A Letter to “KJV Only” Proponents

“[A] variety of Translations is profitable for the finding out of the sense of the Scriptures.”  – closed-mind2The KJV Translators

“Do not give them a loaf of bread, covered with an inedible, impenetrable crust, fossilized by three and a half centuries. Give them the word of God as fresh and warm and clear as the Holy Spirit gave it to the authors of the Bible … For any preacher or theologian who loves God’s Word to allow that Word to go on being misunderstood because of the veneration of an archaic, not-understood version of four centuries ago is inexcusable, and almost unconscionable.” (Edwin H. Palmer, spokesman for the NIV)

I understand one’s concern over guarding the inerrancy of the Holy Scripture. I share their concern. That’s one of the reasons that I often do word studies from the original Greek and Hebrew when I study The Bible. I use several different English translations of God’s Word, as well. As you know The Bible was not written in English. In fact, the English language did not even exist 2,000 years ago. So it stands to reason that any Bible you choose to use, from the KJV to the NIV, is obviously not word for word as accurate as it is in the original language that it was written in.

I don’t know about you but I’m not a Greek or Hebrew scholar. Therefore, I must depend on the skill and devotion of those anointed men and women who are. For every Bible known to man was translated by scholars. In fact, there are Bibles through the world translated into many different languages. However, it’s important to note that Bibles in other languages were not translated from the KJV, or from any other English translation for that matter. They were translated from the original Greek and Hebrew text.

I once felt just as strongly as some of you about the King James Version of The Bible. I would argue passionately with anyone who did not hold my views. I dare say I was more of a KJV supporter then some of you. Anyone who knew me back then can attest to this fact. Therefore, I think I understand from where you are coming. However, that started to change over the years when God pointed out two eye-opening truths to me.

Number one: I discovered that it was foolish of me to judge the accuracy of the New International Version, or any other modern translation, by comparing it to the KJV. Love it as I did, I had to admit that the KJV is not the ultimate standard—the original text is the standard. So, for me to compare the NIV to the KJV and then say that the NIV was guilty of leaving something out because the KJV had it in was a poor argument. After all, I am not a Greek or Hebrew scholar; so, how could I know that the KJV translators didn’t put something in their version that wasn’t in the original text? How could I be so certain considering I had never examined the Greek and Hebrew documents that the KJV scholars used? As a matter of fact, I wouldn’t be able to read them even if I saw them. Do you see all the holes in that line of reasoning?

Number two: My arguments for the KJV really began to unravel one day with this discovery. I was studying my Bible and was reading the words of Jesus as he was quoting from the Old Testament. “Then saith Jesus unto him, “Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.” (Matthew 4:10 KJV) However, when I went to the Old Testament reference that Jesus used and read it, I found that this was not exactly what the passage said! The verse Jesus used is in Deuteronomy 6:13 and is worded very different from what Jesus said. It says. “Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God, and serve him, and shalt swear by his name.” Jesus quoted the verse using the word “worship”—not “fear!” It blew my mind! I researched further and discovered many other examples of variations in New Testament quotes of Old Testaments scriptures.

For example:

Isaiah 9:

“1 NEVERTHELESS the dimness shall not be such as was in her vexation, when at the first he lightly afflicted the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, and afterward did more grievously afflict her by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, in Galilee of the nations. 2 The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.” (KJV)

Matthew 4

“14 That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias [a variation of Isaiah] the prophet, saying, 15 The land of Zabulon, and the land of Nephthalim, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles: 16 The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up.” (KJV)

Here’s another example. Again, notice the difference in the wording.

Mark 11:17, And he taught, saying unto them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer?’ but ye have made it a den of thieves.”

Here is the passage that Jesus quoted.

Isaiah 56:7, Even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer: their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon mine altar; for mine house shall be called a house of prayer for all people.

I then thought to myself, “Why are these, and many other quotes in the New Testament, worded differently from the original passage in the Old Testament?” Then I found out about The Septuagint. Please indulge me if you already know about this, but the Septuagint was the modern translation (Greek) of the Hebrew Bible that was used by the first century Jews. It was also used by the first Christians, the apostles and by our LORD, as well.

