Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Net-Drawing Stories

There are a number of short little proverbs, parables, and sermons in the first five books of the New Testament. Each one takes less than two minutes to tell. They are great tools in the repertoire of a soul-winner. More than that they are broadly applicable and often serve as encouragement at the right time. Here are a few that are worth learning by heart in your own words and telling often.


Try learning and telling one a day for a month.


(Click on the stories with asterisks to read them as I might tell them.)

1 Treasure in Heaven Matt 6:19-24
2 The Narrow Door* Matt 7:13-14
3 A Hidden Treasure Matt 13:44
4 The Very Expensive Pearl Matt 13:45-46
5 A Fisherman’s Net* Matt 13:47-50
6 Two Sons* (not the prodigal son) Matt 21:28-32
7 The Shepherd’s Judgment Matt 25:31-34,41,46
8 Gain the World, Lose your Soul Mark 8:34-38
9 A Message for All People Mark 16:15-16
10 Trees and Their Fruit Luke 6:43-45 or Matt 7:15-20
11 Two Builders, Two Foundations Luke 6:46-49
12 Do This and Live* Luke 10:25-28
13 Fear Whom? Luke 12:2-9
14 A Rich Fool Luke 12:13-21
15 Repent or Perish* Luke 13:1-5
16 How to Host a Dinner Party* Luke 14:8-14
17 The Heavenly Banquet Luke 14:15-23
18 Counting the Cost Luke 14:25-33
19 The Lost Sheep Luke 15:3-7
20 Lost Money Luke 15:8-10
21 The Pharisee and the Tax Collector Luke 18:9-14
22 Heaven and Earth Will Pass Away Luke 21:33-36
23 A Criminal Executed with Jesus Luke 23:38-43
24 Born Again… of Spirit John 3:1-8
25 Bread of Life John 6:25-40
26 Listen to the Father* John 6:44-47
27 River of Life* John 7:37-39
28 The Door (The Gate) John 10:7-10
29 Resurrection John 11:21-27
30 Real Faith John 12:42-50
31 The Way, the Truth, and the Life John 14:1-11

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Gospel Presentations of Jesus #9

Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is also like a fishing net thrown into the sea. It collects fish of every kind. When it is full, the fishermen pull it up to the beach and sit down to sort out the fish. They put the good fish into baskets and throw the bad ones away.

That’s exactly how it will be at the end of time. The angels will come and sort the people. They will separate the wicked ones from the righteous ones. The wicked  ones will be thrown into the flaming furnace, where there will be crying and gnashing of teeth.”

“Did you understand?” Jesus asked.

-- Somewhere in Matthew 13

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Preach the Gospel To *Every* Creature?

Mark 16:15 contains the simple command of Jesus to preach the gospel to all people. Here is how that command is given in a number of translations.



Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.


Go and preach the good news to everyone in the world.


Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.


So wherever you go in the world, tell everyone the Good News.


Go into all the world, proclaim the gospel to all the creation.


Having gone into the world all together, proclaim the good news to all in the creation!




Now, consider all of the people you know, all the people you have met and talked to during your lifetime. Is there, among them, one single person with whom you have not shared the gospel? Can you think of how many people crossed your path just in this past month to whom you did not announce the good news?



What’s that you say?

There are a lot of them?

More than you can remember?

More than you can count?


Is that okay?


So, what do you plan to do about it: Feel guilty for a little while, then go get some coffee, or change the way you interact with people from here on out?


Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. -Mark 16:16

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Nameless People

The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. –John 10:3


How many people do you know, but not know their names? (At work, school, the supermarket, etc.) We are all mostly nameless to the society around us. But God comes to us personally, calling us by name. He calls us to do likewise by being His ambassador to the nameless around us. I can’t help but wonder how many more would be reached if only we learned their names?


Alan Knox touched on this idea in his latest blog entry Naming the Marginalized.

It’s one thing to care for “the sick,” but it’s something completely different to care for Tina. It’s one thing to care for “the homeless,” but it’s something completely different to care for Charvin. It’s one thing to care for “the widows,” but it’s something completely different to care for Peggy. It’s one thing to care for “single mothers,” but it’s something completely different to care for Shonna.

We can say that we care for “the marginalized,” but never get to the point where we actually no someone who is marginalized. We can even give money to help “the marginalized,” but in fact, we’re actually paying someone else to care for individuals for us.

It is only when we get to know the person, to hear their story, to learn about their struggles and pain and hopes and fears… it is only at that point that we will know who to love them and serve them. We love and serve people when we are no longer caring for “the marginalized,” but we are caring for Benny, Belle, May, Creston, Cathy, and Jimmy.

If you want to begin to see through the eyes of the marginalized … then begin by getting to know their individual names.


