Saturday, May 28, 2022

Arguments and Compromise

They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company.”
-- Acts 15:39

Remember the scene in the movie “Elf,” when an enraged Miles Finch huffs and puffs across a conference room table to beat up poor, startled Buddy the Elf? Well, sometimes truth is just about as wild as fiction. Years ago, one of our church leaders told me the story of a meeting at a church down the hill where he once served as an elder. During this meeting of the elders—a group of seasoned, experienced leaders in the church—an argument broke out. Two of the elders were adamantly disagreeing about something. As they argued, tempers started to flare, words were exchanged … and it escalated to a point where one of the elders pulled a Miles Finch.

Yep. He stood up and started to crawl across the conference table to exchange blows. The other elders had to hold him back before the punches started flying. Not exactly church fellowship at its finest, was it?

If you live under the same roof with another human being, sooner or later you’re going to argue about something: maybe about the bills, maybe about who’s supposed to do the dishes, maybe about who left the toilet seat up. Similarly, if you have a church family, sooner or later you’re going to argue with another brother or sister in Christ about something. You don’t live with a clone of yourself, and you don’t go to church with a clone of yourself. So, there’s bound to be some conflict along the way. In the Book of Acts, an unexpected conflict came up between two of our favorite church leaders: Paul and Barnabas.

Paul and Barnabas made a GREAT team! They did amazing ministry together in their home church of Antioch in Syria. They led great numbers of people to a saving knowledge of Christ. Then they joined forces for their first missionary trip, spreading the gospel and planting healthy, self-sustaining churches throughout Cyprus and Galatia. But at the end of Acts 15, they had an argument that tore their relationship apart.

After Paul and Barnabas had been back home in Antioch for a while, Paul suggested they go back to visit the Christians in all the towns where they had preached the gospel and planted churches (v. 36). Barnabas thought this was a great idea. But then Barnabas suggested taking along his cousin John Mark (v. 37). And Paul basically responded, “Over my dead body!” (v. 38), remembering that John Mark had jumped ship early into their first mission trip. So, the argument began. Verse 39 says that “They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company”—and as far as we know, they never did ministry together again.

It pains me to say this, but it seems clear to me that these two great heroes of our faith—Paul and Barnabas—screwed up. They could have come to a God-honoring compromise … but they didn’t. And I believe God placed this incident in the Bible without sugar-coating it so that you and I don’t make the same mistakes in our marriages, in our families or in our churches.

So, how do we argue in a way that honors God and nourishes relationships? Here are 3 keys:

Key #1: “Be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1:19). When I think about the most immature, toxic arguments I’ve had with my wife, my kids or with other Christians, they have this in common: I talked too much. I listened too little. And I became angry too quickly. Can you relate? Never forget: God gave you two ears and only one mouth for a reason.

Key #2: Even if it seems to be out in left field, work hard to see and understand the other person’s point of view. “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Phil. 2:3-4). So often we climb on top of our moral high horses and make the case that our opinion is so much more right and biblical than the next guy’s opinion. Believe, really BELIEVE, that the person you’re arguing with is better at certain things than you are and smarter in many ways than you are. So, listen to them, learn from them and understand their point of view. It’s valuable. They are valuable. 

Key #3: When both sides have validity, seek a wise compromise. Moral compromise is sin. But loving, submissive compromise is very Christlike. During his ministry years, Jesus routinely sacrificed his own personal comforts and preferences for the good of those around him. And He’s calling us to do the same.

Barnabas had a deep desire to give his nephew Mark a second chance. Paul had a deep desire to assemble a trustworthy, hard-working team of missionaries to do the best work possible. Both perspectives were valid. Both men made some great points. So, if they had been living out these three keys, their knock-down, drag-out argument could have turned out so much better. God ended up using their breakup in an amazing way. But that doesn’t mean their rift didn’t grieve His heart or cause their church collateral damage.

So often what we argue about is not sinful, but the way we handle the argument IS sinful. And sin always causes damage. So, let’s honor God by handling our arguments and disagreements wisely—like Jesus—with humility, love and grace.

Dane Davis is the pastor of Impact Christian Church in Victorville. Join us at Impact for Sunday services: in person at 9 a.m., or online at 10 a.m. on YouTube or Facebook Live. For more information, visit

Saturday, May 21, 2022

What Was Paul’s Secret Sauce?

 “I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”
– 1 Corinthians 2:2

Years ago, a church was having a farewell dinner for their pastor, who was moving out of state. Partway through the dinner the pastor noticed that one of the charter members of the church—a sweet, gray-haired widow—was crying. So, the pastor went up to her, put his arm around her, and said, “Don’t be so sad. The next pastor might be better than me.” She responded, “I doubt it! That’s what they said five years ago when they hired you!”

