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
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
KNOWLEDGE…Wonderful, desirable and powerful! Passage after passage in Scripture commends its acquisition. Knowledge, however, can become a source of pride. Maybe, for example, you know a bunch of “big words.” You may be able to slap together a phrase that no one but the very well educated can understand. But, if your big words hinder communication, what good are they? Knowledge for its own sake is as useless as a parka in Miami. “Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies (builds up)” (1 Corinthians 8:1). If your goal is to impress the easily impressed with your “smarts,” then acquiring a lot of facts, figures and information (whether practical or not) should work well. Truly, you have your reward. But what then?
All Scripture has a purpose, an application, a meaning that influences the course of our life — how we speak, what we say, what we do and why we do it, our goals, our relationships, the quality and purpose of our work, how we spend our time, how we use our talents and resources, etc., etc. The Word that we preach or teach potentially makes a difference in the lives of those who hear(depending on their degree of absorption). Otherwise our preaching and teaching is in vain. “Knowledge is of no value unless you put it into practice,” wrote Anton Chekhov. And Samuel Johnson said, “Between falsehood and useless truth there is little difference. As gold which he cannot spend will make no man rich, so knowledge which cannot apply will make no man wise.”
Always, always we must make our lessons practical and applicable to everyday life. It is not our job as teachers to convey obscure theological theories and opinions. People need to know how to live! Charles Stanley wisely observed: “I think a lot of people, even Christians are willing to be satisfied with gaining lots and lots of biblical knowledge — and many people go to Bible studies and don’t realize it isn’t enough to know what’s right, it’s applying the information and knowledge that you have.”
Jesus was frequently called, “Teacher.” But the goal of His teaching was to bring light into the lives of souls stumbling in the darkness. His teaching brought grace to those enslaved by sin and captive by man-made laws and traditions. He walked among the spiritually bereft teaching those who followed about an abundant way of life.
So keep your well-educated pride to yourself and preach and teach the simplicity and purity of the life-changing good news.
Filed under Christlikeness, Discernment, discipleship, Hermeneutics, Homiletics, Jesus Christ, Knowledge, Persuasion, Philosophy, Preaching/Teaching, Truth, Uncategorized
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.
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
Among the things I wish I had learned before it was too late was the 10,000 hour rule. Malcolm Gladwell’s amazing book, Outliers, was my first exposure to this principle. Stated simply: If you want to become an expert in any given endeavor, it is necessary to involve yourself (study and practice) for a minimum of 10,000 hours. You want to be a great musician? Learn the basics of music and your instrument and then practice for 10,000 hours. You want to be a great scientist? Get the basics of your field and then research, experiment, collaborate, etc. for 10,000 hours. Baker, butcher, chef, artist, salesperson, preacher, teacher, actor, you name it…after 10,000 hours of serious pursuit you will achieve expert status. You can read more here.
My attention, sadly, has always been divided. I have always had too many irons in the fire. I have been too interested in too many things. I see something that interests me and I think, “Hey, I can do that!” Maybe so…but without the dedicated pursuit and practice…no achievement of expertise. Now, I find myself at the “twilight years” able to converse about many things but not as a maven, guru, whiz-kid, ace, go-to-guy, virtuoso or hotshot.
I may come close in a couple of areas where I have some native ability, but it’s a bit too late to become a real expert. What was needed was to find my passion of passions and then focus, focus and focus. Hopefully, it is not too late for you.
If you don’t subscribe to Trey Morgan’s blog, you ought to. He is a very thoughtful writer and preacher. He preaches in Childress, Texas and if you ask me, they are extremely fortunate to have him. I had an article all ready to post when I read this and thought I must share it with all my readers. Take my advice and go to his blog site here and read his past and present postings. You’ll be blessed. I was especially touched by his latest: A $2.99 Hug.
When he asked me the question, I knew I’d heard that type of question before. It was one of those, “What if a person is doing…,” questions that ended with, “Will that person get to go to heaven or hell?”He was calling someone’s morality into question, and I could tell by how he asked, he wasn’t really asking the question because he wanted to know, but because he wanted to trap me with the question. It was the same thing the Pharisees did to Jesus on many occasions.
My answer was simple, “That’s totally up to God. He’s the one who makes the decisions on who goes to heaven and who doesn’t.”
I could tell my answer frustrated him. Redness was building from his neck up to his face. “I knew that’s what you’d say,” he said with a frustrated tone. “I don’t even know why I asked you. You’re too soft on people.”
I smiled and told him, “I’m sorry, but I got out of judging business long ago. Who gets in and who doesn’t is not not my place to decide. But”, I told him, “If I’m going to err on one side or the other, I’d rather err on the side of mercy.” He didn’t like that much either.
I left feeling good about my answer. I still feel the same way today. I think Jesus was a perfect example when it came to being gracious to others. Remember how Jesus acted around those whose lives weren’t exactly to what God wanted? A prostitute, a wealthy exploiter, a Samaritan woman with several husbands, a woman caught in adultery – all people that Jesus would have had a problem with their lifestyle. Yet all found grace and mercy from Jesus instead of condemnation. No wonder Jesus gained the reputation as being a “friend of sinners.” Maybe we can learn a lot about how to treat people by watching Jesus in action.
When I stand before God someday, if I’m found guilty of anything, I want to be found guilty of being too gracious, too forgiving and too merciful. I feel I have a better chance with God that way than I do if I’m found too harsh, too judgmental and too unsympathetic.
“You’re too soft on people,” that guy said to me that day. Well if too soft means too merciful … then I pray I’m guilty as charged!
“So you must show mercy to others, or God will not show mercy to you when he judges you. But the person who shows mercy can stand without fear at the judgment.” ~ James 2:13
Filed under Attributes of God, Bigotry, Blogs & Blogging, Christlikeness, Condemnation, Encouragement, Eternal Life, Good & Evil, Judge, Judgment, Judgmental, Preaching/Teaching