I suggest making a list of all the people you see and know, but don’t know. Make a list of the nameless people in your life. Then start learning their names and get to know them.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

More Lessons from a Missionary

On my other blog, http://smy2brazil.blogspot.com, I  began posting a series on the lessons I have learned from experience. Some of these things cross over to the American context well.


Here is the second installment.


More Lessons Learned: How to be a Missionary


Here is the original post.


Lessons Learned: How to be a Missionary

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Group Dynamics of the 12 Disciples

I earned my undergraduate degree from East Texas Baptist University. My major was Religion and my minor was Psychology. The minor, I owe to Dr Lynn New. He was so captivating in his required  course “Introduction to Psychology,” that I kept taking his classes until I had enough credits for a minor.

I did not know it at the time, but his class “Group Dynamics” would be the one to help me most in my future ministry. As I began to pay attention to how groups form and function, I saw many parallels in the church. I marveled at how some people had a knack for attracting people and getting them into groups. While I understood the theory, I was not very good at it. I thought it was a mark of a good minister, to be able to organize people and create groups where people could grow in the Lord.

For me, the Biblical example was Jesus, who seemed to be able to just walk by people and draw them in.
Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, "Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men." And immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets. And immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed him.    (Mark 1:16-20)

He went out again beside the sea, and all the crowd was coming to him, and he was teaching them. And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, "Follow me." And he rose and followed him.  (Mark 2:13-14)
I had not yet begun paying attention to how Jesus trained his disciples to disciple families and groups, nor had I studied the formation of churches in the book of Acts. If I had done that, I would have seen that the apostles primarily relied on others to form the groups.

The case of Jesus calling his group of disciples, however, is not as random as it it appears in Mark. There is a big back story. Here is my telling of it:

The Calling of the Twelve

Before Jesus began announcing the Kingdom of God, his blood-relative John the Baptist was preaching repentance and telling everyone that a special person was coming. When Jesus came to the Jordan river to be baptized, John pointed him out. “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”

Two of John’s disciples followed after Jesus when they heard that, and they spent a day with him getting to know him. One of those two disciples was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. Andrew then told Simon that he thought Jesus might be the Messiah.

The next day, Jesus went to Galilee and spoke to another man named Philip, who was from Andrew’s hometown Bethsaida. Philip went and talked to his friend Nathaniel just as Andrew had gone to Simon. “We have found the one Moses talked about. Come and see!” The following day, Jesus went with them to a wedding in Nathaniel’s hometown Cana. That is where he performed his first miracle, but only a few people saw it.

Jesus then went to Capernaum for a few days to visit family, and then on to Jerusalem for the Passover. When he went to the temple, he took issue with the money changers and chased them out. He also taught and performed a few miracles. Many people in Jerusalem started to believe in him, but he knew their hearts and didn’t trust them. However, there was one Pharisee named Nicodemus who met with Jesus and was convinced. From then on he supported Jesus among the Pharisees.

Now, After this, Jesus went out again to the Jordan area in Judea where John the Baptist was still baptizing people. Only now, some of his disciples were starting to follow after Jesus and Jesus began to draw bigger crowds than John the Baptist. John approved of this, but in order to avoid problems Jesus left with some of his followers and went to Galilee.

On the way he passed through Samaria and met the woman at Jacob’s well. He ended up spending three days in the village of Sychar where many Samaritans trusted in him. Then when Jesus finally arrived in Galilee, he was well received, and he also went back to Cana, and again to Capernaum. It was around this time that John the Baptist was arrested and imprisoned.

Jesus went out to the seashore and taught the people there. For crowd-control purposes, he sat in Simon’s boat. When he finished teaching, he asked Simon to push out and drop the net in deep water. Andrew and Simon pulled up so many fish that they had to call their partners over to help. So, Jesus’s cousins, the Zebedee brothers, James and John came over to help pull in the fish. Peter realized, then, that following Jesus would be even greater, and more dangerous calling than following John the Baptist. That is when Jesus called them to be His disciples and fishers of men.

There near the shore was Mathew, almost certainly a close acquaintance, if not friend of the fishermen. Jesus called him to follow as well.  That very night, Matthew called a bunch of his friends together and threw a dinner party. He invited Jesus as the guest of honor. This happened quite a lot with Jesus in all the neighboring towns.

By this time, Jesus had quite a large number of followers. He went up the mountain to pray, spending the whole night there. Then, in the morning, he called all of his disciples together and chose from among them, twelve to be his apostles. These twelve would be close to him, and be sent out to represent him, preaching the gospel, and casting out demons.

He chose:
Simon, to whom he gave the name Peter
Andrew, Simon’s brother
James, the son of Zebedee and Salome, who was Mary’s sister
John, James’ brother, and also cousin of Jesus
Philip, John’s disciple
Nathaniel, also called Bartholomew, Philip’s friend
Matthew, the son of Alphaeus, also called Levi
James, the son of Alphaeus (possibly Matthew’s brother, but we don’t know)
Thaddeus, whose name was also Judas
Simon, the Zealot, and
Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Lessons from a Missionary

On my other blog, http://smy2brazil.blogspot.com, I  began posting a series on the lessons I have learned from experience. Some of these things cross over to the American context well. Have a look.


