Tag Archives: evangelism

R.E.M. Was Right

“It’s the end of the world a we know it…” But I don’t feel fine.

Our world seems to be crumbling all around us. Media shows us atrocities daily stemming from numerous causes. As we watch these things happen, and experience these horrors either firsthand, or through a loved one, we can’t help but feel somewhat hopeless.

But why are all these things happening?

Some want to blame this, that, and the other. Others want to avoid the question altogether. But few are really speaking into the reason for the tragedies we are witnessing daily.

Our world wants nothing to do with God and the hope He offers.

FORGETTING THE PAST

60 years ago, Christianity was thriving. Churches were growing, but it was the beginning of the era of decline for the church. As people began experimenting with the New Age movement during the Hippy Era, and some traded religion for science, skepticism set into our culture, and the church did nothing.

It was easy for the church to do so. She had been the primary influencer in nearly all of society for ages. This understanding allowed people to believe that culture would convert their friends and family. In the USA, Christianity had been a primary influence even in government.

So, when times changed, instead of renewing the vigor for evangelism, the church simply watched. It wasn’t everyone in the church, but it was the majority, and that was enough to begin the decline.

IGNORING THE PROBLEM

Instead of reaching out to the lost with love and grace, the church fought against one another, striving to declare each sect the “right” sect – forgetting that sectarianism (division) is expressly condemned by the scriptures. The church was busy blaming one another as the masses began to leave. Fed up with the hypocrisy of “I’m right, and you’re wrong”, the world turned against the church. And, in turn, it turned against God.

However, instead of identifying the lack of God and His principles in society, everyone continued to blame one another or blame things. We blame God, Satan, video games, guns, science, illegal immigrants, other denominations, other religions, other races, politicians, and many more. The list goes on and on. But we don’t blame free will. We don’t dare take any of the responsibility, either. That would mean we would have to change – if we were the problem.

In the age of the apathy of the church, she began to atrophy.

No longer is the average Christian evangelistic. This has been the case for a long while. Shortly after the church was established, the church allowed the government to be the great evangelist through a partnership of the church with the state. As time went by, we assumed people inherently believed in God because of the cultural influence of the church, so we waited for the preachers to do the evangelism. All the while, we got fat with teaching from those same preachers.

When you eat and eat and eat, but you never exercise, you become fat through your laziness. This is the nature of the church. She, her members, want the preachers to preach and teach and evangelize; all the while the masses in her ranks can feel comfort and connection with God through education and emotional experiences once a week (three times if you’re “devout”). Where is all the action of the church like we read about in the book of Acts?!

FACING THE FUTURE

If the church (THAT MEANS YOU) doesn’t return to her calling according to Jesus in the scriptures, she will die. Sure, God can keep a remnant, like He has done for thousands of years, but should we really hope for that?

Shouldn’t we rather get out of our doors? Shouldn’t we discover how to use this wealth of knowledge that is imparted to us every week? Shouldn’t we return to the mission of the first church – the Kingdom of God and it’s expansion through love?

How many people have you brought to Christ? I’m not talking about inviting people to church. I’m talking about actually sharing the good news of Jesus with someone.

SEEKING HELP

You know what? If you went to your preacher, or some other evangelistic leader in your church, and asked them how to share the gospel with your friends, I think you would find them more than willing to spend one-on-one time training you in the ways of evangelism. But that’s going to require you to do uncomfortable things and spend valuable time on others. Is that any less than what Jesus has already done for you?

Do you want to change the direction of this world? This change begins with you finding one person who is willing to listen to how love, through Christ, can change their heart.

Immorality is a choice made from free-will. It is sin. It is not the will of God, and it doesn’t have to rule us or our friends. But until someone is given the choice, how can they begin anew?

Romans 10:14-15
How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”
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Discipleship Marathon

I hate running.

Even as I type those words, I’m not sure they’re strong enough to express the emotions I associate with that self-inflicted “sport” (read: torture).

Yet, I know that running is good for me.