There’s no doubt: Doing life-changing ministry has its ups and downs, for both churches AND the pastors who lead them. When Paul and Barnabas traveled through Galatia, the first town they visited gave them a cease-and-desist order and kicked them out. In the next town, they narrowly escaped before their critics carried out a plan to beat them and stone them to death. And in the third town, Paul’s haters DID stone him and left him for dead. From a human standpoint, Paul and Barnabas’ ministry wasn’t going so well.

But Paul and Barnabas returned to every one of those towns, encouraged the disciples they’d made there—and planted churches that would last. How? For centuries Christian leaders have wondered: “How on earth could Paul roll into a town, lead people to Christ and—in a matter of just a few months—plant a healthy, self-sustaining church that survived and thrived without him?” What was Paul’s secret sauce?

Well, his secret sauce really wasn’t so secret. And it wasn’t even complicated. It was actually quite simple, and the Bible reveals it to us in Acts 14:22-23. Here are the three keys to building a healthy new church that survives and thrives long after its founding pastor leaves town.

Key #1: Paul laid a foundation of Christ-centered gospel teaching (v. 22). When Paul and Barnabas made their way back through the towns they’d been tossed out of, they spent time “strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith.” How did they do this? They strengthened and encouraged them in God’s Word—specifically, the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Years later Paul wrote to the Corinthian church, “When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:1-2). Paul’s teaching could be summarized in three powerful words: Jesus, Jesus, Jesus! And the churches Paul planted didn’t close their doors six months after he left town, because there is no better or stronger foundation for a church than the foundation of Jesus Christ: crucified, buried, and resurrected to glory.

Key #2: Paul appointed and trained mature Christian men to pastor their church in his absence (v. 23). Verse 23 tells us, “Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church.” Every day churches rise and fall on their leadership. Just as kids start to think and act like their parents after living with their parents for years, a congregation starts to think and act like their pastor after a few years. If a pastor’s teaching and preaching are shallow, the congregation’s relationship with Christ will tend to be shallow. But if a pastor sets a good example of being faithful in prayer and the study of God’s word, loving people and prioritizing the next generation, the congregation will tend to follow in his footsteps.

But wasn’t every Christian in these new towns a recent convert? Where, then, did Paul find qualified candidates to appoint as elders/pastors? Remember where Paul almost always went when he arrived in a new town: to the Jewish synagogue. Most likely, there he found Jewish men who had spent years studying the Old Testament and living moral lives before Paul ever rolled into town. So, in all likelihood, they were the ones who, after becoming followers of Jesus, were able to become Christian leaders in a short amount of time.

Key #3: Paul trusted the Holy Spirit to protect and lead the church long after he was gone (v. 23). Verse 23 tells us that when Paul and Barnabas appointed elders, “with prayer and fasting, [they] committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust.” Just a few hours before Jesus was led to the cross, he told his disciples, “I have much more to say to you … But when He, the Spirit of Truth, comes, He will guide you into all truth.” No one in human history was as good a teacher as Jesus. Yet even He left before He had finished teaching his disciples all they needed to know, because they couldn’t absorb any more at the time. So, when it was time for Him to leave, Jesus fully trusted the Holy Spirit to pick up where He left off and lead His followers into all truth. In the same way, Paul could move on to the next town without any guilt, shame or regret—because he, too, was leaving the new Christians in the very capable hands of the Holy Spirit, who would pick up where he had left off.

These are three powerful keys that we should never forget. When it comes to building healthy, self-sustaining churches—and healthy, self-sustaining Christian kids and grandkids: Lay a solid foundation of simple, Christ-centered gospel teaching. Raise up and train mature, godly leaders. And finally, trust the Holy Spirit to protect and lead those around you long after you are gone.

Dane Davis is the pastor of Impact Christian Church in Victorville. Join us at Impact for Sunday services: in person at 9 a.m., or online at 10 a.m. on YouTube or Facebook Live. For more information, visit

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Perseverance Pays Off

“We must all go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.”
– Acts 14:22

I’m not a big Survivor fan, but I have been watching and enjoying the latest season. And I’ve been enjoying it for one main reason: one of this year’s contestants, Jonathan Young, a 29-year-old bodyguard from Gadsden, Alabama. When he was just 3 years old, his dad taught him how to do pull-ups, and he’s been building his muscles ever since. He holds the Guinness world record for doing the most chin-ups in one minute …with 100 pounds strapped to his back. This guy is something else!