Lessons Learned: How to be a Missionary

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

How to Pray for Other Christians

When I began using a prayer calendar, I quickly realized that if I didn’t have specific prayer requests next to the name of a person for whom I was praying, I didn’t have much to pray about. My prayers were generic “Bless this person and his family. Meet their needs. Protect them.” etc.


In order to develop a vocabulary of prayer for other Christians, I began to survey the things that Paul prayed for as he prayed for Christians in another place.  I made some observations from the letters to the Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and Thessalonians


Now, Imagine I were praying for you. This is how I would do it following Paul’s example.
As I pray, I would:

  • thank God for you.
  • ask the Father to give that you wisdom.
  • ask the Father to reveal himself to you, so that you know Him more
  • ask that your eyes be enlightened to see all God offers his holy ones, the hope, the rich inheritance, and his mighty power.
  • ask that you will really understand how God's same mighty power that resurrected Jesus works in your own life.

Ephesians 1:15-20


  • thank God for you
  • ask that your love grow, both in knowledge and discernment so that you can see what really matters and be pure.
  • ask God for your righteousness to reproduce in others.
  • trust God to supply all your needs according to His wealth and glory in Christ Jesus.



  • ask that you will know God's will, have wisdom, and spiritual discernment.
  • ask for God to help you live your life in a way that honors and pleases the Lord.
  • pray for you to do good and produce fruit.
  • pray for you come to know God better.
  • ask for God to strengthen you with his power.
  • pray for you to be patient and have the endurance you need.
  • Pray for you be filled with joy, and that you would be thankful to God  because he has rescued us through his son Jesus.

Colossians 1


  • thank God for you and remember before Him the things you have shown in your faith
  • recount your works of faith.
  • remember your works of love.
  • recall the ways your hope in Jesus has given you preserverance.
  • thank God that when you heard the word of God, you believed, and remember what it cost you.
  • remember your faith and faithfulness in your persecution for encouragement in my own.
  • thank God for the joy I have because of you
  • ask the Lord to open the way for us to meet again
  • ask that God would strengthen your heart so that you will be blameless and holiness before the Father when Jesus returns.
  • ask that God himself would preserve you as holy in your thoughts, in your body and in your soul.
  • thank God that he is faithful to do it.

1 Thessalonians


This is a good exercise and a great way to pray for new Christians and for those you have led to the Lord or are discipling. I encourage you to take note, as you read the Bible, especially in the New Testament letters, what kinds of supplications are recorded. They are great examples of prayer.   If you have found other good examples, please post them in the comments section.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Message of the Cross?

How well are our churches communicating the message of the cross and the resurrection? What does American society understand the purpose and benefit of believing in Jesus to be?  What is the gospel, according to the man on the street?


Ernest Goodman recently wrote about a trend in the US in his blog Missions Misunderstood.

More and more, there are places… that have returned from Christian influence to the status of “unreached.”…  To be sure, chasing the least-reached regions of the United States is like trying to put out flare-ups after a wildfire.

The west coast, the southwest, the east- each are defined by their sins and spiritual strongholds. Vegas is rife with debauchery. Seattle is stricken with irresponsibility. San Francisco is overrun with homosexuality. Boston is filled with post-Catholic angst. The Bible Belt is rife with cultural Christianity and political moralism. All of these places need the freedom that is only found in Christ.

What we’re seeing is the rise of a new category of missions. Some missionaries focus on unreached people groups. But… “reached” isn’t a permanent status. Just as the gospel comes to a people through the obedience of some, it can soon be forgotten through the disobedience of others.


Churches may be preaching the pure gospel from their pulpits on Sundays, but the doors of the buildings are closed and attendance is limited. How well is that same pure gospel getting out into society at large?


My observations:

People don’t talk about the resurrection of Jesus very much outside of their homes and their churches. The message of the Cross is unclear. The church has work to do.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Giving away E-Bibles

Giving away Bibles has been a ministry hobby of mine for a long time. I have a tendency to give my own Bible away too often. There was a period of time when I couldn’t keep a Bible in my possession for more than a month. I just always found reasons to give it away. I still do. It usually goes like this:

“Did you ever hear the story of ____?”


I begin telling the story. (I also have a blog about Bible storying).

As I tell, I open my Bible to that passage. When I finish the story, I show the person where it is in scripture.

I ask “Do you have a Bible that’s just for you?” If they say no, I give them mine.

“This is mine, but I want you to have it. I have another Bible at home that I can use.

If the person politely refuses, I just tell them to consider it a gift. I don’t insist. Nine times out of ten, they take the Bible.


