible teaches.
Number 2: If you are a member of our congregation, please do not tell people that any of the things we do are done because "it’s a Church-of-Christ thing." If you do not know how a certain practice or belief is Bible-based, make it a priority to find that out! It simply won’t do for us to teach the world "Church of Christ doctrine" as though that’s what we follow anyway. The world needs to know the power of Gospel—the word of God. Because only that is the power of God for salvation.
- Dan Lankford, minister
Evangelism is part of who we are. It's a part of the culture for every church who truly follows Jesus. From the very beginning, Jesus told those who would follow him that they would be spreading his message and bringing his life into the world. In Matthew 5, he said we are the salt of the earth and the light of the world (Matt. 5:13-16). It is our imperative responsibility to bring the Gospel—the good news of Jesus—to those who need it most.
When you go to a family's house for dinner, it can be surprisingly easy to feel unwelcome. It's not that anyone in the family wants you to go away, but it can happen if they neglect to be deliberately welcoming. If you are not greeted warmly at the door, if everyone gathers for dinner at the same time but they don't tell you it's time, if someone asks you to move out of their seat, if the family repeatedly tells inside jokes without explaining them to you... It is unlikely you will feel very welcome among them or inclined to get to know them better.
On December 6, we plan to make a deliberate effort to invite others to come to a service and share in worship in a way that is welcoming to them. We want to invite them to our family gathering and make sure they know we are glad they came. That Sunday, the sermon will be focused on the truth (as always), but we will make an especially concerted effort to convey the truth in a way that is accessible to those who are unfamiliar with it. We will make some special efforts to let our guests know exactly what's going on and why we do what we do. We will in no way compromise God's pattern or his truth, but we will do our best to open as many doors as possible for people to see him as clearly as possible. We want to foster an atmosphere where they can receive the full experience of God-centered and truth-driven worship that we offer every week... without worrying that they might be unwelcome among our family!
Plan to invite as many people as you can! Let's all work together to make this a powerful part of the culture of evangelism in our church!
- Dan Lankford, evangelist
One thing that I love about Eastland is that we all worship together. I realize that might seem like an obvious thing to some, but here's why I think it's worth talking about:
In many churches, it is the common practice to remove the children from the main worship service and put them into a special "children's church" where they do things that are considered more "age appropriate" for them. This obviously creates less distraction for the adults in worship, but it means removing the children from where they can worship with their parents and the other members of the church.
Here's why we all worship together at Eastland.
Children need to be challenged with the word of God just like adults do. If the worship is challenging for our children, we parents must teach them to rise to the occasion—not lower the occasion so they are comfortable. If we remove the challenges of life and spirituality, how will they learn to rise to those challenges and overcome them?
Children need to be shown how to take worship seriously. I don't mean that they need to be shown how to be stoic in worship; I mean that they need to see what it looks like when people open their hearts and bow their heads to God. They need to see what it looks like when people sing about the gospel of the Lord because they accept and live by that gospel. They need to see what it looks like when we give something of value (and let's be honest, our money is valuable when we have a family to feed) to God because we love him.
Children need to see their parents' faith in action. Regardless of how hard we try, there will always be interruptions that mean we are not able to share our faith with our kids as fully as we want to in the home. If, when we go to worship, our children are isolated from their parents and again lose an opportunity to see our faith in action, when will they see it? Above all other causes, the main reason children leave the faith of their parents when they grow up is because they have never seen it in action. Children should see us worship, pray, give, read the Bible, help the poor, cry with a brother or sister, celebrate someone's repentance, and say "amen" when God is praised! Moms and dads, our kids desperately need that from us!
One thing I love about Eastland is that even with the potential for distractions and difficulties associated with having children in the worship with us, we still worship together. We share in the singing of praise together. We humbly bow in prayer together. We remember Jesus' cross together. We learn about his Good News together. It's an integral part of who we are.
"Jesus said, 'Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.'" (Matt. 19:14)
- Dan Lankford, evangelist