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Rev. Dan Hawn
Senior Pastor

Church Membership

posted Nov 14, 2017, 10:10 AM by First Baptist


In recent days, I’ve had two conversations about church membership.


In one, a married couple expressed an eagerness to become official members of FBC. They both see formal church membership as an important part of their discipleship and understand there are both privileges & responsibilities of being members.


In the other conversation, a friend was seeking information about why there is even such a thing as formal membership. He had a perfectly reasonable question: Why isn’t every regular attender automatically considered a member?


Different Approaches


Some churches do that. Actually, what they do is eliminate membership altogether; meaning, people come & go (and participate or not) as they please.


Other churches not only have “members,” but membership comes with a clear set of expectations. For example, to be a member of one of the largest churches in America, you must agree to tithe (or give 10% of your income to the church). In addition, your membership is only good for one year; each year, it must be renewed.


The Mushy Middle


As to FBC, we are in the mushy middle. In other words, we have membership, but it doesn’t mean a great deal. For example, the church’s bylaws do not require that the church’s most important roles be filled by members. The bylaws also permit people to “drop out” (i.e., have nothing to do with FBC for a long period of time) and still retain their membership.


Personally, I think we should get out of the mushy middle and have membership mean something. While I have some ideas about what that meaning should be, I assume others do as well, and I’d like to see the congregation work together to reach a consensus about that.


The Bible & Formal Church Membership


I would not be in favor of eliminating membership altogether because its practice is strongly implied in the New Testament.


For example, soon after Pentecost (the birthday of the church), the church in Jerusalem started a food distribution ministry for widows – not for just any widow, but for those affiliated with the church. Surely they maintained some kind of membership roll to know who qualified.


In addition, all the New Testament passages dealing with church discipline have very little meaning without formal church membership.


Speaking of which . . . after a bit of hemming & hawing on my part, here’s what I told my friend in my 2nd conversation:


The primary, biblical purpose of formal church membership is to give the church the ability to take it away.


Really? Yes, really.


Removing a person from membership due to unrepentant sin (or sin from which a person refuses to repent despite repeated pleadings & warnings) is the final tool in the church’s tool box to try to get their attention and bring about a change of heart. Doing so also provides a necessary warning to the rest of the church body not to engage in that particular sin.


The church that refuses to take this step when necessary either (a) doesn’t take sin very seriously or (b) doesn’t really love the person who is sinning.


Would you want to be part of a church where either of these is the case?


Pastor Dan


posted Nov 7, 2017, 10:08 AM by First Baptist


Hardly a week goes by without the news of another massacre somewhere in our beloved country.


The latest was in the small town of Sutherland Springs, TX, where a masked gunman walked up & down the aisle of the First Baptist Church shooting worshippers sitting in the pews. He killed 26 and wounded another 20. Among the wounded was a 5-year-old, who was shot FIVE TIMES.



Stephen Willeford & Johnnie Langendorff


In the midst of this senseless tragedy, we are heartened by the heroism of Stephen Willeford, 55, and Johnnie Langendorff, 27.


When Mr. Willeford heard the shooting, he left his house barefoot with his AR-15 rifle and started exchanging gunfire with the shooter outside the church. An expert shot, Mr. Willeford aimed for gaps in the shooter’s body armor and shot him at least once. When the shooter got in an SUV and sped off, Mr. Willeford flagged down Mr. Langendorff, who was at a nearby stop sign, jumped in his truck and told him to give chase.


Mr. Langendorff didn’t ask questions. He followed the shooter at 95 mph down the highway, until the perpetrator ran off the road. Mr. Willeford hurried out of the truck and rested his rifle on top of Langendorff’s hood and shouted for the shooter to give himself up. The murderer apparently took his own life with a gunshot.



Martin Luther


At the same time that I’m hearing about the church shooting, I’m reading Eric Metaxas’ new biography of Martin Luther. While the circumstances are much different, Martin Luther is no less a hero than Willeford & Langendorff.