Last week I discovered a really great, free program called E-Sword, which you can download for yourself by clicking the screenshot below.


It comes with the King James Version, but you can also download dozens of other translations for free. There is also the option to pay for some translations that are not available freely. You can also download free Bible study dictionaries and encyclopedias and a number of commentaries. Many are free, and some you must purchase. There is even a space in the program for you to write your own notes on certain passages, which you can access just like the commentaries and dictionaries.

These days nearly everyone is online and uses a computer regularly. Having a Bible on the computer can be extremely helpful. This is just one more way to give the Bible away.



E-Sword.net –> http://www.e-sword.net

Optional Bible Translation add-ons –> http://www.e-sword.net/bibles.html

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Thessalonian Church

imageTowards the back of the New Testament, you will find Paul’s two letters to the church in Thessalonica. They were written before most of the rest of the New Testament. The book of Acts gives us the back story and how that church was founded. (Acts 17:1-10)

Paul had two to three weeks to establish the church, and then, abruptly, he had to leave it on its own for a while. Timothy was later sent to stay with the church for a time. Later, Paul wrote a couple of letters. He told them that he often tried to get back to see them again. It doesn’t look like he ever did.

How did Paul go from nothing to a thriving church in a couple of weeks? (With a budget of zero, by the way.)  How is it that could he leave behind a church so quickly and yet praise them in letters as a strong and mature church, rather than sending lists of corrections and warnings?  Can we apply any of what happened in Thessalonica to our work today?

It takes about an hour to do a careful reading Acts 16 - 17, and 1st and 2nd Thessalonians. Let’s read through and look for clues.

1. Our gospel came to you not just in words, but in power, in the Holy Spirit, and with much conviction (1 Thessalonians 1:5)
  There is no need to look at strategy, circumstance, correlations, tactics or anything else, if we don’t concede, first, that from start to finish, the planting of this church was a work of the Holy Spirit. “Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain” (Psalm 127).
2. They came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. And Paul went in… (Acts 17:2)
  Paul evangelized an existing group. Rather than pull together people at random who would hear his message, he went to a group that already existed, had structure, and meaningful relationships.
3. as was his custom… (Acts 17:2)
  Paul had an intentional strategy, going into each city. He walked his plan and let it play out.
4. and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures. (Acts 17:2)
  Paul did not stay very long, and established the authority as the word of God, not himself or another leader. Three Sabbath days can be anywhere from 15 to 21 days. The authority of God’s word and the Holy Spirit are all that is needed to begin a new church.
5. explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, "This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ." (Acts 17:3)
  Paul’s gospel presentation was all about Jesus and only about Jesus. There was no mixing of his message. It is nearly identical to what Jesus said in Luke 24:46: Jesus said to them, "Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead…”
6. And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women. (Acts 17:4)
  Though there was the common element of the synagogue, there are three parts of the city’s society mentioned here. There was diversity in those who believed the message.
7. “Now they have come here, and Jason has welcomed them into his home.” (Acts 17:7) They wanted to drag Paul and Silas out to the mob, and so they went straight to Jason's home. (Acts 17:5)
  Paul and SIlas appear to have followed the strategy/pattern Jesus instructed his disciples with in Luke 10. (Go in pairs, don’t take provisions for yourself, do go from house to house, but stay in the one house of the person of peace, eat and drink what they give you, etc)
8. And when they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city authorities… (Acts 17:6)
  Persecution hit the young church immediately, purifying its membership rather quickly.
9. And when they had taken money as security from Jason and the rest, they let them go. (Acts 17:9)
  The church was self supporting from the get go. In this case, Jason, of the new church, had to leave a deposit to pay for damages in a possible riot.
10. We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers… (1 Thessalonians 1:2)
  Paul, Silas and Timothy never stopped praying for the church and God’s movement and blessing. (Note: they did not pray for an end to the persecution)
11. and we sent Timothy, our brother and God's coworker in the gospel of Christ, to establish and exhort you in your faith… (1 Thessalonians 3:2)
  Paul made sure that the young church was established with the right elements of a church and did not forget to train up reproductive leadership. (remember his charge to Timothy “what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” 2 Timothy 2:2
12. The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea… (Acts 17:10)
  The church sent the ones who brought the message of Jesus onward to the next place/group that needed to hear. The transition was very quick.  This could only happen by through the development of inside leaders.

We will look at modern applications in a future post. This was just to get us thinking about how church planting happened in the New Testament.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

A lot of writing to finish.

Look for several new posts coming this month. (They will not necessarily be posted in this order.)


Now What? Part Three – Why discipling already-existing groups yields better results.


Now What? Part Four – How to change to discipling existing groups


What Kind of Ministry? - Envisioning having a ministry before knowing those who will receive it is putting the cart before the horse.