As you might know, in every episode of Survivor, there are immunity challenges that protect you from getting voted out of the game. In one of this season’s team immunity challenges, three teams had to retrieve a heavy ladder that was strapped to the ocean floor in choppy seas. Two of the teams had to give up after almost drowning. But not Jonathan’s team! He put that ladder on his shoulder—while he dragged his struggling teammates through the waves to safety.

On Survivor, Jonathan Young demonstrates strength, determination and perseverance. And it consistently pays off. The same could be said about the Apostle Paul. He demonstrated incredible strength, determination and perseverance. And it consistently paid off, as we’ll see in Acts 13 and 14.

When Paul traveled on from the mainland of modern-day Turkey, his missionary team was down to just two people—Paul and Barnabas. And Paul was dealing with some kind of life-threatening illness, likely malaria. But even though he was physically sick and emotionally spent, he persevered. He and Barnabas hiked over 100 miles, climbing 3,600-foot mountain peaks, to reach the city of Pisidian Antioch.

Paul’s first stop was the Jewish synagogue, where he was called on to speak. Given that opportunity, Paul didn’t beg off because he was worn out from a long journey and recovering from an illness. Instead, he delivered an inspiring, God-centered sermon, letting them know that “God has brought to Israel the Savior Jesus, as He promised” (Acts 13:23). As a result, many people were drawn to the Lord. And everyone loved it, right? Not exactly. Instead, jealous leaders from the synagogue “stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas” and kicked them out of town (v. 50).

Undaunted, Paul and Barnabas traveled on to the city of Iconium. There, once again, they “went as usual into the Jewish synagogue. There they spoke so effectively that a great number of Jews and Gentiles believed” (Acts 14:1). And there, once again, they met resistance from the local leaders, who cooked up a plan to stone them to death. But Paul and Barnabas got word about the plot and fled.

They reached the town of Lystra. Once again, they preached the gospel. Once again, people listened and were beginning to believe, when guess what? Some of Paul and Barnabas’ opposers from Antioch and Iconium showed up and “won the crowd over” (v. 19). They stoned Paul, dragged him outside the city and left him for dead. After suffering a major concussion and lapsing into unconsciousness, Paul was finally ready to throw in the towel, wasn’t he?

Fat chance. Look at verse 20: “But after the disciples had gathered around him, he got up and went back into the city.” Notice that little word, “disciples.” Evidently, there were people in Lystra who had become disciples of Jesus Christ. Paul wasn’t about to leave them without a proper goodbye. So, once he regained consciousness, he stood up, turned around and staggered right back into town. And the next day, Paul and Barnabas moved on to the city of Derbe, where they “preached the good news in that city and won a large number of disciples” (v. 21). Then, incredibly, they went BACK to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, to encourage the new disciples they’d made while they were there.

Paul is a marvelous example of a Christian who persevered through pain, hardship and difficulties. I’d like to highlight three of those difficulties that God has called you and me to persevere through as well.

#1: Persevere through surprises and unexpected curveballs. It seems clear that in Pisidian Antioch, Paul didn’t know he was going to be given the opportunity to preach on that Sabbath Day. He was not feeling 100 percent, and he was tired from his 100-mile hike over the mountain range. But when called upon, he spoke a clear, powerful message about Jesus.

#2: Persevere through compliments and criticism. You’ve probably heard the old saying: “Don’t believe your own press releases.” I’ve discovered over the years that the truth about Dane is rarely found on the lips of my biggest fans. Neither is the truth about Dane found on the lips of my biggest critics. The truth is usually somewhere in the middle. I’m definitely not Jesus. But I’m not Satan either. The same is true of you. So, don’t let either compliments or criticism sidetrack you from your God-given mission. Persevere through compliments AND through criticism.

#3: Persevere through pain and persecution. I doubt that any of us will ever be knocked unconscious by rocks being thrown at our heads by a mob. But in one way or another, all of us will experience pain for Jesus. All of us will suffer persecution for Jesus. Jesus promised it. He tells us in John 15:20, “Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.” But every bit of pain and persecution we endure for Jesus Christ is fruitful.

Paul said in Acts 14:22, “We must all go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.” If you were to ask Paul whether it was worth it, he would respond—with scrapes and bruises all over him and a splitting headache to boot—“Absolutely! When we persevere for Jesus Christ, it ALWAYS pays off in the end.”

