Tag Archives: gospel

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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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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A WORD TO PREACHERS AND TEACHERS

eyeseeyouKNOWLEDGE…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.

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Bill Maher on Evangelical Hypocrisy

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.

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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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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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10 Things Christians Must Do Now

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.”
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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!
  8. 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!
  9. 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.
  10. 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.)

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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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Without Apology

“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.

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Osama bin Laden 1957-2011

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?’”

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