The Thessalonian Church  - A look at how Paul started churches… including an audio post series


Ephesians 4:11 – Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, and Shepherd-Teachers


Why We Don’t Want Equlibrium – What causes churches to thrive and what causes them to stagnate.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Scripture… As We Live It

Alan Knox has one of the best little series of posts on his blog. Its purpose is to get us to think about what Scripture says compared to how we actually live and what our traditions teach. I just have to repost a few here.


# 1

What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation find a place to sit, sing along with the band or choir, and listen to the preacher. Let all things be done for building up as prescribed by your leaders. (1 Corinthians 14:26 remix)



Then after fasting and praying they had raised enough support and been approved by the mission board, they laid their hands on them and the mission board sent them off. (Acts 13:3 re-mix)



Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, To Philemon our beloved fellow worker and Apphia our sister and Archippus our fellow soldier, and the church in your house (Let’s keep this between you and me since this is a personal, private issue and some of these things could be troubling or embarrassing.): (Romans 1:1-2 re-mix)



So I exhort the elders among you… shepherd the flock of God that is among you preach sermons, organize programs, officiate weddings and funerals, administer finances, supervise employees… (1 Peter 5:1a, 2a re-mix)



For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you you should repeat these words after passing out the bread during the Lord’s Supper but before eating the bread, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, repeat these words after passing out the cups but before drinking saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” (1 Corinthians 11:23-25 re-mix)



From that time Jesus began to preach deliver 45 minute expository (or topical or narrative, take your pick) sermons, saying entitled, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17 re-mix)



But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. However, if you try really hard, and study all of the different passages about the end times, and try to somehow fit the separate pieces together as if they’re all one narrative, I’m certain you will be able to figure out the day and hour. (Matthew 24:36 re-mix)



And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for to do the work of ministry, and for building up the body of Christ. (Ephesians 4:11-12 re-mix)


I really enjoy these and encourage you to visit his blog from time to time.

Monday, July 19, 2010

When a church changes size…

DJ Chuang recently wrote “dynamics of different church sizes,” a nicely resourced blog about how churches tend to settle into a certain number of attendees and have trouble breaking that barrier. Here are some of the interesting thoughts:


When it comes to churches, there’s a sociology to the number of people and group dynamics. There’s much more going on than a generic spiritual gathering. There are certain church sizes that seem most common, as if a certain group settles into a certain size stability equilibrium.


This is true, and unfortunately an evangelism stifler. Churches usually stop “growing” when they reach 80% building capacity. The building is comfortably full and feels full of life and the church feels successful. Maintenance, programs and activities overtake the priority of reaching the lost. Churches also tend to stop growing when the size becomes greater than the skill of its leaders. Very few pastors are prepared for and effective at leading larger and larger organizations.


So, there are three options. One, spend more money on bigger buildings and a larger staff. Two, stop growing. Three, reproduce by starting new churches. We all know a ton of churches that have chosen options one and two. Do you know of any churches that choose option three? (though it is the only option that maintains an aggressive focus on evangelism.)


“The median church in the U.S. has 75 regular participants in worship on Sunday mornings… Notice that researchers measured the median church size — the point at which half the churches are smaller and half the churches are larger — rather than the average (186 attenders…), which is larger due to the influence of very large churches.” -FAQ from HIRR


I knew there was something wrong with that old statistic that the average church is 200 members. I’ve had trouble finding churches that size. It is actually rare.  Now I understand why.


“Most churches generally face growth barriers when Sunday attendance approaches 65, 125, 250 or 500.” -Break the next growth barrier


In my church-search interview process for finding a place of service as we finish up our work here in Brazil, I found a number of churches that are hovering right around those numbers. Each one has a certain group dynamic and comfort-level at their size. Any change from there will be uncomfortable. If the focus is on growing in general it will be worse, because growth is an end in itself. If the focus in on discipling the lost, the growth pangs will only be mildly irritating.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Now What? Part Two

In my post Ok, they said “Yes.” Now what?, I proposed that the best discipleship process for new believers or near-believers is a family bible study in that person’s home with his close friends. Since this topic is being explored in other blogs (The Assembling of the Church and learning… ), I wanted to keep talking about this.


First off, let me give an example. There is a family we led to the Lord some time back. I wrote about them in my Bible Storying Blog in two postsRain, and showers of blessings” and “Who will deliver me from this body of death.” Please click on those links and read their story first.


Last night they came to our prayer meeting in the traditional church. Husband, wife, three children and their dog. Long story short, the dog fit in better than the family. Our church was very gracious with them, but it is obvious they just don’t fit. They try, but they can’t. Too many issues.


What will end up happening is that after a few weeks, they will be made to feel more and more unwelcome until they don’t come back. They have been church hopping since they’ve been saved, spending a month or two in each place before they give up and look for another. It is sad, and it is a story that repeats itself innumerous times in countless places. Life changing discipleship and spiritual reproduction never happen in those situations.