Luther posted his 95 Thesis on October 31, 1517. Due to the recent invention of the printing press, it didn’t take long for his opposition to the practice of indulgences to reach the pope in Rome. The pope promptly dispatched a cardinal to travel to Luther’s hometown and order him to recant. Their “meeting” lasted two days and, at certain points, the cardinal screamed at Luther and threatened him in various ways.


It’s difficult for us to appreciate how powerful the Roman Catholic Church was at this point in history. Luther fully expected to be arrested by the cardinal and taken to Rome, whereupon he would be judged a heretic and burned at the stake. Nevertheless, Luther refused to recant, God protected him, and the Reformation began.



Created & Prepared


I’m reminded of Ephesians 2:10:


For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.



Pastor Dan

Reformation Day

posted Oct 31, 2017, 10:23 AM by First Baptist

I read a report that Halloween is now the 2nd biggest U.S. holiday in terms of retail spending, eclipsing every other holiday except Christmas.


I’ve never been a big Halloween guy, but even less so this year. That’s because today (October 31, 2017) is the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.


The Reformation began when Martin Luther, an Augustinian monk, parish priest & college professor, nailed his complaints (or protest) concerning the Roman Catholic Church to the door of a church in Wittenberg, Germany. His intent was merely to encourage a dialogue with and among the townspeople, but his protest caught fire and spread far & wide.


Even secular historians consider the Protestant Reformation to be among the ten most important events in all of human history.


We live in an era when protesting is common, although our protests are often token and over fairly trivial matters. For example, I’m currently protesting the NFL because of THEIR protests.


Perhaps we should take a few moments to remind ourselves what Luther and the other reformers were protesting 500 years ago. Their protest was best captured in the five “solas” that came out of the Reformation:*


Sola Scriptura: We protest against any authority that sets itself up as higher than the word of God revealed in the Bible.


Sola Fide: We protest against the idea that there is any instrument or means apart from faith by which we are declared righteous before God.


Sola Gratia: We protest against the idea that our own good works are the meritorious basis for God bestowing His favor upon us.


Sola Christus: We protest against any other “god” who sets itself up as a more sufficient redeemer/savior than the Lord Jesus Christ.


Soli Deo Gloria: We protest against any idea that prevents God from receiving all glory for our salvation or for any other thing.


Protesting these five things won’t get any news coverage, either in print or on television. But, regardless of whatever else we might protest, we cannot fail to protest these five things lest we lose the heart and soul of the Christian faith.


Happy Reformation Day!



Pastor Dan


*From the website Canon Fodder

Signs Your Christianity is Too Comfortable

posted Oct 24, 2017, 10:15 AM by First Baptist


It’s possible, especially in small town America, to find ourselves living pretty comfortably as Christians. As long as we’re not too obnoxious or pushy, people accept us. Moreover, many of the commands of Scripture, when practiced, lead to a successful & happy life.


But, is it possible for us to become too comfortable? Here are some indicators that your Christianity has become a bit too warm & cozy:


1.      You’re “all-in” with one or the other political parties.


If you don’t feel any tension between the teaching of Jesus and the positions of whichever political party you ascribe to, your Christianity has probably gotten too comfortable.


2.      There are no theological issues, paradoxes, tensions or unresolved questions that continue to boggle your mind.


The Bible is full of divine revelation that is mind-boggling and beyond our capacity to grasp completely. If such things hardly ever cross your mind, your Christianity has probably gotten too comfortable.


3.      The people you work with would be surprised to learn you’re a church-going Christian.


Ouch! Nothing more needs to be said here.


4.      You never think about or even remember the Sunday sermon on Monday.


If the Sunday sermon is quickly forgotten, either the preacher is doing a pathetic job, or you’re disengaged and going through the motions. (If it’s the former, be sure to let me know!)


5.      You never feel challenged, only affirmed.


If your Christian faith, and especially what you hear on Sunday morning, never confronts your idols and challenges your sinful habits – but only affirms you as you are – this is a sure sign of a too-comfortable faith.


6.      You’re never had a “truth-in-love” conversation with a fellow Christian.


Persons with a too-comfortable faith prefer to “live and let live.” It’s just easier to shrug when they see fellow believers making bad choices.