Dane Davis is the pastor of Impact Christian Church in Victorville. Join us at Impact for Sunday services: in person at 9 a.m., or online at 10 a.m. on YouTube or Facebook Live. For more information, visit 

Monday, May 2, 2022

Brace Yourself for a Bumpy Ride

“Paul and his companions sailed to Perga … where John left them to return to Jerusalem.”
– Acts 13:13

James Gilmour was born in Scotland in 1843, and at a young age felt God calling him to the mission field. As he read Jesus’ command in Matthew 28:19-20 to “go and make disciples of all nations,” he became convinced that if he stayed home, he would be disobeying God. He said, “to me the soul of an Indian seems as precious as the soul of an Englishman, and the Gospel as much for the Chinese as the European.” So, after graduating from college, Gilmour went to seminary and trained as a missionary.

When Gilmour was in his mid-20s, his dream came true. He was sent out to be a pioneer missionary in Mongolia. Gilmour learned the Mongolian language, built relationships and preached the gospel to all who would listen. But after four years of pouring his blood, sweat and tears into his great missionary effort, James Gilmour wrote in his diary: “In the shape of converts I have seen no result. I have not, as far as I am aware, seen anyone who even wanted to be a Christian.” And after 21 years of missionary work, Gilmour died of typhus fever a few weeks before his 48th birthday.

The world looks at James Gilmour’s life and says, “What a waste!” But God looks at James Gilmour’s life and says, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” We’d like to think that good ministry is easy. That it always leads to thousands of lives being transformed by the power of the gospel. But the truth is, more times than not, Christians who pour their blood, sweat and tears into God’s ministries find it to be a very bumpy road. Even the great Apostle Paul discovered this to be true.

Called by the Holy Spirit, Barnabas and Paul set out on the adventure of a lifetime: to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ throughout Northwest Asia. Their first stop was Cyprus, the island where Barnabas was born and raised. And Luke writes in Acts 13:5 that “John was with them as their helper.” This was John Mark, Barnabas’ cousin. About 10 years later, Mark would write the second of the Gospels in the New Testament. But at this point, John Mark was a young Christian, and he was pretty green.

In verses 4-8, Luke traces the journey of Paul and Barnabas through Cyprus. In the city of Paphos, they ran into resistance from a Jewish sorcerer named Bar-Jesus, an advisor to the local pro-consul. Since Bar-Jesus practiced Satanic sorcery, he knew that if his boss accepted Jesus as his Savior and Lord, he’d probably be out of a job. So, Bar-Jesus selfishly tried to convince his boss NOT to accept Christ. But God’s message prevailed, and the pro-consul became a believer and follower of Jesus Christ.

Barnabas and Paul did some good ministry in Cyprus. But it didn’t come easy. They faced a fair amount of pushback, and that pushback seems to have made a big impact on both Saul and John Mark. After their endeavors in Cyprus, the three men boarded a ship and sailed 200 miles northwest to Perga, where John Mark threw in the towel and went back home to Jerusalem. Many have speculated about why John Mark jumped ship partway through their missionary journey. Some make the case that he was homesick for his hometown; others suggest that as Barnabas’ cousin, he felt offended that Paul was being promoted while his cousin was being demoted. Still others suggest that the journey was just too grueling for John Mark. It wasn’t as rosy as he had imagined. He couldn’t take the heat, so he got out of the kitchen. I think this is the most likely explanation.

At this point in his life, John Mark’s heart wasn’t in it. So, he didn’t stick it out when things got tough. But years later he became one of Paul’s most dedicated helpers in ministry. He had learned that good ministry is rarely a bed of roses. But if God is in it, it’s worth everything that we pour into it. Take these two life lessons to heart:

Life Lesson #1: Our culture desperately needs to hear you and me speak and live out God’s word with boldness and conviction. When Paul preached in Acts 13, he preached with power and conviction, whether he was preaching to Jews in a synagogue or confronting a self-centered sorcerer. Paul spoke God’s true word with boldness and conviction. Sadly, in our day, there are far too few Christians who do that. Truth be told, there are too few pastors who do that.

Life Lesson #2: Good, life-changing ministry is rarely easy. Most often, it’s really hard. It is a thrill helping sinners get saved. It is a blast seeing God’s Word transform Christians’ character. It is a joy to witness broken relationships being restored. But at the same time, it can be exhausting. And at times it will tear your heart out.  There will be times when you think you have nothing left to give. Like Mark, you’ll find yourself saying, “This is so much harder than I expected! I’m tired, and I just want to go home!” Good ministry is hard, but it’s the BEST kind of hard. It’s ALWAYS worth the effort.

Take it from Paul, who wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:58: “Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” Stay in the kitchen. Sure, it’s hot but that’s only because God is hard at work preparing a feast like no other.

Dane Davis is the pastor of Impact Christian Church in Victorville. Join us at Impact for Sunday services: in person at 9 a.m., or online at 10 a.m. on YouTube or Facebook Live. For more information, visit