This intrigued me considering the fact that Jesus was the Living Word in flesh while he was on the Earth. (John 1:1&14) Wouldn’t the One who was the living embodiment of God’s Word realize that the Greek translation of the writings of Moses and the prophets from Hebrew and Aramaic to Greek was done by men, and these men at times did not exactly get it word for word right? Doesn’t it then stand to reason that Jesus would quote it the way it was originally written?  In addition, wouldn’t the Holy Spirit also inspire the writers of the New Testament to do the same?

Then it dawned on me. [It takes some doing but I do eventually get it.] The message and the spirit of the Holy Scripture, as in the Septuagint, were found in the words used by the scholars. The same is true for any legitimate translation of God’s WORD. If John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (KJV), what difference does it make if the wording says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”? (NIV) The message is the same. One must, therefore, be careful about judging another version of The Bible, lest one find one’s self guilty of religious nitpicking and find oneself straining out a gnat. (Matthew 23:24)

The Septuagint was a translation of Scripture that was presented in what was then the language of the day. It was a contemporary version of The Bible. To Jesus the clarity of the message was of greater importance than criticizing the translation. I believe that the scholars who translated the KJV [which was revised four times, the last being in 1769] felt as Jesus did. They wanted God’s Word to be translated into the language of the day. It was very important to them that the message be clear to their culture.

The same rings true for the scholars who came together in 1965 under the watchful eyes of God and of the Christian world. The English language has changed drastically over the past 400 years. They translated directly from the best available Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic texts (such as the Dead Sea scrolls discovered in 1947, which was centuries older than the manuscripts used by the KJV scholars).

There were over 100 dedicated theologians and Bible scholars involved in giving us the NIV. They came from different denominations and their work was endorsed by the National Association of Evangelicals, as well as by leaders from many major denominations.[1] Now, compare this to the scholars who gave us the KJV. They were part of the Church of England, a church that’s anything but evangelical. In fact, it is the daughter of the Catholic Church. However, they worked hard and got the job done. We thank them and bless God for what they did.

“The language of Generation X and Millennials is changing every day, and those in their teens, 20s and 30s are on the Internet all the time, creating and adapting words from pop culture in their emails and Web logs. In 2003, Merriam-Webster updated its collegiate dictionary. The dictionary’s lexicographers made more than 100,000 changes and added more than 10,000 new words and phrases that did not appear in 1993. According to a 2004 nationwide Harris Interactive poll, 80% of people surveyed preferred more readable language in their Bible when given the choice. While younger generations long for timeless truth, they want it in today’s language.”[2]

When was that? 400 years ago! We don’t use Elizabethan English in 21st century America. God’s Word is much too important to leave it in antiquated terms that are no longer in use, or words that have a totally different meaning today then they did in 1611. The writers wrote the words down in the language of the day. Shouldn’t we have Gods WORD in the language of our day? We must update the language and keep God’s Word fresh and readable. We must make sure that the message remains clear. The translators of the KJV understood this. That’s why the KJV went through many revisions before we got the one we all know today.

You see, the original KJV (1611) is not the same one we know today. The beloved KJV we use is the 1850 revision. Hundreds of changes took place from 1611 and 1850. In fact, “More than 400 errors in the first edition of the KJV were corrected in a subsequent edition two years later.” (How We Got the Bible- by Neil Lightfoot) Over the years devoted scholars have updated and at times even corrected the KJV and it has come to us in the form it is today—the latest revision is the New King James Version.

“The two most important characteristics of a Bible translation are accuracy and readability. After 30 years of researching the English Bible in light of the original languages, I have found the New International Version to be the best combination of accuracy and readability of any English Bible ever done. That is why I have committed most of my career to producing reference books that help other scholars and laypeople better understand God’s word using the NIV.”  John R. Kohlenberger III, Editor, The Interlinear NIV Hebrew-English Old Testament; Co-editor, The Exhaustive Concordance to the Greek New Testament.