7.      No one at your church ever annoys you.


If you go to church with people who are always easy to talk to, always pleasant to be around, and always closely aligned with your opinions, tastes, and preferences, your Christianity is too comfortable.


8.      No one at your church could comment on any area of growth they’ve seen in you.


Though not always linear, the Christian life should be marked by growth and change for the better. If such change isn’t noticeable, by those who know you well, your Christianity has probably gotten too comfortable.


CS Lewis once said:


“I didn’t go into Christianity to make me comfortable and happy. I always knew a bottle of good wine would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend following Jesus.”




Pastor Dan


Adapted from an article by Brett McCracken

Establishing Priorities

posted Oct 17, 2017, 11:00 AM by First Baptist

Since last month’s Vision Week and the start of the 9Marks sermon series, several have asked a form of the following question:


The 9Marks grid seems to imply that a believer’s connection with the church is more important or a higher priority than his or her connection with their family (or the world). Is this right?


In response, it wasn’t the intent of the Vision Team to suggest or establish a hierarchy of importance or priority. The order of connections (top, middle, bottom) is immaterial and can be re-formulated however one wishes.


While we as believers may think or act in terms of a hierarchy (what is 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th in our lives), Scripture takes a different approach.


Most notably, in Matthew 22:34-40, Jesus is asked to explain the greatest commandment in the Mosaic law. He relied:


“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”


According to Jesus, then, there are only two priorities: loving God and loving people. Both are required; we don’t pick-and-choose between them. For example, we don’t say: “Today I’ll love God and tomorrow I’ll love people.” Instead, we’re responsible to do both – all the time!


Who’s our “neighbor”? In other words, who are the people Jesus tells us to love?


Included is our family, of course. Also included are fellow believers, who are to be the special objects of our good works (see Galatians 6:10). Beyond this, our neighbors include the people we work with, the family next door, as well as the children many of us packed meals for over the weekend.


How each of us fulfills the command to love God & people will vary according to season and circumstance. We shouldn’t insist on uniformity in this regard, nor should we establish a rigid hierarchy. That’s human invention, not a biblical one.


In the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), the priest and Levite each had a hierarchy or list of priorities, which they used to justify not loving the poor man lying in the street. In that moment of walking along the road, their priority was the injured man and, in failing to love him, they utterly failed to obey God’s law.


Pastor Dan

In Search of a Motive

posted Oct 3, 2017, 10:10 AM by First Baptist


What a somber day yesterday as we grieved along with the families of 57 dead and over 500 injured.


Unlike other mass shootings, this one lacks an obvious motive or cause. The shooter appears to have been “a regular guy,” without any (known) history of mental illness, criminality, drug/alcohol abuse, or radical political/religious affiliations. In addition, the massacre was planned out; it wasn’t a spur-of-the-moment violent outburst.


As authorities search for answers, biblical Christians know it’s possible (I would argue likely) that the shooter was under demonic influence in city in which demonic influence is deep & widespread.


An Obsolete Worldview


Modern Western culture scoffs at the idea of demons and considers belief in them a product of an obsolete worldview taught in the Bible and other ancient cultures.


For example, the prominent liberal theologian Rudolf Bultmann (1884-1976) emphatically denied the existence of a supernatural world of angels and demons. He argued these were ancient “myths” and that the New Testament message had to be “demythologized” by removing such mythological elements so that the gospel could be received by modern, scientific people.


However, if the Bible gives us a true account of the world as it really is, then we must take seriously its portrayal of intense demonic involvement in human society. Our failure to perceive that involvement with our five senses simply tells us that we have some deficiencies in our ability to understand the world, not that demons do not exist.


Demons in Biblical History


The word demon doesn’t often appear in the Old Testament. Tellingly, what the Old Testament does is identify the “false gods” worshipped by the nations surrounding Israel (and sometimes even by Israel itself) as demonic forces (Deut 32:16-17; Ps 106:35-37). In other words, according to the Bible, they were worshipping demons!


In the Gospels, Jesus had numerous encounters with demons and he repeatedly demonstrated his power over them. He said that his power over demons authenticated his ministry (i.e., proved he was who he said he was).


