Category Archives: Community

Hodgepodge Evangelism

eyeseeyouI believe that one of the most beneficial changes any church could make is to correct their misunderstanding of evangelism.  We’ve made such a monster of it in our minds that very few of us do any of it at all.  We count on having user-friendly churches with seeker-sensitive assemblies featuring a great preacher, state-of-the-art equipment and methods.  We rely on doing Bible classes and assemblies so well that when people visit us to do their church shopping, we hope they’ll choose us instead of that other church down the road.  There are three things wrong with that.

·         First, it’s not evangelism it’s accumulation.

·         Secondly, people who have to be won by attractive methods and surface cosmetics will only last as long as those remain valid.

·         Third, it is a focus and emphasis unknown by Jesus, the apostles and the early church.

The church that won the Roman Empire knew nothing of “user-friendly” or “seeker-sensitive churches or spectacular methods of reaching the unconverted.  Mark Galli writes,

What it did have seems paltry: unspectacular people, with a hodgepodge of methods (so hodgepodge they can hardly be called “methods”), and rarely a gathering of more than a handful of people.  The paltry seems to have been enough, however, to make an emperor or two stop and take notice (Christian History, Issue 57, p. 8).

Without publicized campaigns or even an explicit evangelistic strategy, Christianity made its way quietly and effectively in an environment not wholly unlike that in the post-Christian West today. 

            Glenn Hinson writes, “Most churches had the same goal: evangelism.”  But it was not evangelism based on getting people into church buildings since it was nearly 300 years before the first one was built.  This was evangelism by friendship.  It was outreach through good works such as feeding the hungry and rescuing abandoned children (1 Peter 2:12).  It was the message of a moral and pure way of life (1 Peter 3:2).  It was seen in their keen pursuit of justice.  Each disciple was ready to tell their friends and associates the reason for their hope (1 Peter 3:15).

            Evangelism is the life-blood of any congregation of the church.  Only if it becomes our goal, we will truly become alive.

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Filed under "Worship Services", Advertising, Altruism, Assemblies, Christlikeness, church, Church Buildings, Churches, Community, Evangelism, Friendship, History, Jesus Christ, Kingdom Growth, Missions/Evangelism, Persuasion, Preaching/Teaching, Religion, Respect, Restoration

Are We Commissioned to Build Buildings?

eyeseeyouI received another note today (on an unnamed social medium) about another building expansion being completed.  It celebrated funds raised to add more brick and mortar to an existing building.  Oh Hurrah!

We act sometimes like the Great Commission said, “Go into all the world and build buildings to worship in.”  What He really said was to make disciples.  Furthermore, even though Jesus had nothing to say about “worship services,” we can worship anywhere…in a park, under a tree, in a rented hall, in a house…anywhere.

I can’t, for the life of me, see the connection between building or expanding buildings and seeking and saving the lost.  May God forgive us for putting untold billions into buildings constructed in the middle of neighborhoods we have no plans for reaching with the saving gospel.

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Filed under "Worship Services", Assemblies, church, Church Buildings, Churches, Community, discipleship, Evangelism, Kingdom Growth, Missions/Evangelism, Preaching/Teaching

IF YOU THINK THINGS ARE BAD NOW…

If you think things are bad now, just wait, they will get worse.

Part of the fault (maybe even a major part) is ours.  We have pointed out what people shouldn’t do instead of being examples of what people should do.  In response we are accused of “judging”  Consequently, the labels “homophobe” and “bigot” are applied to us.

1 Corinthians 5:8-13 I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; 10 I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world. 11 But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a one. 12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? 13 But those who are outside, God judges.

Warfare and political diplomacy can never accomplish the purposes of Christ, the Prince of Peace.

And what should we be doing?  The Scriptures are full of that information.  Meeting in our expensive edifices on Sunday is the least of it.

Find someone and some way to be an imitation of Jesus today.

How?  Blow the dust of your Bible and read the gospels, Acts and the letters.

When? Right now. The need is urgent.

Where? Your neighborhood, your community, your nation, the world.

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Filed under Bigotry, Christlikeness, church, Community, Culture Wars, Current Events, Evangelism, Good & Evil, Initiative, Jesus Christ, Judge, Judgment, Judgmental, Missions/Evangelism, morality, Politics, Religion, Respect, Scripture

Shut Up and DO Something!

Heirs of the “Restoration Movement” (Churches of Christ, Christian Churches, Disciples of Christ – and a plethora of groups believing this and that) have largely been an innocuous force in the contest for the souls of men and women.  There are several reasons for this in my opinion (and I have been “at it” for over 50 years).