I hope this has been helpful. As I said, I mean no offense to anyone who prefers the KJV. In addition, I mean no offense to the KJV Bible. I grew up with it and love it. It’s a beautiful and beloved work of art. It has been used mightily over the years; then again, so has the NIV and many or the other wonderful translations. After all, they’re each a translation of the Word of God that was designed to speak to their peculiar generation.

I use the NIV to preach from and for personal Bible study. I use it in my writings, my YouTube page an blog as well. I do so for many of the reasons that I mentioned, but the main reason I use it to preach and teach with is simple. It is the most widely used Bible of the Bible in the English-speaking world. “Since the mid 1980s, the NIV has been the best-selling English Bible in the US.”[3]


[1] For more info on the NIV and how it came to be go to http://biblehub.com/niv/version.htm

[3] This is based on actual sales statistics published by Spring Arbor Distributors, the largest distributor of Christian books to the retail trade, and monthly sales statistics gathered and published by Bookstore Journal, the official publication of the Christian Booksellers Association.’ http://www.equip.org/free/DB135.htm

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How to Know God’s Will

By Rod DavisSeeking-direction

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to [once for all] offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God―this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed A by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is―his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:1-20 NIV)

       A —The Greek word is “metamorphoo “from which we get the English word “metamorphous” — “to change into another form”

The butterfly is an ideal picture of the new birth in Christ. Here’s a creature that starts life as a caterpillar, but then a metamorphous [changes into another form] takes place that transforms him into a thing of rare beauty and grace. Notice that the new butterfly is the same creature it was before it spun the cocoon. It wasn’t replaced with different insect. The same creature that enclosed itself within the cocoon is the same one that came out.

What was once a caterpillar has a new outward appearance. However, that’s not all that happened. The change it experienced was radical. The caterpillar was totally transformed. It no longer crawls on its belly on the ground beneath the feet of most every other creature; it now flies! I

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! (2Corinthians 5:17)

Much the same thing happens to a person who repents [ask for forgiveness for their sins] and gives their life to Christ. The Holy Spirit begins to transform him or her into something new that’s different and beautiful. The new believer’s value system and goals begin to change. They begin to lose their taste for the garbage that this world’s system offers. The days of crawling on their spiritual bellies begins to give way to grand ideals, powerful living and a positive outlook on life. They are the same person they were before, but, now, they’re “a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

Have you ever wrestled with finding God’s will is for your life? I think we all have. Have you ever thought, “I wonder if there’s some method that will help me to determine God’s will for my life?” Let me answer that question with three words—yes, yes, and YES!

Over the years I’ve discovered that finding God’s will is not meant to be a mystery. God doesn’t play games with his children. Jesus doesn’t say, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me,” (John 10:27) and then garble the message and make it so hard to understand that the sheep [you and I] can’t follow his instructions.

 Again, if the trumpet does not sound a clear call, who will get ready for battle? (1Corinthians 14:8)

How effective would the war against America’s enemies be if the president, the supreme commander of the military, seldom communicated with our armed forces? Or when he did decide to speak, his generals had to fast and pray, or give large sums of money, or give all of their possessions away before the president give them their marching orders. Then when he finally did issue orders they were so unclear that the Joint Chiefs could not understand them. Imagine directing massive troop deployment across the world without a clear word from the Commander-in-Chief?

“The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.” — Jesus (John 10:2-4)

 God is our Commander-in-Chief and his instructions are very understandable. You see, the problem isn’t with God’s communication skills. God speaks very clearly. The difficulty is not with the transmitter [the Holy Spirit], it’s the receiver, our spiritual ear, that’s the problem. The trouble is with us and our inability to hear clearly from God and then find out what his will is for our lives. Our spiritual radios are not fine-tuned to Channel Holy Spirit or we don’t hear him clearly.

Now the question is this: how do we fine-tune our receiver? It’s simple; you must follow the instructions on “receiver-tuning’ found in manual—God’s Word.

Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground. (Psalm 143:10)

What are the instructions on how to find God’s will? How do we fine tune our radios so we can hear God’s voice more clearly and know his will for our lives? First, we must be doing the will of God as it’s clearly revealed in God’s WORD before we will be able to know God’s will for our personal lives. In other words, do what The Bible clearly teaches us to do and the rest will be simple.

Just do the following seven things which are plainly pointed out in The Bible. Start obeying these seven fundamental commands from God. Then you will begin to discover God’s plan for your life. Now once you have these seven commands in place, you can then do the eight. This is the easiest one of all. Do anything you want to do as long as you’re doing the first seven things.

Are you ready? Here goes:

1- It is God’s will that you be saved/born again.

 “You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’” ─Jesus (John 3:7)

This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.        (1Timothy 2:3-4)

2- It is God’s will that you be baptized/filled with the Holy Spirit.

“I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one [Jesus] who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” ─John the Baptizer (Matthew 3:11)

Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” (John 20:21-22)

 Being baptized by the Holy Spirit is a separate act apart from salivation. Notice this; when the disciples were gathered in the upper room they received the Holy Spirit, which is true salvation, when Jesus breathed on them.

However, the baptism of the Holy Spirit didn’t come until Acts chapter 2, about ten days after the disciples had already received the Holy Spirit from Jesus.

What is the purpose for being baptized in the Holy Spirit?

On one occasion, while he [Jesus] was eating with them [the disciples], he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”

He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power B when the Holy Spirit comes on you [not in you. That was already done. (Page 2, John 20:21-22)]; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:4-8)

I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city [Jerusalem] until you have been clothed with power B from on high.“—Jesus (Luke 24:49)

B — The Greek word is “Dunamis”. It means, along with other things, “strength power, ability inherent power, power for performing miracles ,moral power and excellence of soul. It’s the word for which we get the English for the “dynamite”.

Again, what is the purpose of being baptized by the Holy Spirit? “…you will receive dynamite power when the Holy Spirit comes on; and you will be my witnesses… ”

 Jesus wants us to have the power of the Holy Spirit in order to make us effective, powerful, witnesses to a lost world.

My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power B, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power B. — Paul (1Corinthians 2:4-5)

Illustration:

 Take a glass and fill it with water. Now the class if filled with water. Drop the same glass in to a bucket filled with water and the glass is not only filled with water it is covered or baptized in water. The word baptize comes from the original Greek word “baptismos” which means to immerse, to submerge. That’s the difference between having the Holy Spirit and being immersed in Him.

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.  (Acts 2:1-4)

1 While Apollos [a great teacher, at the time of Paul] was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?”

They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”

So Paul asked, “Then what baptism did you receive?”

“John’s baptism,” they replied.

Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.”  On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. (Acts 19:1-6)

3 – It is God’s will that we live a life that is separated from the wickedness of this world and set apart for his service.

 It is God’s will that you should be sanctified [sat apart to serve God]: that you should avoid sexual immorality. (I Thessalonians 4:3)

For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men. (I Peter 2:15)

 For he chose us in him [Jesus] before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. (Ephesians 1:4)

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is―his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:2)

 4- It is God’s will that you praise and worship Him.

 Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (I Thessalonians 5:16-18)

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. (I Peter 2:9)

5- It is God’s will that you live in fellowship with other believers.

Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another―and all the more as you see the Day [of Jesus’ return] approaching. (Hebrews 10:25)

They [the early Church] devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. (Acts 2:42)

But if we walk in the light, as he [God] is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. (1John 1:7)

“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” — Jesus (Matthew 18:20:20)

6 – It is God’s will that we regularly spend personal time with him through Bible study and prayer [talking with God].

 How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word. (Psalms 110:9)

 I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.(Psalms 119:11)

 In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation. (Psalms 5:3)

 Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. (Mark 1:35)

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God [God’s personally peace that he enjoys], which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts [seat of emotions] and your minds [your thought life] in Christ Jesus. ( Philippians 4:6-7)

7- It is God’s will that you tell others about Jesus and the salvation he offers.

Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done. (I Chronicles 16:8)

But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect. (I Peter 3:15)

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples [find people to be trained, disciplined, instructed] of all nations [nationalities], baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” ─Jesus (Matthew 28:18-20)

Finally, and this is the simplest one of all

8- Do whatever you want to do as long you’re doing steps 1-7.

These are clear Biblical commands that God desires for us to follow. So, if you’ve repented and are truly born again [made a commitment of your life to Jesus], and have received the baptism of the Holy Spirit. And if you’re actively seeking these things—the fellowship of other believers, studying God’s Word, praying and sharing Christ with others. And if you’re spending time praising and worshiping God, then you’ve put your spiritual life on the fast track. God can then direct you onto the wonderful path that he designed for your life.

It’s much like driving a car. As long as it sits there motionless you can’t steer it anywhere. However, once it’s moving you can make it go wherever you want it to go. The life of a Christian in obedience to God’s WORD is much the same way. If you are not seeking to obey God in these seven areas, or if you’re being deliberately disobedient in any of them, you’ll remain virtually motionless―locked in a spiritual neutral. God can’t steer you to where he wants you to go if you are not moving. However, if you’re doing what the Bible tells you to do, pray, seek God, tell others about Jesus and so forth, you’ve started up your motor and you’re moving in the right direction. God can then take you where he wants you to go and show you the things he wants you to do. I. e know God’s will. In addition, having these seven things in place will reduce your chances of making wrong turns because your obedience puts God squarely in the driver’s seat of your life.

Pretty simple, huh? Well, that’s the way God meant it to be. Discovering his will is not meant to be some mystery for just a few select followers of Christ. It’s for all of us. It would be pretty ridiculous for Jesus to say, “Come follow me,” and then not tell us how to do it, wouldn’t it?

The Making of a Bicycle

Rod Davis

puzzle-piece

This is the last time
I turn my back on You
From now on, I’ll go, so
Send me where You want me to
I finally have a mission
I promise I’ll complete
I don’t need excuses
When I am Your hands and feet [1]

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.
(Acts 2:1)

I want to ask you a strange question. When does  bicycle become a bicycle?

Imagine for a moment that it’s Christmas morning. Little Johnny gets up at the crack of dawn. He’s been dreaming for weeks about a brand new bike. He knows he’s getting one because he has hinted to Mom and Dad that he wanted one. Soon his hinting turned into begging. Eventually, as children are prone to do, his begging graduated into badgering. So for weeks he pestered his mom and dad until their ears started “bleeding”. Oh yeah, that bike is in the bag! He’s going to get his Christmas wish this very morning!

He leaps out of bed, runs down the hall, and pounds on his parent’s bedroom door. “Get up! It’s Christmas!” he shouts with glee. With that proclamation he runs down the hallway, leaps down the stairs and charges for the living room. He quickly scans the illuminated tree surrounded by brightly colored packages. “Wait a minute! No bike?!” His eyes search the room. “Where’s my bike?” he says to himself, “I was supposed to get a…!” His eyes then fall on a pile of metal and rubber partially hidden by some large packages. He slowly approaches the mangled heap. With careful observation, he sees the handlebars laid to one side, a seat, buried underneath two wheels with the rubber tires placed on top of the pile. Alongside are the pedals, a chain, and an odd assortment of nuts and bolts.

“Merry Christmas, Johnny!” He turned to see Mom and Dad standing behind him. “Like your new bicycle?” Dad asked. “Ah…what bi…ah…I don’t understand.” Disappointment was etched in Johnny’s face. “Don’t you like it, Son? It’s red like you wanted,” Mom offered. “Where is it?!” Johnny blurted out, his frustration showing. Dad looked bewildered. “Why…it’s right there…under the tree. Don’t you know a bicycle when you see one?”

When does a bicycle become a bicycle? What Johnny’s parents didn’t understand was that a pile of disassembled parts do not a bicycle make. You may have all the various parts that go into making a fully functional bicycle, but without proper assembly it’s pretty much worthless. Therefore, a bicycle becomes a bicycle when it’s assembled.