The harder, but more effective way to bring people up to being real followers of Jesus whose lives are transformed and who produce thirty, sixty and one-hundred fold increases is discipling people in their own households and with their own friends. This is especially true when the person being discipled does not naturally fit into the culture of your church.


“Now What? Part Three” is going to explore why, and “Now What? Part Four” will explore how.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A collection of sayings sewn together

Sobering Thoughts About the Church  (this is not original with me. I lifted interesting sentences, quotes and thoughts out of their own contexts and just stitched them together into these paragraphs.)


We are not genuinely concerned about the lost. We invite them to increase our membership and coffers. It is not a question of how many worship in your church, but how many will be worshipping before His Throne. Jesus did not tell the Samaritans to worship in the Temple. He told them that they can worship in truth and spirit anywhere. A church that has no heart for the lost is truly lost.


You can make a joyful noise with the ninety-nine on Sunday, which does not make heaven rejoice, or you can go and rescue a lost soul and rejoice with the company of angels in heaven. The church stands guilty of misusing praise and worship… reducing worship to singing choruses ad nauseam. But the heart wrenching cries of the lost are drowned in all these religious decibels. Shouting “Glory, glory!” does not glorify Yahweh but bearing abundant fruit does (John 15:8,16).


Most Christians have yet to open their portfolio of saved souls. Many set secondary goals of reading more Bible or praying more, rather than the primary goal of birthing spiritual children. It is easy to evaluate yourself. If you are good soil, then you should be bringing forth thirty, sixty and even a hundredfold fruit.


A mature church is one, which transforms the lives of those outside the church. A farmer gathers the harvest in the granary, disposes it off as soon as he can and immediately gets busy preparing the harvest field for the next crop, otherwise the land will be run over by weeds. The modern church gathers one harvest and keeps it in the granary (church building) until it rots. It does not prepare the harvest field for the next crop. The sin of the modern Christianity is that it preaches to the preached, comforts the comforted, blesses the blessed, converts the converted, baptizes the baptized, sinfully neglects the neglected and selfishly spends 99% of the budget on herself.


A church without the Great Commission is a just a club. A fisherman is not evaluated on the basis of club activities or the number of sermons he delivers to the captive fish. A fisherman is evaluated on the basis of how many fresh fish he catches.


The church exists to intercede for the meanest rascals, where they can be transformed, equipped and sent out into the world as extraordinary channels of His grace to rescue other rogues and scoundrels and good for nothing people. (Ezek. 3:17-19; Rom. 11:25; Matt. 24:14) God told Jonah, “I am concerned about all the inhabitants of the city” because He does not want anyone to perish. You are out of sync with God’s vision if your vision is limited to the welfare of your family or your church. The Great Commission should be the signature tune of every church.



gleaned from Victor Choudhrie

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Great Commission

Nothing ground breaking in this post, just a reminder of what we are to be about. My dad said to me once,  “If your church is always preaching the gospel and that is the only thing it ever preaches, it’s not going to stray too far away from what God intended. That’s the way I feel about it.”


That is the way I feel about it too. Here is a reminder.


‘Go into all the world and announce the Good News to every creature.’ Mark 16:15
‘So, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you…’ Matthew 28:18-20
‘The Messiah had to suffer and then on the third day resurrect to life again. In His name, the message of repentance and the forgiveness of sins must be announced to all nations.’ Luke 24:7
‘I have other sheep, which are not of this fold, they must also be brought in… so there will be one flock and one Shepherd.’ John 10:16
‘Just as the Father has sent me. I also send you.’ John 20:21
‘You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be witnesses to me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth.’ (Acts 1: 8)

Monday, June 28, 2010

Is your “church” really a church?

The church of Ephesus was mentored by the apostles John and Paul. She lost her first love in just thirty-five years. She did not repent and exists no more.


"Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place——unless you repent. Revelation 2:4-5


Our churches do need to be proud of their heritage of obedience to the Lord Jesus. They also need to train up every generation according to Deuteronomy 6.


4  "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one! 5  "You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. 6  "And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. 7  "You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. 8  "You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9  "You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. 10  "So it shall be, when the LORD your God brings you into the land of which He swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give you large and beautiful cities which you did not build, 11  "houses full of all good things, which you did not fill, hewn-out wells which you did not dig, vineyards and olive trees which you did not plant—when you have eaten and are full— 12  "then beware, lest you forget the LORD who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.


As long as there is enough money, it is easy to keep a non-profit organization registered and active, its building maintained and up kept, and its members busy with some activities. All that can be done even without a lampstand… without really being a church.


Please, please, please let your focus be on loving God by obeying his word and sharing our Lord Jesus with others. Nothing else we do is important in comparison.