So, in order for me to run – to do that which is good for me – I need motivation. For some people, good health is motivation enough, but I’m too stubborn for logic. I love to eat sumptuous food, and I love to be busy with other things, and I love to be comfortable. None of that will help me achieve the healthy body I need for high quality of life. So I need motivation.

When I have a goal set before me, I run. I’ve done a marathon, a Tough Mudder, and numerous other runs including, most recently, a long journey through the Grand Canyon. I trained for each of these events, and the training served me well each time. The upcoming events motivated me to do that which was uncomfortable in order to achieve success in an endeavor I had yet not attempted.

But when the race or hike or journey was over, I went back to laziness. Because it’s easier.

We all have areas in our lives where laziness, a lack of motivation, keeps us from training for upcoming journeys, whether physical or mental.

So many Christians live lazy Christian lives. There is little knowledge of the book they claim to live by. They aren’t exercising their evangelistic muscles. Their faith is weakened by their trust in their finances. It seems there is no motivation to step out and do the uncomfortable to achieve a greater reward.

In our grace-desiring Christian culture, we want God to give us grace, and we relish in that grace, so we reason that the grace we’ve been given entitles us to a lackadaisical approach to our Christian lives. Grace is good, but we are called to not only receive grace but also train ourselves to live “worthy of our calling” (Ephesians 4:1-2). We are called to continually train in the ways of Jesus to achieve the prize of salvation (1 Corinthians 9:24; Philippians 3:14).

Does this mean we don’t have salvation if we aren’t working? We like to say we don’t earn our salvation by what we do, but James, the brother of Jesus, tries to clarify that concept. He expresses, in his treatise on faith, that it is impossible to have faith without deeds (James 2:14-19). Faith without action is dead (James 2:17).

We are called to train daily. It’s like living in an apprenticeship. We are trying to be like our Rabbi, Jesus. We can’t do that on our couches and hidden away in our church buildings. We can’t do that in ignorance of the scriptures and without talking to the Father. We can’t do that alone.

So we need to fellowship with the body of Christ (Hebrews 10:25). We call that “going to church”. Yes, it’s required.

We need to study the word of God, for that is where we will learn who God is and how we should live as His children (Matthew 22:31; 2 Timothy 3:16). That requires reading.

We need to tell others about the goodness of Jesus and the Kingdom of God the way Jesus did (Matthew 28:18-20). That requires engagement. Introversion is not an excuse.

We need to spend time with the Father the way Jesus did (John 5:19; 10:30; 15:5). Prayer is essential.

We need to give generously, trusting in the Father for sustenance (Mark 12:44). He wants to provide more, the more we trust Him.

So will you train? It will mean reading. It will mean time spent. It will mean giving financially in order to learn faith in the Father. It will mean uncomfortable situations and conversations. This is discipleship. It’s what you signed up for when you were baptized. Are you in? The prize is much bigger than a medal at the end of a marathon – it’s eternal life.


Arrogance Perpetuates Ignorance

When I first became passionate about sharing my faith with others, I had a prepared presentation I would give anyone who would listen. If you were with me for more than a couple minutes, I was asking you questions to try and spark an opportunity to share the good news of Jesu with you. 

This zeal was fun, but it wasn’t balanced with humility. 

I had God’s plan of salvation, and I was certain it was the only way. I had it figured out, and there was nothing more to know concerning salvation. Because of this attitude I often became harsh, judgmental, and sometimes even angry when people challenged my ideals. 

Boy, did I have a lot to learn!

I still agree with much of what I tried to cram down people’s throats back then, but now I have a much more full view of the gospel message. The significance of Jesus is deeper than I knew in my early 20s. Baptism is so much more than a momentary ritual. Salvation means so much more than forgiveness of sins.

I now realize that to claim that I have full knowledge regarding Jesus and religion is arrogance that blinds me to further truth. 

I believe many of the things I did when I started into ministry, but if I had stopped my studies then, I wouldn’t understand grace and live the way I do now. I would have more experience, but I would be just as ignorant.