Now, take your local church. When does a church actually become…a church? The Greek word used in Acts 2:1 which is translated “together” speaks of “persons assembled together.” The Greek phrase is literally saying, “They were all together, together…” The Amplified Bible says it best, “they were all assembled together.” So, you might say that a church is not a church until it’s… assembled, until all the parts find their proper place of function in the body. Otherwise you just have a bunch of displaced people who get together once or twice a week who have no idea where they fit in or even IF they fit in.

Are you confused as to what your place is in your local church? If so, may I offer a suggestion? Pray and ask God what he wants your roll to be in your church. Talk with your pastor. Ask him to pray with you about it and then offer suggestions. A true shepherd will welcome the opportunity to help you discover your place, your calling, your part of the bicycle. Discover the joy of becoming a part of God’s wonderful “assembly” of believers.

…and let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another―and all the more as you see the Day approaching.     (Hebrews 10:24-25)

[1] Hands and Feet By Mark Stuart, Will McGinniss, Bob Herdman, Tyler Burkum, Ben Cissell as recorded by Audio Adrenaline on their album Underdog. Forefront 1999

Attention Pastors! Are you a Shepherd or a Cowboy?

Good_Shepherd_Tinted_Pencilby Rod Davis

Dear Pastor,

I want to ask you a serious question. Indeed, I believe the Holy Spirit wants me to ask you this. Are you a shepherd or a cowboy? What’s the difference? One very simple distinction is this—shepherds lead, cowboys drive. The old Rawhide TV theme song pretty expresses the cowboy mentality of many pastors.

“Keep movin’, movin’, movin’,
though they’re disapprovin’,
Keep them dogies movin’, rawhide.

No need to understand them.
Just rope ‘em, throw, and brand ‘em.
Soon we’ll be livin’ high and wide.”[1]

Yes indeed, rope and brand ‘em, claim ‘em, and possess ‘em. Live hide and wide off the sheep. Who needs the reputation of being a loving shepherd? It’s best to be known, as one pastor I knew, as a “shrewd businessman.” I don’t mean any unkindness, but I firmly believe that God is disgusted with cowboys who have the audacity to call themselves shepherds. Jeremiah gives an excellent description of spiritual cowboys.

“From the least to the greatest, all are greedy for gain; prophets and priests alike, all practice deceit. They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. ‘Peace, peace,’ they say, when there is no peace. Are they ashamed of their loathsome conduct? No, they have no shame at all; they do not even know how to blush. So they will fall among the fallen; they will be brought down when I punish them,” says the LORD. (Jeremiah 6:13-15) (2)

Jeremiah went on to say that God pronounces a curse, or a woe [an inspired denunciation and foreshadowing of God’s wrath upon sinners”[3] on these so-called shepherds [“pastors” KJV].

“Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture!” declares the LORD. Therefore this is what the LORD, the God of Israel [the Church 4], says to the shepherds who tend my people: “Because you have scattered my flock and driven them away and have not bestowed care on them, I will bestow punishment on you for the evil you have done,” declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 23:1-2)

I believe that one of the problems causing preachers to have an identity crises is this; just because one has a gift of preaching it doesn’t necessarily mean that the are called to be a pastor. Commutation skills are helpful for the office but they do not necessarily distinguish one as being a true shepherd. Yet, our pulpits have many with talent but few with the genuine call to be a Pastor.

Then they will cry out to the LORD, but he will not answer them. At that time he will hide his face from them because of the evil they have done. This is what the LORD says: “As for the prophets who lead my people astray, if one feeds them, they proclaim ‘peace’; if he does not, they prepare to wage war against him. Therefore night will come over you, without visions, and darkness, without divination. The sun will set for the prophets, and the day will go dark for them. [God will remove the light of revelation]. The seers will be ashamed and the diviners disgraced. They will all cover their faces because there is no answer from God.” (Micah 3:47)

I was under such a pastor many years ago. Consequently I know from personal experience what I’m talking about. In the years since I left his church, I’ve heard horror stories from others who have left. Occasionally, I would hear from a few who are still there. [Indeed, I have a few stories of my own]

They told me that there’s still a lot of hoopla on Sundays. The praise is high energy and the “pastor” still bounces off the walls for 45 minutes. It’s all very entertaining. The problem is, however, that people are not being disciple. And worst, they are not being cared for properly. Plus, very little practical concern is offered for people who are genuinely hurting. It sickens me and breaks my heart and I’m certain it breaks the heart of God.