Friday, June 18, 2010

How to measure success as a pastor

Many pastors measure their success by looking at the size of the crowds they preach to. If the crowds are generally getting bigger, they feel successful. Their church members tend to use the same measure. If the crowd is growing, the pastor is successful. Pastors that have the biggest congregations in a city or denomination are considered elite.


This would be fine if the vision and goal of the church was to grow to be the biggest church in the area. But that is not what churches are called to do. They are called to bring the gospel to all peoples and reach their entire communities for Christ. It is impossible for any one church to do that. Impossible. It will never happen.


Communities are made up of so many different people with different personalities, social classes, languages, skin colors, work schedules, education levels and music preferences that no one church is ever going to be attractive to all of them. No pastor is going to be able to prepare a message with a low enough common denominator for that many different kinds of people. No one church is going to logistically be able to accommodate the sheer number of people, not even in a football stadium.


But why wouldn’t the pastor of a church that grows to 3000 people automatically be considered successful? Many would consider that wildly successful, and in many respects it may be. But, if the measure of success is reaching a community, how successful is it really? What percentage of the community of a city of 400,000 did that church reach? Less that one percent. Only three-fourths of a percent, actually. A drop in the bucket.


Pastors who want to lead their churches to reach the entire community or city need to find a way step back from being the face of the ministry. Like John the Baptist, they must decrease so that Jesus can increase. If a pastor really seeks to reach an entire city or community, he is going to have to stop counting his success by the number of people are listening to his teaching. The “score card” needs to change to show what progress is being made to reach an entire community, rather than what progress is being made to fill a building.


Here are just a few practical measures of success for pastors intent on reaching the community beyond their own church (the other 99.25 %):


1 How many new social groups, language groups, racial groups, affinity groups have been engaged with the gospel?
2 How many new leaders are you discipling, training and releasing to ministry?
3 How many new leaders are those leaders discipling, training and releasing to ministry?
4 How many social silos and communities are being prayed for adequately by yourself and your disciples?
5 How many new evangelistic family/friend (oikos) bible studies have started? How many have reached the point of baptisms?
6 How many new churches of newly baptized Christians have we planted?
7 How many of those churches have started new churches?
8 How many access ministries have started? How many of those have yielded a person of peace?
9 How many communities remain unreached?  (lower the better)
10 How many new churches that you wouldn’t really fit into has your ministry started?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Ok, they said “Yes.” Now what?

In my experience, most churches and their members just don’t know what to do after someone says “Yes” to Jesus. They do their best to get them baptized and into a new member’s class in the church, but that’s about all they know to do. I guess we just hope that these new believers will assimilate into the church, find a ministry to serve, and maybe start tithing.


Part of the problem is that many go about evangelism in a way that is just selling Jesus…trying to get the buyer to agree with their “gospel presentation.” Once that is done the person is won and they have done their jobs. Spiritual newborns are abandoned by the ones who led them to life, and are left for ‘the church’ to disciple. There are innumerable problems right there, but that is a post for another day.


The question is, “How should new Christians be discipled and brought into the church?”  I propose that the two most popular methods, one-on-one discipleship and new member’s classes, are not very effective in producing followers of Jesus who lead others to be followers of Jesus.


One-on-one discipleship, ends up making following Jesus into a personal spiritual quest that is slow, prone getting side-tracked and private to the point of dysfunction. Individuals who grow closer to Jesus in a private way end up excluding their families from the process, often alienating themselves, to a degree, from the rest of their family. The result is a family that is that much harder to reach than before.


New member’s classes tend to focus much more on assimilating people into an existing church structure than leading them to becoming lifetime followers of Jesus. When spiritual precepts are taught, they are presented through study guides and with lists of proof texts. Learning scripture, doing ministry and obeying God are all funneled through the church’s existing structure. If the person doesn’t fit well, his discipleship will not go well.


People are best discipled in groups. Not groups of loosely related people brought together for a Bible study, but in their existing groups: their households (oikos), their close friends, the people they already spend time with doing their favorite hobbies. These groups already have relationships, authority structures and natural accountability. When they are unredeemed groups, they need to be discipled… brought to Jesus.


It is within these groups that a new believer, or even a true seeker should be taught how to study the Bible together with his loved ones, how to discover what God says through His Word together, how to change their lives to obey God’s Word with mutual accountability, and how to share Bible passages with friends and family. There is a simple process for this and it is easy to follow and easy to pass along to others. I will outline it in a future post.


The end result of this kind of discipleship, however, is that one new believer becomes a dozen new believers in a short time, and before long they become a hundred. That is much better than one-on-one, one at a time, or new members classes with five or six people, three of which remain in the church after a year’s time.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Gospel Presentations of Jesus #8

On the last and most important day of the festival, Jesus stood up and said in a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, come to me and drink. To all who believe in me, rivers of living water will flow from your inner being. The scriptures declare it.”

--Somewhere in John 7

Monday, May 10, 2010

South: A case study in going beyond outreach.

