I 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.
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
Photo from Randy Boyd via Levi Sisemore
Generally, I love the comedy of Jeff Foxworthy. This time I am both laughing and crying. I was a preacher for a long time and I know the pressures of the profession. When the congregation is not growing/happy/interested/involved/etc., the preacher is the first one blamed and, very often, sent packing. Maybe a new preacher will be more dynamic/younger/pretty/gregarious/educated/entertaining/etc. Sorry, Jeff, that’s not really his job.
Most of this pressure is because we have become assembly-oriented. “Going to church” is the expected and almost exclusive activity of the majority. Because of this, it had better be well-orchestrated (maybe even have an orchestra). If “going to church” is not interesting/exciting/ entertaining, then attendees will drift to a more appealing (I almost wrote, “appalling”) venue. Consequently, all kinds of shenanigans are pulled to draw the crowds away from one congregation to another.
It never seems to cross our minds that our purpose is not to have the biggest congregation, but simply to follow Christ with the strength and wisdom that God provides. It doesn’t seem to occur to us that assemblies are for edification and encouragement. If we restore assemblies to their scriptural purpose, we won’t need smoke bombs, rock bands and a new preacher to keep folks coming back.
The light that we are commissioned to bring to all the world has nothing to do with electricity. It has everything to do with letting the light of Jesus shine through our words, actions and attitudes, bringing glory to God.
Nowhere in the instructions of Jesus and the apostles is there even a hint of having preacher as a position, much less heaping upon him primary responsibility for the state of the congregation and the quality of the “worship service” (a term not found in Scripture).
With church affiliation declining across the denominational spectrum, it is high time to take a fresh look at Scripture. Are we truly following Christ into the world or leaving him in the uncomfortable streets while we attend another comfortable “worship service” in our well-appointed “church buildings?”
May God forgive me (us) for participating so long in something so foreign to Scripture and deviant to our purpose.
Filed under "Worship Services", Assemblies, Change Agent, Christlikeness, church, Church Buildings, Churches, discipleship, Edification, Encouragement, Evangelism, Jesus Christ, Kingdom Growth, Missions/Evangelism, Restoration
I 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.
Filed under "Worship Services", Assemblies, church, Church Buildings, Churches, Community, discipleship, Evangelism, Kingdom Growth, Missions/Evangelism, Preaching/Teaching
The new head of the Roman Catholic Church has taken the name, “Francis,” after Francis of Assisi, a truly remarkable man. In nearly every way the Catholic Church is the antithesis of the ways of the original Francis. The pomp and ceremony witnessed in the weeks surrounding the selection of a new pope is not a reflection of the simplicity and meekness of Christ and those who followed Him. The apostles made certain that they were not honored as anything more than men with a mission.
As with so many great men and women, a lot of embellishment has been plastered on the stories of the man from Assisi. I am thinking of one particular saying attributed to him, “Preach the gospel, and if necessary, use words.” He said some wise and wonderful things, but no bona fide record of him having actually uttered this particular phrase exists. I like to believe he really did. It fits what I’ve learned about the man.
Jesus said it first in so many ways. In His sermon on the mount, he made sure his listeners knew that what we do is as important as what we say. Truly, truly God is glorified when the gospel is authenticated by salty, light-filled lives replete with compassion, service, love and good deeds (Matthew 5). James takes pains to remind us that faith which produces no works is a dead faith (James 2). There is no room in this short blog to list all the references in the writings of the New Testament regarding the absolute necessity of actions that validate our faith. Trust me, there’s a bunch!
Those who claim to follow Christ seem to have forgotten that the world is watching. Every disciple needs to be challenged to find some place quiet and do a little self-examination of the last 24 hours of their life. I mean every aspect. If your faith is validated by your good deeds, have there been any? If your heart is known by your speech, what does your heart look like to your family, school mates, co-workers and friends? If you are known as a follower of Christ, have you humbly served? Have you treated those with whom you have come in contact with love and respect, no matter their station in life? How have you lived when you think no one’s watching?
The world can know Christ only by seeing and hearing His followers.
- O would some power the giftie gie us to see ourselves as others see us.
