If you are in leadership, you’ve gotten one. They are never positive. They are laced with anger, sarcasm, mocking, and most of all self-righteousness. I’ll bet the Pharisees taught classes in how to misuse and abuse Scripture in anonymous parchments.
Back in my early days of ministry at Sherwood, there were many battles. I often got anonymous letters. Some were written by “concerned” members who used profanity to tell me what they thought about me. Some were “disappointed” and others were just outright dumb.
I’ve been accused of being liberal, carnal, worldly, and arrogant. I’ve been attacked for not preaching from the King James. I’ve been attacked for using humor in a sermon. I’ve had notes for not wearing a tie. I’ve been told I make too much money, condemned because I don’t drive a car that a humble preacher should drive, and criticized for letting my girls be normal Christian girls growing up.
I’ve had letters written to the editor and have been named in our local newspaper’s “Squawk Box” – a column for cowards to attack others anonymously. It’s okay; it goes with the territory. One letter to the editor blamed me for “countless people going to hell” because I chose not to participate in an event.
I believe it was D.L. Moody who said, “I got a letter. I’ve often gotten letters criticizing me that are unsigned. But this one was unusual. There was no letter, just the person’s name in all caps: FOOL!”
#1: Anonymous letters have no place in the body of Christ.
It is a clear violation of the Word of God. Nowhere in the Bible can you find justification for an anonymous attack on another believer. If you are a writer of anonymous letters, you do not have the Spirit of Christ.
#2: There can be no resolution.
The person receiving the letter has taken a verbal blow but has no ability to respond, explain or seek reconciliation. A writer of anonymous letters is a coward. They have no moral values and no Biblical approach to relationships. They would whine like a baby if someone did to them what they so easily do to others.
#3: Writing an anonymous letter does not give evidence of the fruit of the Spirit.
There is no love, joy, peace, kindness, gentleness, and certainly no self-control. Rather, they are filled with self-righteousness, pride, an air of superiority, and venom.
Leaders must have the hide of a rhino and the heart of a lamb. The danger is getting the two reversed. If you are going to lead, don’t be surprised if you get anonymous letters. If you read them, you are allowing a nobody to speak into your life. The devil will drive their words into your heart. After all, anonymous letter writers all have the same father – the Accuser of the Brethren.
The first thing I read when I open a letter is the name. If there is no name, it goes in the garbage can. I don’t take the time, energy, or effort to read anything from anyone who lacks the biblical grace and moral courage to sign their name. If you believe in something strongly, have the courage to sign your name.
Jan Harrison is an author, speaker, and Bible study teacher who has inspired women for over 15 years. She and her husband Frank have become dear friends of Sherwood, and we support With Open Eyes, a ministry co-founded by her son James. James died unexpectedly in 2010 in Nairobi, Kenya. It was there that James had been devoting his life to serving the poor and providing help to the needy. He also served along godly pastors who had become respected friends and mentors in his life.
Through these events, Jan experienced the promise of “life after the storm.” The storms of life can leave lasting scars that permanently mark your life. When your heart is ready to begin the healing journey, this companion will lead you to God’s essential provisions for survival—His promises, His Spirit, His ever-present help, and the treasures of His Word.
Jan’s story is painful, yet redemptive, as it walks through God’s goodness in the midst of great grief and tragedy. Read it yourself and share it with a friend or family member in need.
Jan serves on the board of With Open Eyes, and she and her husband Frank reside in Charlotte, North Carolina. With Open Eyes partners with local ministries and international mission agencies to identify, train, and equip messengers of the Gospel as they seek to access unreached people groups. Through these partnerships we provide individual Mobile Messengers appropriate transportation and other tools they need for the purposes of introducing the message of Jesus Christ and establishing self-sustaining and reproducing churches.
Purchase Life After the Storm here.
We recently finished our 11th ReFRESH® Conference in the Smokies. For over a decade, we’ve held conferences in Albany, Pigeon Forge, Branson, and Richmond for the IMB stateside staff. We will be going to Boston/New England for our first conference there in September. By the end of the year, we will have hosted 30 of these conferences.
If it were not for the members of Sherwood Baptist Church having heart for revival and for pastors…if it were not for members who give up vacation days to travel, serve, and assist with the conferences, we couldn’t do this. If it were not for men with a heart for revival and awakening, there would be no conference. The various men God has used through these years have blessed and ministered to now over 1,000 pastors and countless numbers of laity.