Demonic activity continued in the life of the early church (Acts 8:7; 16:18; James 4:7; I Pet 5:8-9).


Finally, as human history moves toward its conclusion, the book of Revelation seems to describe a spectacular increase in demonic activity across the globe. They will apparently have the power to inflict incredible pain & suffering. In the end, however, they will be decisively defeated and thrown into the lake of fire where they will be “tormented day and night for ever and ever” (Rev 20:10).


What About Now?


This leaves the question: What about demonic activity today?


From a biblical perspective, there’s no reason to think there is any less demonic activity in the world today than there was at the time of the New Testament. After all, we are in the same time period in God’s overall plan for history (called the Church or New Covenant Age).


The unwillingness of modern society to recognize the presence of demonic activity today is, from the Bible’s perspective, simply due to our blindness to the true nature of reality.



Pastor Dan



Source: Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine by Wayne Grudem

Questions for the Vision Team

posted Sep 26, 2017, 10:24 AM by First Baptist


In preparation for the informational meeting that was held on September 12 as part of Vision Week, I was asked by the at-large deacons to anticipate questions that the Vision Team might be asked. Below is a list of the toughest questions I could think of, as well as a brief response to each. These are MY responses, not necessarily those of the entire Vision Team or Diaconate.


Pastor Dan



1.     The process cost a lot of money. Was it worth it?


§  The members of the Vision Team (10 members, at least 2 from each generation) all considered it a worthwhile process, but time will tell how much impact it has. We now have a vision to rally around & the leadership team appears motivated to see the church move forward. The entire expense was approximately 6% of our annual budget.


2.     Why the long gap between the Team’s final meeting with the consultant last January and September’s Vision Week.


§  After an intense 10-month process that covered a lot of ground, it was helpful to allow things to percolate. As a matter of fact, after a couple months had passed, we re-visited the wording of the proposed vision. Also, we were ready to announce everything during the summer, but decided to wait until fall.


3.     What was wrong with our previous Mission Statement? Why change it?


§  There was nothing wrong with our previous Mission Statement. However, the Team wanted to relate the mission to our current time & place. This is known as contextualization. Even Jesus stated the church’s mission in different ways (for example, compare Matthew 28 with Acts 1).

4.     I expected the Team to do a better job of communicating with the church DURING the process, not just after. Why so little communication until Vision Week?


§  Once we got into the process, we quickly realized it would be unwise to “announce” things in drips & drabs before the process was complete. The Team did have 2 “Wet Cement” meetings with a broad group of leaders and also kept the Diaconate informed month-by-month.


5.     We were told that the 9Marks Assessment isn’t a “good Christian score,” but it kind of smells like it. How would you alleviate the concern that we’re taking a turn toward legalism?


§  It’s good to have this concern as churches have a tendency to drift either toward legalism or antinomianism (i.e., a lack of concern for God’s commands). We need to make it absolutely clear that our application of the 9Marks isn’t a means of earning God’s favor (we already have that through Christ), but rather is our grateful response to His favor.


6.     The Vision focuses on young people. What about everyone else? Are they just left behind?


§  Absolutely not. To achieve such a big vision, the entire congregation will need to be growing in Christ. Also, having a vision doesn’t mean everything else is neglected; rather, it means the congregation has decided to give special attention to a particular area of ministry for a particular season of its existence.


7.     The church has been doing fine without all this vision stuff. Why can’t we just keep things the way they are?


§  It’s true that FBC is a healthy congregation in many ways. At the same time, the Church in Harlan is losing influence, especially among young people. If present trends continue, the Church in Harlan could die. It seems wise to address this situation from a position of relative strength.

8.     All this talk about vision, strategy, measures, etc. sounds very corporate and business-y. Are we in danger of adopting the ways of the world, not the ways of Christ?


§  It’s true that a church needs to be on guard against trying to build the church on its own rather than relying on the Spirit. Our prayerfulness (or lack thereof) will be the telltale sign of who/what we’re depending on.