Robert Burns, Poem “To a Louse” – verse 8
- Bill Maher is a self-proclaimed non-Christian so the language in this clip should surprise no one. If you are offended by the language used by those outside of Christ use…good! So am I. This is from one of his shows back in May…but I am posting it now for two reasons. First, because my good friend Noel Malan posted it on Facebook and I just now became aware of it and, second, because we need to understand how the world perceives us as a religion. Even a pagan like Maher knows enough Scripture to see the disconnect between what Jesus said and how so many who claim to follow Him actually act. I hope you will view it and I hope you cringe in the appropriate places.
- Notice that he is attacking our hypocrisy, not what Jesus taught.
The truth is, if everyone who claims to be a disciple of Christ would imitate Christ not only would the kingdom explode in size but I seriously doubt that our government would be messing around killing folks in the Middle East. Why is that? Because they would see the good works of the Christians in our nation and glorify God.
When one thinks of the lives lost and the resources expended on our fruitless wars and political meddling in the Middle East it should bring us to tears. What if those same lives and resources were given to win the hearts and minds of the Islamic world? What if we were known for acts of mercy instead of violence? I’m not talking about the government here, I am talking about the kingdom of God. Peter wrote, “Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; 16 but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name” (1 Peter 4:15,16). Too often, as Christians we have supported our government as they meddled and murdered!
What if Christians were known for being first on the scene of earthquakes, tsunamis, famine and pestilence? What if we were known for helping instead of meddling? What if we spent money on lives and souls instead of buildings and flashy “worship services.”
We have several fine ministries that seek to do just this. Here in Abilene, we have Global Samaritan Resources that has helped many thousands. But it is a separate ministry from the church and has to struggle to raise funds like so many similar efforts. Shame on us! We had rather build buildings and divert needed funds to projects Jesus never even hinted at. Our “ministries of mercy” ought never need to go begging…they should be overwhelmed with resources to couple the gospel with the mercy of the Prince of Peace!
What excuse did we give to Bill Maher to say what he said? By not carefully following Christ in attitude, word or deed. Time for self-examination!
Peter echoes the words of Christ in Matthew 5:14 “Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:12).
Do this, and Bill Maher (and many others) will have little material for their writers.
Filed under Altruism, Atheism/Theism, Attributes of God, Christlikeness, church, Contradictions, Culture Wars, Current Events, discipleship, Evangelism, Food, Friendship, Good & Evil, Hypocrisy, Ignorance, Infidelity, Islam, Jesus Christ, Kingdom Growth, Middle East, Missions/Evangelism, morality, Natural Disaster, Palestine, Peace, Persuasion, Politics, Religion, Respect, Ridicule, Scripture, Selflessness, Suffering
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.
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
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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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?
- 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!
Filed under Change Agent, Christlikeness, church, Community, Devil, discipleship, Evangelism, Faith, Jesus Christ, Kingdom Growth, Missions/Evangelism, Religion
Do we want to be taken seriously? Do we want to overcome misconceptions about our faith and practice? Do we hope to ever fulfill our mission and make an impact on our culture? Then here (in no particular order) are a few things I believe we must do:
- Refuse to let public lies (false teachings) stand publically unopposed. When someone lies publically, someone needs to publically expose and oppose that lie and tell the truth no matter what it costs. That is part of our job as the called-out of Christ.
- Refuse to be lulled into the toleration and acceptance of immorality. Think about what we tolerate which would never have been accepted twenty years ago. If it was truly wrong then, it is truly wrong today. If it was ever a sin, it is a sin now.
- Ignore those who equate Christianity with established religious groups…no matter how ancient. Foolish and ignorant critics will blame Christ-followers for the excesses of those who, over the centuries, falsely labeled themselves “Christians.” True followers of Christ were never involved in the exploitation, suppression, torture and/or death of any person or group.
- Rise above the prevailing gloom and hopelessness of today’s culture. We enjoy and offer the world a way of hope, abundant life, joy (not the same as “happiness”) and an eternal end of suffering. We are “light-bringers.”
- Renounce materialism and greed. We must recognize the love of money and “stuff” for what it is – the source of evil. Christians must learn to be content with what is needed for life. Food, clothing, shelter, healthcare and transportation are all we need. The overflow needs to be shared.
- Combine good deeds with good news in holy symbiosis. One without the other will not accomplish our mission. Very few will be persuaded by a failure to combine these initiatives. This is what Jesus did…this is what we must do.
