Pastor’s Blog

A Church “Full of ‘Older’ People?

March 14, 2024

To VBC leaders and presenters:
A phrase I’ve heard since I first came to VBC in 2011, which I know to have been common for twenty years before that is, “well, you know, we are church full of older/retired folks who can’t do much.”  It has also been used to excuse why people can’t give: “well, you know, we are ‘all’ on fixed incomes here, so we can’t give anything extra.”  I was only 35 then, so, naturally, I just “didn’t have the experience yet to understand their predicament or that of the church.”
Even in 2011, I knew neither statement held water especially by the end of the year and certainly into 2012, when we had more families with young children and families with teens.  Guess what.  We still have families with young children and families with teens!  It’s well past time for us to stop using the excuse “we are church full of old people.”  In the first place, it’s not true.  Look around and you’ll notice on Sunday morning we have families (plural) with pre-teens and teens and we have families (plural) with young children and toddlers. We have young married couples, and even young singles.  We have middle-aged and empty nesters who are still employed.  We have people who have only just retired in the past five years or less.  We have some who have been retired for a while, but remain in good health.  We also have people who are approaching the end of their lives and are much more limited in their abilities.  Every generation is well represented (as a percentage of the whole) at VBC.  
Every time we excuse the entire church’s poor participation in activities from volunteering to serve, giving, or any other aspect of church life and ministry for any reason, we only add to people’s tendency to sit on the sidelines.  What’s more, telling the young people that VBC is a “church full of old people” does not encourage them to stick around.  Although I’ve not heard this one in a while, telling those with money, that we understand that people in VBC ‘all’ live on fixed incomes and can’t afford to give any more, gives them another excuse to spend their money on themselves rather than investing in the Lord’s work.  
What we say from the platform God gives us in His Son’s church, influences people’s decisions to participate… or not participate.  Usually they are subtle ways, like implying that everyone in the church is in the same position, stage of life, or even spiritual calling as you.  The influence of those statements becomes painfully clear when young people in the church start painting the church as “full of old people.” We have no empirical data to back up such a statement.  We make certain claims and then look around for evidence to substantiate them in our own minds. Usually, those claims see “the glass [as] half empty.”  Those become self-fulfilling prophecies!  
We can inadvertently cripple the church by the negative things we say about it – whether in private or in public platforms.  We must guard our hearts and our mouths.  God is doing great and powerful things in VBC.  He has brought people from many generations, backgrounds, economic levels, and even skin colors to VBC to function as part of the body of Christ.  Itis a diverse group of people functioning in unity in Christ without paying attention to those difference or similarities.
We are, first and foremost, in Christ!  Let’s focus on that, and how that compels us to serve Jesus with everything we have and are… no matter how old, financially stable, tied to work, or anything else that we may think keeps us from doing that!  We need to raise the bar of expectation of people’s involvement in the body of Christ, not excuse their lack of involvement – they do that fine on their own! There are people who can’t (to some degree), but there are a whole bunch more people who can… they just won’t.  We need to speak positively and encourage them so they will!
This is our “job” as leaders in Christ’s church.  Thanks for your role in leading the folks in VBC (old and young) to participating in the Body of Christ, the church!
In Christ, -Pastor Phil

U.S. Gov’t Defends Killing Christians?

May 10, 2023

In case you didn’t notice there is growing hostility towards Christianity that exists, not just in the world at large, but in the United States – a country founded by Christians and built on Christian principles. The hostility reflects a mentality that gains traction among many Americans and even among some Christians as they hear the oft repeated tale of Christians “forcing their ideals and culture” on others throughout history.

To hear it repeated from top US government officials is more than a little disconcerting, but it should not surprise us given the growth of this ideology in America. At the time of this writing, United States Commission on International Religious Freedom [the US government] claims that the attacks and murders committed by Fulani Muslims against Christians in Nigeria are simply “retribution.” We should be aware that this is going on at the highest levels, which means it likely is going on to some extent at the local levels, too… or soon will be.

Christians in America should be warned that the idea that reparations must somehow be made for “crimes against humanity” in America (like slavery, driving indigenous peoples from their land, racism, etc.) will soon be aimed fully at Christians in even bolder ways than it currently is. We must pray and act on behalf of Christians in other parts of the world that are already facing this. We must be vigilant in our own nation and neighborhoods, or it won’t be long before we, too, face this!

Evidence of Prayer’s Power

February 2, 2023

In our regular prayer time together as a church last night the Lord revealed a couple things to us.  First, was an immediate answer to prayer as we asked Him to help us find someone to clear ice from the church parking lot.  After our meeting, someone remembered a person with equipment for doing so that wasn’t far from the church.  Yippee!  That wasn’t the big one, though. 