9.     What will this vision actually mean for our church going forward?


§  In both his presentations, Dr. Klitgaard mentioned 3 specific things: (1) it will inform our future decisions & allocation of resources; (2) it will require the entire congregation to take their spiritual growth more seriously; and (3) we will need to take a hard look at why young people have such a negative view of Christianity & the Church.


10.            Often times, a church will go to all this work, but then it’s back to business as usual. How do we know this won’t happen with us?


§  We agree this is a danger and something we can’t allow to happen. One way we’ve tried to address this was by lengthening the terms of the at-large deacons & moderator. Longer terms provide more continuity.


11.            The Team said very little about HOW we will reach so many young people. Are you holding things back, or don’t you know?


§  During the process, we only discussed strategy at the highest level and produced a graphic to indicate our priorities. We will now enter into a season of developing specific strategies around these priorities



12.            Regarding the Mission Statement, is it wise to discourage “self-sufficiency” at a time when so many Americans receive government assistance? Shouldn’t we encourage people to be MORE self-sufficient?


§  We purposely wrote the Mission Statement in such a way as to require some explanation. For our use, self-sufficiency refers to the spiritual condition of relying on one’s own merits (and efforts) to be in right standing with God. The Team believes self-sufficiency in this regard is very much a characteristic of the Harlan community.


13.             Going forward, who will “own” the vision & be responsible for its implementation?


§  Ideally, the entire church will “own” it, but as to the question of responsibility, the at-large deacons have been wrestling with this for several months. There are 3 main options:

1.     The diaconate owns it;

2.     The at-large deacons own it; or

3.     A new committee or team is formed and they own it.

Each option has its pluses & minuses and the at-large team hasn’t yet reached a consensus on which option would be best for the church. Please pray as the team continues to deliberate over this matter.

This is Chilling

posted Sep 19, 2017, 10:22 AM by First Baptist


Officials in Iceland, a small yet prosperous country in Europe, is boasting of the near elimination of Down Syndrome from its population.


How did they do that? Did they find a cure that we somehow missed hearing about?


No, Iceland isn’t eliminating Down Syndrome from their population, they’re eliminating Down Syndrome PEOPLE from their population!


You see, Iceland has gotten to the point where nearly 100% of expectant mothers who are carrying a child diagnosed with Down Syndrome are “choosing” to have an abortion. I put the word “choosing” in quotation marks because many women report being coerced into terminating their pregnancy.


Other Countries


Iceland isn’t the only country working to eliminate Down Syndrome via abortion. In Europe as a whole, 92% of babies diagnosed with Down syndrome are aborted. In the United States, it is somewhere between 67-90%.


Recently, in France, a pro-life group produced television commercials featuring persons with Down Syndrome talking about their happy & productive lives. What did the government do? It banned the showing of these commercials.


Human Life is Sacred


As we were reminded Sunday from Genesis 1, human life is sacred. The reason human life is sacred is because we are made in the image of God, including those born with Down Syndrome or any other abnormality.


In Genesis 9, God prohibits killing another human being ON THE BASIS THAT HUMANS ARE MADE IN THE IMAGE OF GOD.


I guess we are at the point in Western culture where humanity is taking upon itself the authority to decide who is fit to live. That’s a scary proposition and harkens back to Nazism.


A Slippery Slope


This manner of “dealing” with the problem of Down Syndrome puts us on a very slippery slope. This is because, eventually, we will have pre-natal tests to determine all kinds of abnormalities or conditions. Does this mean we’ll start aborting babies projected to have a lower IQ? What about those projected to be obese or diabetic?


As Christians, we must advocate for the dignity of ALL human life – from conception to natural death. We must also, when given the opportunity, offer our loving support to couples raising a handicapped child. Oh wait . . . God has already given us that opportunity!



Pastor Dan

What is God Saying to Us?

posted Sep 12, 2017, 10:18 AM by First Baptist


This is a question a lot of people are asking in response to the recent series of natural disasters afflicting the United States. Yet a 3rd hurricane is brewing in the Atlantic.