- Renounce citizenship of a country in favor of citizenship in God’s kingdom. Jesus’s kingdom is not of this world. Political parties and their candidates have serious flaws and faults; the Kingdom is perfect and flawless. We are not mere Americans, Germans, Poles, Russians, Australians, etc. We are citizens of a nation with no boundaries, no racial, linguistic barriers. Thy kingdom come!
- Get out of our meeting places and into the streets. Quit expecting people to come to us and do what Jesus did: go to the people. Do good deeds! Proclaim Christ!
- Quit “going to church.” Restore the true purpose of assemblies. Assemblies are a means to an end, not an end. “Faithfulness” is far more than attendance. Assemblies are for edification and encouragement. If they fail in that regard, they are useless.
- Think and act as the counter-culture we were meant to be.
“The saving of our world from pending doom will come, not through the complacent adjustment of the conforming majority, but through the creative maladjustment of a nonconforming minority.” (Martin Luther King Jr.)
Filed under Altruism, Christlikeness, church, Culture Wars, discipleship, Edification, Ekklesia, Encouragement, Evangelism, Good & Evil, Integrity, Jesus Christ, Kingdom Growth, Missions/Evangelism, morality, Politics, Preaching/Teaching, Quotations, Religion
“So, you believe that only Christians are going to heaven?” It’s a question that has caused more than one person to squirm uncomfortably. It is especially uncomfortable if the question is asked in a public forum (radio or television interview) in a challenging way by someone who (1) isn’t a person of faith or, (2) an adherent of a non-Christian religion. In reality, any answer will offend someone, somehow. One response will offend one group, the alternative will offend the other. No answer at all will offend whoever’s left.
If you are a Christian and you believe the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) to be accurate accounts of the words and actions of Christ, only one answer is possible. It is the answer Jesus gave to a disciple named Thomas. Here it is:
Jesus *said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6).
It is also the answer that, after the death of Christ, Peter gave to the rulers, elders and scribes in Jerusalem.
And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12)
Jesus and Peter said it, I didn’t. So, you can get mad at me for believing it, but you can’t blame me for saying it. I don’t have to apologize for their answers. No uncomfortable squirming here.
I confess, I rejoiced to hear of the death of Osama bin Laden. I felt like “high-fiving” anyone within reach. Then I began reading blogs from my fellow disciples and kinda feeling guilty, especially when they quoted Ezekiel 18:23[i] and 33:11[ii]. Then I started reading those passages in context and realized that the Holy Spirit was saying that the real pleasure would have resulted from his turning back from his evil ways and his death to the old man of sin.
I felt a little better when I read Psalm 58:10, 11 The righteous will rejoice when he sees the vengeance; / He will wash his feet in the blood of the wicked. / And men will say, “Surely there is a reward for the righteous; / Surely there is a God who judges on earth!”
There is no doubt Osama had to die. He relinquished his right to life by taking the lives of thousands of innocents. But O how I wish we could have sought his heart as doggedly as we sought his head! How wonderful to have given him life before his death! What a day of rejoicing that would have been! But like so many depraved murderers before him, he remained unrepentant for his heinous crimes. I’m glad he’s gone.
Congratulations to the incredibly brave team that took him out. I understand that many months of careful, exacting planning and training preceded the mission. That provoked the inevitable missionary reaction: Doesn’t it stand to reason that no less is required of us in the Kingdom as we seek the souls of the Islamic world? Where are our well-trained, equipped and courageous teams? Where is our strategy? Where is our passionate and urgent sense of cause?
The Muslims of the Middle East have long memories of so-called “Christian” violence and oppression. Hatred from those memories spawned Osama and his ilk. Many will willingly fill the vacuum of his leadership fueled by the same hatred. The only way to stop the process is to permeate their culture with bombs of love and missiles of peace. Fortunately we serve a God defined by love who gave Himself as the Prince of Peace.
At long last, let’s give our Muslim friends reasons to love us instead of loathe us.
[i] Ezekiel 18:23“Do I have any pleasure in the death of the wicked,” declares the Lord GOD, “rather than that he should turn from his ways and live?”
[ii] Ezekiel 33:11 “Say to them, ‘ As I live!’ declares the Lord GOD, ‘I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live Turn back, turn back from your evil ways! Why then will you die, O house of Israel?’”
Filed under Attributes of God, Christlikeness, Culture Wars, Current Events, Evangelism, Good & Evil, Holy Spirit, Islam, Jesus Christ, Judge, Kingdom Growth, Love, Middle East, Missions/Evangelism, Peace