  1. We have preached “the church” instead of “The Christ.”  I have, in the past been as guilty of this as anyone.   You can claim to be “non-denominational” but this is about as denominational as you can get.  Our message must not be the “church of Christ”, it must be the Christ of the church.
  2. We have invested our resources in buildings.  With the money we spend on construction and maintenance, we could feed the hungry, clothe the naked, heal the sick and reach a hurting and hungry world with the only message that can save them.
  3. We have fought each other and not Satan.  We seem to have forgotten that he is the real adversary —  not those who are seeking to follow Christ even if they do some strange things you don’t find in the Bible.  We can work all that out as allies in the fight against our real adversary.
  4. We have done everything except what Jesus told us to do.  He never said to build “Christian Colleges and Universities (they seldom stay that way very long anyway).”  He never said “Go forth and build buildings throughout the world,”  He never said, “build hospitals, put your denominational name on them and charge the same outrageous prices that other hospitals do.”  He never said hand out food, clothing and drill water wells but don’t worry about connecting it with the gospel (I know this is not the case in all instances).
  5. We put would-be missionaries through the ringer (remember those?).  We make them sweat, strain, wear out tires and/or automobiles travelling around begging for support and ask them, “How little can you live on?”  Meanwhile human beings are dying and going to hell.  What’s the matter with us?
  6. Our job is to be Christ to our world (starting with our communities).  Our job is to speak, act and conduct ourselves as He did.  He still draws men and women to Himself.

I can probably think of some other things but this is my short list.  All this has to change and all the lectureships, “summits,” conferences seem to this writer like exercises in futility.   Let’s shut up and DO SOMETHING!

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Filed under Change Agent, Christlikeness, church, Community, Devil, discipleship, Evangelism, Faith, Jesus Christ, Kingdom Growth, Missions/Evangelism, Religion

From Service to Service

We read recently of a church that transitioned from primarily serving themselves to serving others as the result of a natural disaster.  I thought, “Hooray!  That’s one!”  Regrettably, this kind of change is outstanding because of its rarity.  Why is understanding and practicing the principle of serving so difficult for those who are followers of the One who said He came to serve and not to be served?

It’s ironic that we have come to call our times of assembly “services.”  Really?  Who are we serving?

  • Are we serving God?  Exactly how are we doing that passively sitting in a building?
  • Are we serving our brothers and sisters?  How? By sleepily listening to a preacher or singing to the back of their heads?
  • Are we serving our community?  Is that remotely possible segregated from the community with our butts planted in a pew/chair in one of our edifices?
  • Are we serving our world? How?  It is a stretch to gather into the rarified atmosphere of some auditorium going through motions of minimal meaning and claim we are “serving.”

Our times of assembly can be times of service if we turn them into times of edification and encouragement.  If our preaching, singing, partaking of the wine and bread bring us closer to each other and our Lord then mission accomplished.  If, however, we continue to lethargically linger to lifelessly go through the routine “exercises of this service” (“exercises” is an interesting way to put it), then, at the end of the closing prayer rush to our cars, who will be served?

True service will be accomplished in the world…not out of it (those who isolate themselves in monastic solitude need to understand this).  Our service must be taken out of our comfortable retreats and into our uncomfortable world.  Let’s lift up our eyes.  We are surrounded by suffering and need.  If Christians responded to these realities, there would be little need for a “Nanny State.”

There is no power greater than the words and works of the Holy Spirit as we blend the gospel with service.  One without the other is like faith without works: dead and useless.  Put them together and people will be saved physically, emotionally and, most importantly, spiritually and eternally.

To pin our hopes for national and international salvation on electing the right president, senator or congressperson is misguided and a striving after wind (and, we are getting a lot of “wind” at the moment).  Taking the same energy expended to get our favorite candidate into office and turning it to serve our world and save its lost would truly answer the prayer, “Thy kingdom come.”

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Filed under Change Agent, Christlikeness, church, Community, Kingdom Growth, Religion

A Wasted Morning

It’s a shame to write only when one is irritated.  Do it often enough and you will earn the designation, “curmudgeon.”  I am, at the moment, highly irritated and I am writing.  But I promise not to make it a habit.

Abilene is not really a small town, but sometimes it seems to be.  One would think that most things would be readily available here, especially medical supplies.  We have a dozen or so listed in the phone book and so, I got on the phone and began calling to find a particular item I really needed today.  I called several places, a couple of which did not have the item in stock but promised they could get it by the next day.  I decided to keep calling around to see if I could find it in stock somewhere.