Every man who speaks, comes with a unique giftedness, personality, and calling. Yet, when we are together, there is a seamless flow to all that happens. We don’t orchestrate it; God does it. We never know how many times we will speak, but every man is ready to speak or just to attend and pray for the meeting.
ReFRESH® is the closest thing to the Deeper Life Conferences I once attended with folks like Ron Dunn, Manley Beasley, Miss Bertha Smith, Jack Taylor, and others. We are not trying to recreate those events because they can’t be recreated. We are simply focused on the same things they were focused on: revival, the Spirit-filled life, awakening, and prayer.
Yet, having said all that, that’s not the explanation. There is no explanation for this conference. We do it on a shoestring budget. We keep it small to have greater impact and personal time with the pastors, staff, and lay leaders who attend. We give away nearly $1,000 in free resources at every conference. We scholarship pastors who can’t afford to attend. Looking at it on paper, it’s not practical, financially successful, or even well-known. Looking at it on paper, we should have stopped doing it a long time ago.
Nonetheless, there is one thing constant with all the conferences we’ve done – God has been the only explanation. There is no way to describe what God has done in the hearts of people. We’ve seen pastors who were ready to leave the ministry, renew their commitment to stay in the battle. We’ve watched men and women beaten up and scarred by carnal people have the joy of their calling restored. We’ve seen tears at the altar, joy in their faces, and restoration in their souls. Only God can do this. Only God has the power to change lives. No preacher, no conference, no sermon can bring revival or bring a blessing. That is all birthed in the Spirit of God by the power of God for the glory of God.
The most recent conference reminded me that God is in charge. We shuffled the order, changed speakers at the last minute, and we never missed a beat. God reminded us that when we are available, He is able. When we are surrendered, He will take over. When His people seek Him, He will be found.
I’m praying for the day when ReFRESH® is unnecessary. If we see a weeping, sweeping revival in our land, we won’t need this kind of conference. Until that day, I want to keep my hands to the plow. I want to keep asking God to rend the heavens and come down. I am believing God for another great move of His Spirit across this land. I am blessed to know so many others in various ministries and across denominational lines who are like-minded.
May God send an unexplainable refreshing to you and your ministry today.
I hate time change Sunday. Even when I gain an extra hour of sleep, I hate the day. First of all, why on Sunday? Why make us lose an hour before worship? Why not Monday when everyone has to get up anyway? Why not Saturday, when we have a day to adjust? Better yet, why not just keep the savings time year round? Most of us never know what time it is anyway.
Come to think of it, these days remind me of many believers. I love to meet a new believer before he starts meeting a lot of religious people. Religious people can kill enthusiasm in a nanosecond. Normal, New Testament expressions of faith seem so odd that the engaged and energized believer has to backslide to have fellowship with half the church.
IT’S TIME TO SPRING FORWARD
Churches need to spring forward. They need to get out of the rut of manmade traditions that have no power. They should spring forward and clean out the closets, throw away the junk and fine tune the ministry. I’ve been in enough churches to think about becoming the host of a new reality TV show, Church Hoarders – digging through old hymnals, Sunday School quarterlies, choral selections, and offering envelopes.
Two years ago we tore down two old one-story buildings and gutted two others to build and remodel for current needs. When we were cleaning out the attic, it looked like an episode of Hoarders. In that attic was every old offering envelope dating back four decades. My only question was WHY?
Back in the 1990s I went around the Sunday School classes on a Friday afternoon and just started throwing things away. I found Sunday School quarterlies that dated back 15-20 years stuck in the piano benches. (Now there’s a whole other issue – out of tune pianos in rooms where we only know how to play and sing four different hymns!)
The average church in America is plateaued or dying. Why? They forgot to spring forward. My home church is on life support. A once strong church now has 13 people, all in their 90s. Meanwhile there are thousands of lost children, young people, and families within that community. Someone forgot to spring forward.
To spring forward also means to get out of the rut of the old way of doing church. Business meetings should be outlawed. Get a good finance committee and trust the leadership. Let’s move on people.