As we prayed concerning a situation in Great Britain involving laws prohibiting silent prayer outside abortion clinics, I realized the real issue in that.  Why would anyone care enough about a person potentially standing near an abortion clinic doing nothing more than silently praying?  People are being searched, interrogated, arrested, and fined not for holding signs or speaking against abortion near facilities where this barbaric action is performed on women and children.  Simply standing near such a place with your head bowed can raise such ire as to lead to these severe responses. 

As we prayed about this and the salvation of those folks so blinded by their hatred, I realized the Satanic nature of this response.  Why would any natural human being, who doesn’t even believe there is any value or power in prayer, care if someone stands at a distance and prays?  Their response should be one of mocking and laughter that someone would be so naïve as to think that was going to accomplish anything.  Instead, they feel threatened enough to call the police?  That doesn’t make any sense!

Ah, but it does!  It is clear that Satan, who is ultimately behind the act of abortion, knows something of which most Christians aren’t even aware.  Not only is there something in the prayers of the saints that is powerful and threatening against his work, there is something about the proximity of those who are actually praying.  He doesn’t want us praying near his work.

It is true that laws, such as the one in Great Britain prohibiting even prayer near an abortion clinic creating “prayer-free zones”, are meant to discourage Christians with threat of fines and jail.  The realization that Satanic forces seem to be able to recognize when a person is actually doing that and come against them when they do, should alert Christians everywhere of the great threat we pose to Satanic advances. 

If Christians in the church would wake up to what God wants to do in them and through them, prayer would become far more essential and central in their lives and the lives of the churches to which they belong!  Prayer must come first – before great programs – before outreach events – before revival.  Prayer is the revival! 

What are we waiting for? 

That’s Not Fair, God!

January 24, 2023

I was trying to take Melissa on a “date” all weekend, but every time we got it worked out, something prevented it. Monday, I decided we would go to Pocahontas just to hang out together and eat lunch after she was done teaching geometry. Everything looked good until my computer (the one I bought NEW in May) died.

No problem. We can just go to Highland instead, drop the computer off at the shop, grab a bite, and head home. It’s about twice as far to go, but that’s ok.

As we were leaving, the tire light on the van lit up. I decided to check into it. One tire was low. Back we went to the house to air it up. I discovered that the air compressor wouldn’t work. Thankfully, I have two. Got everything situated and aired up the tire. That all took thirty minutes, but we were finally on our way (1:00 p.m.).

As we were driving to town, we were rethinking our plans to include a trip to get the tire repaired, not knowing that it was irreparable and would require a new tire and would keep us in town until 5:30!

We finally made it home almost six hours after we first tried to leave. We could now boast a new front tire, less money in the bank, and lacking my computer, which may well be dead.

Is this the “suffering” for which I thanked God Sunday morning as we worshipped together? That was the thought running through my mind when it all began to unfold around 6 a.m. I needed to get a bunch of work done on that laptop for Pilgrimage Christian Center to satisfy various government reporting deadlines (like donor reports). I needed to get ready for the class I was teaching on Thursday night. I needed to at least start on Sunday’s sermon. I wanted to treat my wife to a special time away from the house with no work related purpose. I accomplished exactly 0% of any of that!

The temptation to whine and complain was certainly real (still is!), but how we respond to these interruptions in our plans can lead to sin or to God’s glory. Complaining about how bad that is and how much I “did NOT need that” brings glory to me. It says, “look at me, feel sorry for me, isn’t that just so unfair, etc.” It brings great attention to me, building my own self-image. At its heart, this is a pride issue. It is sin.

On the other hand, remembering that the huge delay and interruption to what I had planned was part of God’s plan and purpose that I may not understand right now, can honor Him. However, if I whine and complain about it, as I am inclined to do, it robs that glory from Him. Sure there are dozens of things I could find that could have made the situation even harder that God did not allow, but I’m not sure that’s as helpful as just saying, “thank you, Lord, for the affliction, which was certainly light by comparison to what Jesus did; may You be glorified in my response to it.”

Will I declare in the midst of things far worse than that, as I did Sunday morning with the song, “Blessed be Your name
On the road marked with suffering
Though there’s pain in the offering
Blessed be Your name“?

Not if I can’t do it in those little things!

When does life begin?

