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 have finally come to grips that I will not be a “mover and a shaker.” The world, alas, is not clamoring for my opinions, my advice, my counsel, my pontifications. The President and members of congress no longer call (man, could I give them an earful if they did!). It has been some time since some anchor person contacted me to get my take on foreign or domestic events and developments. Celebrities fail to call me for my thoughts on the directions their careers should take. No one sends me scripts for potential movies or plays anymore. Congress persists in passing bills without my input.
So what can I do to make the world a better place? Jesus said we can do this by serving; by letting our light shine through our good works (Matthew 5:13,14). Consider:
Think of your fellow man
lend him a helping hand
put a little love in your heart.
You see it’s getting late
oh please don’t hesitate
put a little love in your heart.
And the world will be a better place
and the world will be a better place
for you and me
you just wait and see.
Filed under Aging, Awareness, Change Agent, Christlikeness, Culture Wars, Discernment, discipleship, Edification, Encouragement, Friendship, Jesus Christ, Love, Music and Poetry, Poetry?, Selflessness, Uncategorized
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