To spring forward means you’ve got to admit that the people you are trying to reach aren’t going to buy the KJV. They like reading The Message, ESV, NIV, or some other translation. Although I preach from the NASB, I often quote and refer to these newer translations because I know they are familiar to people. While the world is going to hell and the church is by and large biblically ignorant, why are we arguing over translations? Spring forward. Get a Bible and read it and quit dying on hills already covered with too many bodies.
THE CHURCH NEEDS TO FALL BACK
We need to fall back in love with Jesus. We love our events, our age group ministries, our seats, our songs…but do we love Jesus first and foremost?
We need to fall back and examine why some fences were built? Why do we do what we do? We need to discover or re-discover our heritage and church history. Most folks have no clue why we do what we do. We need to take time to explain the importance of the Lord’s Supper. We need to take the time to explain why baptism matters.
Never move a fence until you find out why it was put there. We have biblical boundaries that are being violated for the sake of numbers and crowds. We want people to be comfortable; God wants them to be holy. We want folks to be happy; God wants them to be reconciled to Him. We can’t move forward if we are soft on sin, unclear about the Bible, or indifferent to lifestyles.
We need to fall back in worship. No, I don’t mean return to the good old days when we had hymnals. I mean we need to quit trying to be trendy. Every artist today seems to write songs that sound the same, feel the same, just with a few word changes. You can anticipate the key change. You can almost nail the moment when everyone is going to raise their hands. It’s predictable which means it’s not spontaneous. It’s dangerously close to being “watch us perform and you act on cue” rather than “worship with us.”
Again, I love the new music. I love what we do at Sherwood. I’m grateful for the influence of Contemporary Christian Music, but I do miss the days of distinctive sounds, songs, and artists. While the music is God-honoring (whether we are talking about hymns or choruses), if we aren’t careful we will become the bland leading the bland.
We need to fall back into expounding the Word of God. “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.” I grew up on topical preaching. I have to ask myself when I follow certain podcasts, “How many sermons can you preach on marriage, sex, and the family?” Really? You’re that good? We’ve gotten to the point where we know more about relationships than God does. Where’s the sermon on singleness? Being adopted? Growing up in a blended home? We’ve painted our marriage series to be like “Little House on the Freeway” and forgotten that every family has unique issues. The only answers for life are found in the context of taking people back to Jesus.
When was the last time you heard a pastor preach through a book? I know that people have short attention spans. They are also biblically illiterate. They aren’t going to get smarter by having the preacher dumb down the Word of God. Teach them to have an appetite for the Word. Give them the meat, not just the milk. Show them how to hunger and thirst for righteousness. Stretch them out of their comfort zone.
We need to fall back to the basics. Our people, by and large, don’t know how to pray, have a quiet time, memorize Scripture, quote the 10 commandments, name the 12 Apostles, share their faith, or understand tithing. We need to fall back or we are going to produce a bloated, overweight, under-nourished, unhealthy version of Christianity that looks nothing like the New Testament picture of a believer. They’ll be fat and happy, but they won’t be difference makers, disciple makers, or dedicated followers of the living Lord.
At Sherwood, we are currently walking through great truths about the Holy Spirit and how we can cooperate with Him as He operates in our lives. All that the Lord Jesus had been to His disciples while walking this earth, the Holy Spirit has become as our comforter.
There is a difference. Jesus was with them physically; the Spirit abides in us. He is empowering us, equipping us, convicting us, and drawing us to a more intimate relationship with Christ.
All that Jesus did for the disciples, the Spirit would continue to do. The ascended Lord is our Advocate. The indwelling Holy Spirit is our paraclete, our helper. There is harmony here. There is unity here. There is a singleness of purpose in this.
Just as Jesus talked, guided, and strengthened the disciples, the Holy Spirit continues to do this and even more. Our Lord, as He walked this earth, was limited by time and space. If He was in one place, He couldn’t be somewhere else. The Holy Spirit in us is in all places at all times. He is not limited by time and space. He indwells believers everywhere. His work in us is to make Christ as real to us as if Jesus were actually walking among us. The Spirit fills the gap between the open grave and the exalted throne.
Think about it. By His death and resurrection, Jesus meets every need of the sinner for salvation. The Holy Spirit is given to meet every need in the life of the believer. If we could just embrace that truth, it would revolutionize our lives. We have the Spirit indwelling and empowering us. That’s incredible news. It’s not wishful thinking, it’s a living truth!