Tag Archives: missions

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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FRANCIS

eyeseeyouThe 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.

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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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The Answers for Everything

Two questions: Why did the number of disciples explode in the first three centuries after the establishment of the church on that wondrous Day of Pentecost? And, why isn’t similar growth occurring now? Once we have answered these questions, we will have the answers for everything. So what are the differences between then and now and us and them?  I can think of a few:

1.      They were Holy Spirit motivated and driven. Too many of us are ignorant of the Spirit’s provision, power and His primary legacy: inspired Scripture. It is within these God-breathed words we will find the answers we seek, not in some book on church growth.

2.      They were not building-oriented. We are. We spend millions on structures we mistakenly call “churches” with a “sanctuary” and classrooms. Try finding that in Scripture!  What a classic misappropriation of time, energy and money!

3.      They did not have a “professional class” or clergy. We do. We spend millions on their salaries and benefits. Then we work the hound out of them. This too is alien to Scripture. As Lisa Sells has written,

…the pastor (“preacher” for us restorationists-DW) is expected to both nurture the mature and win the lost through a one-way monologue (i.e., the weekly sermon-DW).  Then through the week the pastor is expected to satisfy member needs for personal love and concern.

“The result is often a membership that watches the pastor try to do all the ministry as well as a pastor that is overextended and skating on the edge of burnout. (Lisa Sells, “Avery Willis’ Last Dream,” Mission Frontiers, USCWM, 1605 E. Elizabeth St., Pasadena, CA 91104, 626-7971111, www.missionfrontiers.org. January-February 2011, p. 9)

4.      They were not assembly-oriented. We are. Assembly has been called, “The Sunday Morning Show.” It has replaced The Great Commission as the focus of our resources and energies.  Assembly an essential part of our Christian walk but it must not become our major focus.  As Steve Smith wrote,

The Great Commission says we are to go, not invite people to come to us.  We must go to where the lost are, and train the new believers to also go to the lost, into factories, homes, shops and neighborhoods (Steve Smith, “Training for Trainers Process,” Mission Frontiers, January-February 2011, p. 11)

5.      They understood what “making disciples” was and how to do it.  We don’t.  They proclaimed the word, lived the gospel, baptized those who came to belief and taught them to observe all that Jesus commanded.  Those disciples made more disciples who could make disciples and multi-level discipling was born.

6.      They knew that their mission was to follow Christ.  We know it too, but we get distracted by stuff that has nothing to do with our primary mission. They didn’t get involved in peripheral diversions.  Since Jesus came to seek, serve and save the lost, they knew that was their job too.  It’s all right there in the Gospels and the Letters.

It is time to dump the ineffective inventions, innovations, diversions and distractions that have gummed up the simple process of seeking, saving and discipling the lost. It is time to stop wringing our hands in despair and to fill those hands with a copy of Scripture.  It is time to quit looking around wondering what to do and to fill our eyes, mind and heart with the teachings and examples of Jesus and the apostles. There we will find what to do. There we will find the answers to everything.

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The O’Malley Method

“But Mr. O’Malley, you already drilled five wells on your property and they’ve all been dry.  Why do you keep drilling?”

“I keep drilling, hoping for different results.”

“But isn’t that a waste of money and time?”

“Not if I strike water.”

“But how will that ever happen if you keep doing it the same way?”

“Maybe if I use a different method, drill deeper, use better equipment…maybe then I’ll strike water.”

“Have you thought that all that money and time could be spent on piping water from another well or, maybe, a good rainwater harvesting system?”

“I don’t recall asking for your opinion,” said O’Malley.

So many churches use the “O’Malley Method.”  Just keep doing the same things over and over, hoping for different results.  Our “drilling” is our assembly or, as it is mistakenly called, “The Worship Service.”  It is the method of choice for outreach.  “How do we get them to ‘come to church?’  Oh, I know, let’s make assembly better!  Better singing, exciting sermons, the latest presentation technology, nicer buildings.  Everyone should invite someone to church (assembly).  Okay, I know, it hasn’t worked so far, but maybe we should just try something new…something different.  Let’s have a worship team leading the singing.  Let’s try some dramatic lighting.  Maybe we should get rid of the pulpit and let the preacher wander around.  Maybe he should dress in jeans and polo shirt.

Somehow we have been deceived into thinking that the most important part of Christianity is the assembly.  We focus on what happens when we come together.  It becomes the major event…the “be all and end all.”  Churches fuss about what can and cannot be done in them.  It’s how we judge other churches.  It’s what we divide over.  We measure success by warm bodies in attendance and how much they give in “the offering.”

Here’s the irony: we claim to follow a man who never spoke of an assembly and spent precious little time in them.  Aside from some work in a synagogue or two, he did all his work outside, among the people.  It was not easy or comfortable but it was what he came to do.  He came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19) not merely preach to the saved.

If we don’t change our focus from assemblies to following Christ, we are in danger of fading into obscurity.  The church in Australia, America or anywhere else, cannot survive by doing the same ineffective things the same ineffective way and expect effectiveness to magically result.

No one asked for my opinion, but Mr. O’Malley had better change his focus or he will remain dry.  We had better change ours or we will dry up and blow away.

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CREDIBILITY = SUCCESS

We have not been very smart to expect people to listen to the gospel simply because we are preaching it.  We do a bit of advertising, get into our building or some other auditorium and expect people to beat down the doors in order to hear our wonderful speeches.

We forget that people listened to Jesus because he loved the souls of men and women and they knew it.  He proved his concern by the deeds of kindness he performed (Acts 10:38).  He, and those who first followed, earned the right to be heard.  Jesus, His apostles and disciples validated the gospel by their deeds (Mark 16:17-20).  Validation is still needed. We still have something to prove!  We must prove that what we want to give away is worth taking.

Consequently, in the teaching of Jesus and the apostles, we see tremendous stress upon good deeds.  They taught that the gospel must be seen as well as heard. Jesus knows that people are not likely to believe, trust and obey a Savior who is not visible in the lives of those who claim to be his followers.  He pointed out to his contemporaries in the religious leadership that they were “…invalidating the word of God,” by their “tradition which you have handed down; and you do many things such as that. (Mark 7:13)”

Our problem today is not so much that we invalidate the gospel, but that we fail to validate it at all. If we think that having a benevolent program and passing out Christmas baskets is sufficient, we are sadly mistaken.  To these good works must be added such things as assistance to the hurting areas of our inner cities.  We must offer assistance to struggling marriages and families.  We must utilize the spiritual gifts of our members to help heal the hurts of those under our influence.  And, all these good works must be solidly linked to the good news message.

Nice, comfortable buildings, “meaningful” worship services and impressive programs will not get the gospel to the lost.  Only when converted people preach a valid gospel will it be listened to.  Lives that are “adorning the doctrine of God in every respect, (Titus 2:10)” will provide that authentication.  It is madness to expect success when we have no credibility. We must gain the attention of those to whom we would preach by letting Christ be seen in us.

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