To know Jesus, and to walk in Him is to live a life of growth, learning more every day of the goodness that comes from life in Him. We should be ever striving to better ourselves through a more intimate relationship with the Father. We should be hungry for His words to help us know Him more and help us change to become more like Jesus. 

When I settle in my arrogance to think I know it all, I put myself above my brother. Pride brings about destruction. Many places in the scripture speak of this. The word is living and active. As I grow as a man, it shows me new things concerning my life and ministry. 

I hope to continually grow in my knowledge of the goodness of God, His grace and love. I pray you hunger for the same kind of growth. May we never become conceited, thinking we know all we need. May we never become arrogant, looking down on a brother who understands differently than us. May we choose love and grace over division based on understanding. 

May we be defined by our oneness in Christ as we seek to be more like Him every day. 


The Church Needs You

Recently, a friend told me he has trouble with the concept of giving in the traditional sense to the church because it feels like he’s just contributing to a black hole. There’s no understanding of where the money is going or what it’s used for other than paying the preacher and keeping the lights on.

I really understand the sentiment.  I’ve heard this from more than one person in my time as a minister. But is it right? Should our desire to give be controlled by our understanding of the inner workings of the ministry?

The generation that I am a part of doesn’t understand generosity in the same way that generations before do.

Prior generations gave, and still give, out of a sense of ownership and belonging to the movement or organization.  It gives out of a sense of duty and obedience. More recent generations give because of compassion and a desire to help the individual or cause. The difference seems to be that the former generations still give out of a desire to help and compassion without neglecting to maintain their gift to the broader organization.

When someone tells me that they don’t feel comfortable giving because of this or that reason I get this awkward sense inside – like something is missing in their statement. This morning I figured out why this statement doesn’t set well with me.

First, giving isn’t for me. It isn’t so that I can feel better about myself. It isn’t so that I can be comfortable.  Giving is a discipline of sacrifice to help me learn that life is about others.  It is a discipline that teaches me trust of God and not of my finances. Giving is a way of participating in the kingdom of which we are supposed to be seeking first.

When I understand giving in this way I can be more free to give. I can see what I need to learn about the discipline of giving. If I am living the selfless life Jesus prescribes, then there won’t be excuses of “I don’t feel comfortable”. There won’t be loopholes of “I can’t afford it”. Remember the examples used in the New Testament about giving: the widow (Mark 12 and Luke 21) and the Macedonians (2 Corinthians 8) and the church at the beginning (Acts 2:44-47).

Second, giving isn’t done out of understanding but out of faith. To say you don’t give because you don’t know where the money is being used is not faith in the leadership God has placed in the church you attend. In the same line of thought, it follows that it is not trust in God to not trust in your leaders. Yes, sometimes people who are in leadership prove themselves untrustworthy.  That is why the scripture calls for a plurality of leadership.

If a leadership squanders the money you have given to the Lord, will you fail to receive your reward for your generous heart?

In most cases, however, the church leadership diligently seeks to use the generous donations of he congregation wisely. But even so, many people refrain from giving and cripple the work of the local congregation.

You are called to be generous with your finances for the work of God in His Kingdom. When God called Abraham he didn’t give him an itenerary. When the first century church gave they didn’t need a financial breakdown or tax deductible receipt. When you give, you are giving out of gratitude to God.

So, consider the work at your local congregation. What would happen if you and your friends gave 10%? What if you gave more? If you’re in a church like the one where I serve, the run down building could be fixed or expanded. More staff could be supported as missionaries to the local demographic. More local ministries could be funded to help the hurting. More evangelism could be done through more and varied means. More foreign missions could be supported. The church could grow in new and exciting ways!

So give to God and his church. Give to the homeless man on the corner. Give to the missionary. Do each of these things simultaneously, but don’t neglect the church. She needs the generosity of her members to be healthy.


Modern Day Sanhedrin

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Have you ever heard of Passion Play Ministries International? It is an organization that tells the message of the death and resurrection of Jesus to thousands of people in many nations and cities in the US and around the world through a live-action drama. The play is a large production with hundreds of people in the cast and part of the crew. The headquarters for this ministry is in Farmington, NM of all places. Yet, with such a humble headquarters location they are doing great ministry in spreading the gospel of Jesus around the world.

