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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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So What Can I Do?

eyeseeyouI 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.

–Jackie Deshannon

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Filed under Aging, Awareness, Change Agent, Christlikeness, Culture Wars, Discernment, discipleship, Edification, Encouragement, Friendship, Jesus Christ, Love, Music and Poetry, Poetry?, Selflessness, Uncategorized

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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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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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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Christian Nation? Not Really.

Those who continue to think of the United States as a Christian nation need to face reality.  Even though the nation was founded by believers it has not been perpetuated by such.  We are now a secular nation driven by secular values and goals.  Here’s the reality: we are now governed by greed instead of God.

While the legacy of Christianity continues in many ways (one example: we give more to charity per capita than any other nation) it should not surprise us that resistance to Christian practices performed in public (prayer, for example) is growing and being declared unconstitutional or illegal in more venues.

What bothers me is the response of many Christians: weeping, gnashing of teeth and hand-wringing.  Folks, get used to it…we ain’t seen nothin’ yet!  There are so many more important things than praying before a football game.  At the moment still have free speech in this country and we can still proclaim the gospel to those who will listen.  We can still call for justice and mercy.  We can still serve those who suffer.  We can still be Christ in our communities.  We can still expose lies and false teachings.  We can still stand for truth and righteousness.

Let us focus on matters that matter!  It is not time to don sackcloth and sit in the ashes.  It is time to be light in the gathering darkness.

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Filed under Change Agent, Christlikeness, church, Community, Current Events, Faith, morality

Ridicule is Ridiculous

RidiculeIt is one thing to reject and another to ridicule.  Rejection of an exposed belief system or opinion is expected.  Put an idea on the market place and it is only logical that there will be a mixture of acceptance and rejection by those who follow such markets.  But ridicule is quite another thing.  Ridicule takes rejection to the level of insult.

I am a messenger of the gospel of Christ.  It is my job, my passion to place the good news of reconciliation of Creator and created in the public square and let people have a chance to accept it or reject it.  I think that’s what Jesus did.  In the past, that included a bit of ridicule of those ideas I deemed to be worthy of it.  Upon reflection, however, I can’t recall a single time when ridicule accomplished anything but a cheer from those “on my side.”  I am persuaded that ridicule is not only counterproductive but downright ungodly (I Peter 3:15; Galatians 6:1; Philippians 4:5; 2 Timothy 2:25; Titus 3:2; Colossians 4:5-6; Ephesians 4:29).

These days I am out of the business of garnering cheers from anyone.  I just want to lovingly and respectfully tell it like it is (or seems to be at the moment) and let people take it or leave it.  If they leave it, we might, with mutual consent; move to discussion where persuasion might result in acceptance.  In the business of persuasion, ridicule accomplishes the exact opposite of what I am trying to achieve.

Ridicule is pejorative, not persuasive.  One who changes his opinion or belief system because of ridicule has shamefully succumbed to peer pressure.  That poor, cowardly sheep has been caught up in the groupthink of the sneering mob.  As someone named Philip Guedalla has observed: any stigma will do to beat a dogma.

These days, I want to walk away from a discussion with four goals accomplished.

  1. I want to do my best to persuade the other person of the truth of God, His Christ and His word.
  2. I want to achieve a better understanding of the other person’s point of view.
  3. I want to adjust my own position if I am wrong.
  4. I want to part as friends.

Ridicule results in no persuasion, no understanding, no personal growth and the end of friendship.

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