Even the secular New York Times was asking this question in a front-page article on September 8


The Times was careful to point out that storms and wildfires are common this time of year, but then they added, “But still.”


I’ve heard a number of Christian leaders insist God is judging America, or perhaps more specifically, judging Texas & Florida (plus several western states in the case of the wildfires).


This is irresponsible and cruel.


Now, it is true that God speaks through nature and acts of providence. Psalm 19:1-6 makes this clear. But, as to what God is saying specifically, if anything, we need to go to Scripture. Martin Luther offered wise counsel when he said,


“Let the man who would hear God speak, read holy Scripture.”


Luke 13


Perhaps the best passage for interpreting natural disasters is Luke 13. This is part of the “journey section” of Luke’s gospel, in which Jesus is making his way to Jerusalem and the crucifixion. Along the way, he does a lot of teaching, much of it in response to questions.


One day, Jesus is informed about a natural disaster. He’s told that 13 people died when the tower in Siloam fell on them. Most likely the tower was knocked down by a weather event of some kind.


So, what about this Jesus?


Here’s what Jesus says:


“Do you think they [the 13 who died] were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”

                                                                                                Luke 13:4-5


No More Deserving


I think Jesus is saying two things: First, don’t think those who suffered are worse sinners than those who did not; they are no more deserving of suffering than you are.


This means then that the people of Florida & Texas aren’t worse sinners than the good folks of Iowa. They don’t deserve a natural disaster any more (or less) than we do. We mustn’t think that way.


How then should we think?


A Call to Repent


This is Jesus’ second point: In the wake of tragedy, Jesus calls upon ALL people to repent (i.e., to turn away from their sin & unbelief and to God).


It turns out then that hurricanes and other natural disasters are warnings to us of the eternal judgment yet to come. They are like warning shots fired across the bow of ships that are sailing in rebellion to God. The message is that a far greater disaster awaits those who persist in their rebellion.


One author writes:


“Christ is the only safe refuge from the coming Day of Judgment – a day that will make Hurricanes Harvey & Irma seem like arguments on a playground in comparison.”


This is what God is saying to us. These storms, together with every other tragedy in life, are calls to repent of sin and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. May the Lord give us ears to hear this message.



Pastor Dan


Adapted from an article by Tom Ascol

Burial or Cremation?

posted Sep 5, 2017, 10:10 AM by First Baptist


The Cremation Association of North America (who knew?) recently reported that, for the first time in American history, more Americans are choosing cremation over burial (51% versus 49%).


By 2025, the percentage choosing cremation is expected to rise to 65% -- and to 80% by 2035. That’s a big shift in American culture, especially when you consider the cremation rate was only 3% as recent as the 1960s.





Obviously, cost is a big factor. Cremation typically costs about a third of what burial costs.


Another factor is increased mobility. More-and-more Americans live far from their hometowns and family burial plots. These families tend to want more flexible options for end-of-life decisions.



Spiritual Considerations


The Bible does not prescribe what is to be done with the body upon death. Thus, Christians are free to choose burial or cremation. Either is acceptable; neither is wrong or sinful.


However, as cremation becomes the “go-to” choice in America, Christians may want to give burial extra consideration. The reason is that the practice of burial has its roots in a Judeo-Christian worldview.


Within Judaism, there was always reverence for the body. This was over & against those competing worldviews that considered the human body inherently sinful or merely a temporary (and disposable) dwelling place for the spirit, which is the “real” person.


Christianity takes reverence for the body a step further, of course, with the promise that the body will be gloriously resurrected.


The Old Testament hints at resurrection, but not until the New Testament, is the promise explicit. With the coming of Christ, the dead will rise!


The New Testament also declares the body (of a Christian) to be the temple of the Holy Spirit. That is further evidence of the importance of our bodies. Finally, in Christ’s resurrection, we’re given an example of what the resurrected body will be like.





Again, it’s certainly not a sin to be cremated. That’s not the issue. Rather, it’s a matter of Christian judgment, informed by the fact that burial has very deep theological & biblical roots in both the Christian and Jewish tradition. Burial can be a powerful (and final) witness to what we believe.



Pastor Dan

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