I was privileged to get involved with the Passion Play of the Four Corners last year for the first time. My wife saw an ad somewhere stating that they needed singers, and that is something I love to do, so I decided to join. I was part of the choir last year and sang in the opening song as a trio with a couple other ladies. I was also the host pastor for a night where I got to lead the opening prayer and then invite people to respond to the gospel message at the end.

It was an amazing experience, and I can truly say they are changing lives – not only lives in the audience, but even lives within the cast and crew itself.

This year I went back to audition, and I was told that the choir was going to be practicing on Tuesday evenings. Well, I am solidly booked on Tuesdays with my position as den leader for the local cub scout pack, so I decided to do some reading and see if God wanted to use me for a speaking part this year. Apparently He does. I was told that night I was to report to the Sanhedrin block when rehearsals began.

The Sanhedrin? I was to be one of the bad guys who connived to have Jesus crucified. These were the legalists that had missed the heart of the message of the Messiah and therefore missed Him when He came to them.

Oh well, if that was where God wanted me to be then so be it. I began to read, and after a few nights the director of the Sanhedrin block of the cast informed me that he wanted me to play the part of Caiaphas. Really? Not only was I going to be a bad guy, but I was to be the worst one – the High Priest!!

As I have been learning my lines and preparing for my role it has really weighed on my heart the severity of the role I must play. I have to be angry at Him. I have to accuse Him. I have to reject Him. I have to be all the things I preach against each week as I minister. Sure, this is only a play, but the weight of the things, I must sa,y hang no less heavily on my heart.

The one idea that keeps coming back to me, though, is this: The religious leaders of the day – the Sanhedrin – rejected Jesus and everything He stood for because they didn’t understand Him, and they were threatened by His doctrine as they saw it required a change in their way of life and livelihood.

Don’t we do the same thing?

Don’t we reject Jesus as we decide day after day to give in to our selfishness instead of allowing Jesus to reign in our lives and call the shots? Don’t we ignore Jesus as we get caught up in our lives or even worse, our religion? Don’t we reject Him as we feel that following Him would require a change of lifestyle that will threaten our comfort on every level, even fincially? Are we not just as guilty as the Sanhedrin?

When Peter preached the first sermon about Jesus in Acts 2, he finished by saying, “You, with the help of wicked men, put Him to death by nailing Him to the cross…God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” (Acts 2:23,36)

That verse is for us too. We crucify Jesus when we put our selfish desires above His. What does Jesus require in response? Repentance and Baptism (Acts 2:38). When you understand what you’ve done and keep on doing to Jesus it should bring about remorse that leads to repentance. When you see what He has done for you by willingly dying for you in spite of your rejection it should inspire a desire for allegiance to Him that leads you to baptism.

Don’t stay like the Sanhedrin. News is that even Caiapha, after the resurrection, became a follower of Jesus. It’s not too late for you to follow Him either.

If you would like to know more about Passion Play Ministries International you can find them on the web at www.passion-play.org.


Bringing Neighbor Back to the Hood

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I live in a great neighborhood. It’s relatively peaceful. Sure, from time to time there is excitement and I may need to call the police on someone causing mischief, but I rarely ever feel like this neighborhood is dangerous. It’s a great neighborhood for raising my kids.

The church building where I preach on Sundays and Wednesdays is in this neighborhood. I find this to be super convenient, but as I look at the demographics of our church membership I see very few people who come from within our neighborhood.

I know my next door neighbors. I know the family across the street and a few doors down from them too. I know a few of the neighbors behind the church building by name. Yet, I don’t have a real, meaningful relationship with any of them.

I feel pretty convicted about this.

You see, this church has functioned from this location for many many years. I’m not sure how many preachers were here before me, but our congregation is mostly made up of people who live outside our neighborhood and even our town.

It’s time for this to change.

As Christians, we are called to live in the world around us in such a way that people know that Jesus is the messiah. We aren’t called to be people who shrink back in fear or even in routine and make excuses for why we don’t know our neighbors.