As a result the church is imploding. The “pastor” is preaching to mostly empty seats with a small scattering of the faithful few still there. Even some of the diehard church founders have left. In addition, they’ve had to drop their local TV program for lack of funds and declared bankruptcy. The “pastor” has gone from being fulltime to part-time. And in order to make ends meet, he has gone back to his old secular job that he had before the church was established.

I saw it coming and I take no pleasure in the fact that I was right in my prediction. I remember when it was once a great church, but now it’s only a shadow of it former self. I remember the early days when this pastor would weep over the lost and hurting to whom he was reaching out. Sadly I watched as over the years as he went from being a young Saul, humbled by the calling on his life, to a controlling, self-serving Saul throwing spears at anyone who questioned him. It pains me deeply for I love the man very much.

Too often this happens in churches when people are drawn to personalities rather than anointing. They flock to preachers who have dynamic speaking abilities and great charisma. They follow these “personalities” whether the man has a pastoral anointing or not. Then when they need pastoral care very little is available. Yet, people continue to blindly follow personalities.

Attending worship is much like going out to dinner but only for the dessert. It’s sweet and pleases the taste buds but offers very little nourishment. In addition, if one continues eating nothing but dessert they’ll soon find themselves literally starving to death.

Another problem with having cowboys instead of shepherds is that it breeds spiritual co-dependency. Church members are not fed, nor are they taught how to feed themselves. Therefore, they remain hungry. So, they continue to come back to the table again and again for more dessert. They are not nourished. Nor are they satisfied, and never will be, with this inapt feast. Yet, they keep bellying up to the dessert counter week after week for another plate of sweets as they continue to slowly spiritually starve to death.

Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” (John 21:16)

It doesn’t take long to discern the difference between a shepherd and a cowboy. Jesus told us what to look for. “The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:11) In the eyes of a true shepherd the sheep have priority over personal ambitions. After his family they’re his first concern. It would seem that very few of those behind pulpits today have this shepherd mentality.

They are dogs with mighty appetites; they never have enough. They are shepherds who lack understanding; they all turn to their own way, each seeks his own gain. (Isaiah 56:11)

Cowboys feel differently about the sheep, “Lay down my life for my congregation?! You mean I’m to lay aside personal agendas if they conflict with the office I hold, if the sheep are neglected for the sake of my pursuit of MY ministry?! You have got to be kidding me! Don’t you know that I have a vision and these people are here to help me fulfill it?!”

The word of the LORD came to me: Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds [pastors] of Israel; prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Woe to the shepherds of Israel who only take care of themselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock? You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock. [You use the resources the sheep provide for your personal goals but neglect the hands-on care needed by the sheep] You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally. So they were scattered because there was no shepherd, and when they were scattered they became food for all the wild animals. My sheep wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. They were scattered over the whole earth, and no one searched or looked for them.

Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD: As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, because my flock lacks a shepherd and so has been plundered and has become food for all the wild animals, and because my shepherds did not search for my flock but cared for themselves rather than for my flock, therefore, O shepherds, hear the word of the LORD: This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I am against the shepherds and will hold them accountable for my flock. I will remove them from tending the flock so that the shepherds can no longer feed themselves. I will rescue my flock from their mouths, and it will no longer be food for them. (Ezekiel 34:1-10)

“Woe to the worthless shepherd, who deserts the flock! May the sword strike his arm and his right eye! May his arm be completely withered, his right eye totally blinded!” —God (Zechariah 11:17)

“Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them ‘Rabbi.’” —Jesus (Matthew 23:5-7)

Undaunted these pseudo-pastors, either directly or indirectly, continue destroying and scattering the flock. Why do they hang on to an office to which they haven’t been called? It’s simple; they love the recognition, the esteem and the money. They love to be called “Pastor”, “Reverend”, or “Bishop”, and to lay aside personal ambitions for the sake of the sheep doesn’t inter into their mind. Rather, they see their congregation as their own personal support system. They’re always looking for ways that the sheep can benefit their ministry, instead of looking for ways that their ministry can benefit the sheep. For indeed what these cowboys do not realize is that the sheep are their ministry.

“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”—Jesus (Matthew 20:25-28)

Am I implying that these misguided shepherds have no feelings for the sheep? Not at all.  In their own way many do have a certain amount of concern for the sheep. It’s just that they have different priorities then a true pastor. Their agenda comes first. Therefore, their warped view of ministry tends to run roughshod over many of the very people to which they are supposed to minister. This sort of thinking comes from what Jesus called a “perverse”, or twisted generation. (Matthew 17:17) Their thinking is all messed up. And now, I believe that God is stepping in and taking matters into his own hands. Minister

       This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I am against the shepherds and will hold them accountable for my flock. I will remove them from tending the flock so that the shepherds can no longer feed themselves. I will rescue my flock from their mouths, and it will no longer be food for them.

For this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness. I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the countries, and I will bring them into their own land. I will pasture them on the mountains of Israel, in the ravines and in all the settlements in the land. I will tend them in a good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel will be their grazing land. There they will lie down in good grazing land, and there they will feed in a rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down, declares the Sovereign LORD. I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice. (Ezekiel 34:10-16)

Pastors, please don’t miss this! In this passage God clearly shows what he expects of you. He said that pastors are to search for the lost, bring back the strays, bind up the injured, strengthen the weak, and protect the sheep from the sleek and the strong who might somehow harm the sheep. And finally, pastors are to shepherd with justice. If this describes your heart, your ministry, then you are a true pastor.

However, if you do not feel the compulsion of the Holy Spirit in this manner, If you don’t feel driven to mold your ministry and your life around something that reflects the design founded in this scripture, then chances are you are not called to be a pastor. You’re a cowboy out to promote your own agenda at the expense of the sheep.

It may be a sincere mistake of calling on your part. But please, take serious warning on this issue. If you have any concern for the welfare of your congregation, you need to step down and let the Lord place a true shepherd in your place. You must respond in obedience in this matter. If you do not then, I have some advice for you— get ready! God is about to remove you and it will likely be in a way that is not going to be pleasant.

Now for a word of encouragement; I’m certain that many of those, who mistakenly call themselves pastor, do so out of a sincere case of mistaking identity. They sincerely mistake the call to preach as a call to pastor, as well. Hey, we all make mistakes. After all, we are but jars of clay. If this describes you I pray that God will use this message to help you do a course correction in your life. However, please do not ignore the Holy Spirit’s prompting! You must fervently seek God about this issue. And in so doing, you may find that you have been missing your calling all along.

There’s good news in all this; it’s not too late to get back on course. God has great things in store for you. Just be sensitive to his leading and everything will eventually fall into place. Our God is Sovereign Lord! He has no “Plan B”. Furthermore, he does not need one. Romans 8:28 says it best. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” God’s sovereign hand is indeed moving on behalf of those who love him and seek him with their whole heart. Just be still, and when the time is right, God will give you directions.

To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ’s sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away. (1 Peter 5:1-4)

See a video of this message on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J02dGypLoRo

Look for new posts from The Mad Preacher on Saturdays. 


[1] Words and music by Dimitri Tiomkin & Ned Washington, Copyright Date: June 18, 1959.

[2] Unless otherwise notes, all scripture references are from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

[3] Retrieved from http://www.studylight.org/ 09-03-13

[4] You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. Galatians 3:26-29)

“Here [in the church] there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” (Colossians 3:11-14)