My first “hit” was a place called “Choice Medical Supply.”  Yes, the lady told me, they had some in stock.  “Great,” said I and hopped in the car to pick one up.  It was not a short drive but not all that far either.

When I arrived, the lady I talked to on the phone led me into a room whose walls were lined with this and that.  But when we came to the place where it should be…guess what…it wasn’t there!

“I thought it would be right there,” she said.

“You mean, when I called you didn’t check to see if it was really in stock?” said I with growing dismay.

“I’m sorry,” she offered, “I thought we had some.”

“Look,” I said, “that’s the reason I called ahead so that I wouldn’t make a useless journey!”

“So sorry,” she said, “it’s my fault.”

At that moment, some language I learned long ago in the oil field came to mind.  I wanted to say, “You’re (fill in the blanks here) right!  It sure as (blank) isn’t my fault!”  But, keeping in mind certain biblical injunctions regarding a Christian’s speech, I simply stalked out.

Returning to the car, I consulted a phone book we keep there for situations such as this, and called some additional suppliers.  I kept striking out until one person told me that “West Texas Rehab” would be my best bet.  Since it was on my way home, I stopped in.  The very kind and polite lady there said they had sold their supply business and it was now “Travis Medical.”  She offered to call for me and, wonderful news, they had one!  It was two-thirds of the way back to “Choice Medical” but I was so happy to have found what I needed that I willingly and joyfully drove to their place.

In spite of having difficulty finding their location, I arrived in high spirits.  “We called a few minutes ago, looking for (the elusive item),” I said, flashing my best smile.

“Oh yes,” the man jovially responded, “it is right over….well, I thought it was there.”

“Oh no!” I said, my smile turning to a look of horror.  “We called,” I cried, “you said you had one!”

“I thought we did but it turns out it was this thingy,” he said lamely (the “thingy” bears little resemblance to what I was after).

“But that’s the reason I called ahead!” I responded with growing anger.  I looked for a table or something to turn over and drive everyone out with a cord of whips.  In the end, I simply walked out with slumped, defeated shoulders.

Finally, all hope of imminent success gone, I called one of the other medical suppliers who had promised they could have one by the next day.

“Should be here between 10 and 11 in the morning,” she said.

“Are you sure?” I asked with trembling voice and a tear threatening to form.

“I’m sure,” she said confidently.

As you might guess, dear reader, I’ll believe it when I touch it.

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Filed under Community, Health Care, Humor, Incompetence, Language, Random Thoughts

Where is the Love?

L
GOD
V
E

If love can’t be found among God’s people – where can it be found?  In the gospels and letters, Christians are admonished over and over to love one another and our neighbors. Love is our identity.  It is how we are recognized as followers of Jesus.  It is the badge that marks us as Christians.  It is the quality that sets us apart from the dog-eat-dog culture of materialism and greed.

What an unmitigated tragedy when the lack of love is noted among congregations of self-proclaimed Christians!  It is so contrary to what we should be that it even occasionally makes the news.  Most of the time, however, it is merely observed and noted.  The results are ugly.  People are driven away from such hypocrisy.  I am always reminded of what Gandhi, who lived and died a Hindu, had to say about the Christians he observed, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”  Yes, some unfriendly observers may be looking for something wrong – but we make it too easy for them.  Lovelessness is always starkly obvious and always a source of ammunition for those who oppose any form of faith.

Recently one such unfriendly website chronicled the story of a young couple who dared to question leaders of their church about the expenditure of funds (to which they had contributed) and the lifestyle of some of the leaders (who lived off these funds).  If their account is credible, they became the object of scorn, anger and denigration.  Ultimately expelled from their church, their faith took a fatal hit and they are no longer practicing believers.

I really can’t verify this account but it is too much like some of my personal experiences and stories from others over the years to reject out of hand.  And, if true, what a repudiation of the love we should embrace and practice!  We have handed a gun to Satan and asked to be shot.  We have presented a sword to our adversaries and asked to be run through.  Truly, we are our own worst enemy.

I repeat: if love cannot be found among the people who purport to believe their God is the personification of love, where will it be found?  No matter how wonderful we think we are, without love we are nothing.

People killin’, people dyin’
Children hurt and you hear them cryin’
Can you practice what you preach
And would you turn the other cheek?

Father, Father, Father help us
Send some guidance from above
‘Cause people got me, got me questioning
Where is the love?

—Black Eyed Peas, “Where is the Love?”

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Filed under Altruism, Atheism/Theism, Attributes of God, Christlikeness, church, Community, Devil, discipleship, Faith, Good & Evil, Hypocrisy, Love, morality, Religion, Respect, Satan, Scripture, Songs