I believe that if a church has a building then the primary mission field of that church should be the neighborhood the building is located within. Each member should be missionaries within their own neighborhoods as well, but if the church doesn’t have a good relationship with its neighbors, then what kind of message does that portray?

Some of you may know people who live in the neighborhood around the church building. Some of you may even live in this same neighborhood. What can you do to enhance our ability to reach out locally? What should we do as a church to help you reach your friends and neighbors?

Cities aren’t taken for The Lord without strategy. When Jesus sent out the apostles after the resurrection, He told them they would be His witnesses in Jerusalem (where they currently were), in Judaea and Samaria (the outlying towns and regions), and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).

As a church, we should follow the same pattern. We should be intentionally engaging the neighborhood where our facilities are located first. Then we should move into other neighborhoods in the town where our congregation gathers. After that, when that town is reached, we should move into other towns. When all of that is done, then we should be sending out people to far off regions.

Engaging our neighborhood doesn’t mean door-knocking either. It means living and working and functioning within that neighborhood in such a way that relationships are built and love is shown. It is not engaging in handouts; it is inviting people into community. Engaging a neighborhood means you’re loving your neighbor with no strings attached. When they see your intentional, counter-cultural way of love, they’re going to want to know why you’re like that. Then you have been invited by them to tell them of the One who loved you first, Jesus Christ.

So, here’s our situation. We are a church that isn’t truly engaging our neighborhood. That wasn’t Jesus’ plan for us. How can we make a change here? The Aztec church of Christ puts on a block party once a year, and that is gaining popularity. What else can we do to truly engage on personal levels to love our neighbors?

We are a church trying to love God, love others, and be like Jesus. So let’s start taking steps to truly do these things.

Do you have an idea on how to reach out to the neighborhood around our congregation? Maybe you’re reading this online and you have ideas for how to begin this where you live. Talk to your pastor(s). But don’t just give suggestions; volunteer to help make those suggestions a reality.

To win a city you begin with a neighbor.


I Love to Fish

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I went fishing this morning.

I love to fish. I’ve fished in huge lakes and small streams. I’ve fished on the beach and out at sea. I’ve fished in bayous and bays and in between. I love to fish.

I’m not too worried about the fish. I’m not worried that they’ll like me. I just want them to like what I’m presenting to them. But if they reject it like they did this morning, it’s ok. I still love to fish.

I wake up early and stay up late to fish. I travel long distances and walk across the road to fish. I’ve fished in the heart of cities and up on mountain sides where there is just granite and water. I’ve fished in drainage canals and snowmelt streams. I’ve fished in water where you can’t see anything below the surface and water where you could see the bottom 30 feet down. I love to fish.

I went fishing this morning.

I love to fish. I’ve fished in homes and corporations. I’ve fished in malls and banks. I’ve fished in churches and bars. I love to fish.

I’m extremely worried about these fish. But I’m not worried that they’ll like me. I don’t fish to please them. I’m fishing to save them. My message won’t change. It’s just what they need. And when they reject me I realize it is not me they’re rejecting but the One whom the message is about. I still love to fish.

I wake up early and stay up late to fish. I’ve stumbled upon fish walking along my day and been woken up in the middle of the night to fish some more. I’ve fished across the street and in other countries. I’ve fished online and face to face. I’ve fished for fish that were injured and hurting and for fish who thought they had it all together. And what I’ve found is that no matter what type of fish or where they live they all are in desperate need of what I fish with. I love to fish.

Do you love to fish? Have you been caught by the One who brings life everlasting? If so, He is wondering when you’re going to start fishing.

You have been called to be saved from yourself by the only One who died for you. Then you have been called to tell others about your salvation and how it is offered to them too. Are you afraid to do that? It’s quite common to be afraid, but fear can be conquered.

If you want to know more about how to share your faith with others, then let me know. I’d love to help you. If you’re still a fish waiting on that salvation, I’d love even more to let you know about this offer of salvation to which I’m referring. I love to fish. Jesus called me to be a fisher of men. Let’s fish together.


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