July 30, 2022

Broken-hearted over the 63 million Americans exterminated because they were in a poor family, had black skin, or were just generally an inconvenience, many Christians breathed a huge sigh of relief when Roe v. Wade was overturned.  It gave states like our own Arkansas the right to defend those innocent, unborn Americans by making their murders illegal.  However, Satan was not defeated.  Other states continue to push the envelope of so-called “reproductive rights.”

What a misnomer!  That sounds like it would be something to advance the rights of women to bear children.  On the contrary, it demands their ability to not bear the children living in their womb, but instead end the child’s life for any reason at all.  Some Christians defend this as legitimate.  Denying the science – to say nothing of God’s declaration – that a human being in the womb is already a human being.  It doesn’t suddenly become one when it comes out or takes its first breath of air.

Christians who deny the humanity of an unborn child, seem to miss the Satanic origins of this deception that many in the world have embraced.  They have reasoned themselves into accepting Satan’s lie.  Surely, however, they would agree that once born a child has a right to life, regardless of the mother’s (or father’s) choice (“reproductive rights”).  You see, it’s a slippery slope when we fall for one of Satan’s deceptions, we are prone to accept the next one.

I received this from the American Center for Law and Justice tonight, “First it was New York’s live-birth abortion law, and then the former governor of Virginia’s horrific comments about how an ‘infant would be kept comfortable’ on the table while the decision is made whether the child will live or die.  Now it’s a disturbing California bill that intentionally uses the word ‘perinatal,’ which has a drastically different medical meaning than prenatal (before birth), to prevent even an investigation where a living child is allowed to die up to four weeks AFTER birth.”

Christians have long understood our role to stand for the defenseless.  Christians have formed orphanages, rescued babies left to the elements by parents who did not want them, cared for single moms, and done many other things to protect life.  Why would we turn a blind eye when babies are left on a surgical table to die?  Why would we turn a blind eye when they are ripped apart and suctioned out of their mother’s womb?  We must continue to stand and protect the defenseless.  Satan hates humanity, and what better place to destroy life than at its most vulnerable stage before it even has a chance to mature?

We must continue to pray.  Pray that bills like this never become law. Pray that people would see abortion for the travesty it is – far worse than slavery every was in America!  Pray that people, especially Christians, would begin to see children as the blessing from God that they are – not some inconvenience!

Is it loving to endorse sinful lifestyles?

July 3, 2022

Someone once said, “when you die, God isn’t going to ask you about someone else. He won’t ask you about the two men down the street who got married.  He won’t ask you about the girl who had an abortion.  He won’t ask you about the atheist that lives on the corner.  He won’t ask you about the woman who feels more comfortable as a man.  He WILL ask you how you loved those people as he called you to do.”

This assumes an incorrect, unbiblical understanding of “loving those people as He called you to do.”  You see part of loving people is warning them of the dangers in which they are because of certain lifestyle choices God knows and warns are destructive.  Just like the author of this has taken time to warn people that they have somehow failed to follow God’s command, so the one who loves people is willing to risk their ire by lovingly warning them about what God actually has said.  The Bible is full of accounts of God’s prophets rejected, beaten, and killed because they loved people enough to warn them of their impending doom!  Jesus, Himself, said, “[the world] hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil” (John 7:7).  So, yes, we can agree with the author and conclude that “God will [in fact] ask you how you loved those people as He called you to do,” but that does not mean you should either ignore, or worse endorse those lifestyles that God warns will lead to their demise.


Religious persecution is when you are prevented from EXERCISING your beliefs, NOT when you are prevented from IMPOSING your beliefs.” …oh, really?

September 30, 2021

The underlying danger of this statement:

Actually, religious persecution is when you are persecuted for your beliefs, which often comes when people try to “impose” their beliefs by sharing their faith.  “IMPOSING” is a strong word, used by communists/Marxists to imply that people who attempt to tell others about Jesus are somehow a threat to society/the government and should be punished (persecuted) for that action.   Christians all around the world are, in fact, “prevented from imposing [their] beliefs,” but tell others about Jesus in spite of that fact.  They are very much persecuted (imprisoned, tortured, fined) for this infraction, which is part and parcel of being a follower of Jesus.  This statement is a direct adaptation if not a quote from Marxism which is diametrically opposed to Christianity and the free exercise thereof.  This ideology has crept even into the church.  It may make sharing one’s faith more difficult and costly, but it will not prevent the Gospel message from going forward.  Just ask the church that exists in places where they are expressly prohibited from “imposing” their beliefs.  And don’t worry, this ideology will likely soon overtake our own nation, as more and more people buy into the notion that its ok to have your beliefs as long as you don’t “impose” them on others through even the simple act of telling them.  It starts by silencing those voices in the political realm.