In his book The Forgotten Ways, Alan Hirsch recounts the story of struggle in his church to effectively reach and disciple the people in his community (pp 28 - 48).


South Melbourne Restoration Community was a 125-year-old church that in spite of its rich history had been declining rapidly during the last generation. Alan was a young seminary graduate when he and his wife were called to serve there. They were inexperienced, and SMRC was a desperate church contemplating an end to its storied existence.


Some time before Alan’s call to SMRC, God had already been working in the life of a completely unrelated, perpetually arrested drug dealer called George. This man found Jesus one day in the jail cell. When he got out, he shared the good news with his brother. Together, they made a list of everyone they knew. He and his brother then methodically met with everyone on their list and shared the new life they had found in Jesus. The process was messy, but in half a year’s time, they led 50 people to Christ. This included a young woman named Debra, with whom Alan would eventually marry. George’s disciples formed a wild Christian community, and Alan, an eager seminary student, began to help.


When Alan finished seminary, he was called to pastor South Melborne Church of Christ. Many in that wild band of Jesus followers soon joined this church as well. They infused a lot of life and a bit of chaos into that old church. The historic members of the church struggled through the transition, but God established them as one body. The result was a new personality and the church transitioned over the next five years into South Melbourne Restoration Community.


I am providing this background as an introduction, because this church went through a number of phases in its development. Some were effective in reaching people who are not reached by traditional church culture and some were not. It is helpful to see where the story begins. In the next post about South, I will continue to relate Alan’s story and look at why some things worked and why some things didn’t.


Before getting into that, notice how simple a process it was for George to lead 50 to Christ. He was a very new Christian with an extensive social network among the lost. He shared with his family right away, and then partnered with his brother (like the two by two instructions of Jesus) to share with everyone he knew. Since he trusted Jesus outside of the traditional church context, he was freed up just to obey what he was learning from scripture as best he could. Like I mentioned before, it was messy. But it was real.


We never see churches where a pair of its members lead 50 people to the Lord in six months. I believe one of the reasons for that is that fear of bad doctrine, or bad practice or simple fear of losing control causes churches to stifle the obedience of new christians precisely when they would have the greatest impact in evangelism.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Grow your church, or reach your community?

This comes from David Watson via Guy Muse. If your church is looking for perspective in reaching its community for Christ, this article is a worthy read. As a missionary, I can not stress how strongly I concur with this portion of the article. 
I am frequently asked to consult with churches who are interested in starting new work. The first question I ask is, “Are you interested in growing your church, or in reaching your community for Christ?” Many people see these as the same. They are not.
Growing a church is about getting more people to come to the church. The reality is that no single church appeals to even a miniscule part of society. Churches have personalities, and these personalities click with only a few. So, if you start out to simply grow a church, there is a limit to how many people can be reached, simply because most people will have zero interest in the church.
On the other hand, if you start out to reach a community, regardless of whether or not the new believers will come to any particular church, numerous churches with just the right personalities for new believers will be initiated. In the course of all these new groups being starting, the catalytic church or churches will grow.

One can’t reach a community by trying to grow a church. But, if one reaches the community by all means available, the church that does this will grow.


See Also:

Monday, May 3, 2010

Bringing the Gospel through the gates of Hell.

My cousin is working on the set of a new Nicholas Cage movie called Drive Angry. She forewarned us that this movie is a movie that contains gratuitous violence, sex, and nudity, has satanic spiritual themes and foul language. Obviously, these things dishonor God and are counter to his kingdom. So, why would she choose to work there if she is a professing follower of Jesus? Would Christ approve?


Of course, it depends on how she goes about her work in that environment. Many Christians today don’t talk openly about their faith in Jesus unless they are in like company.  They tend to be loud when in the majority and quiet when in the minority. Though the root cause of this is probably timidity, the message sent is often one of self-righteousness and hipocracy.


If my cousin were to go about her work as a private Christian, keeping her following of Jesus a secret, she would simply have no impact for the Kingdom of God in that place. This would be like hiding a light (Matthew 5:14-15). But, we are admonished to become blameless and pure children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which we shine like stars in the universe as we hold out the word of life (Philippians 2:14-15). Private personal Christianinty is not Biblical Christianity.


On the other hand, if my cousin were to announce her resignation upon discovery of the nature of the current movie, she would be removing herself (and in her, the light of Christ) from this temporary community. By her actions, and possibly by her words she would condem their sins. But she would be disobeying Jesus (Luke 6:37) and denying forgiveness to those that need it (John 20:21-23).


If she works on this set as an openly professing Christian, she becomes a disturbing presence to those around her. As she openly talks of the spiritual themes and questions in the movie, she can share a true message from God’s story. This movie talks about angels and demons, heaven and hell, good and bad, child sacrifice and escape from punishment. Does not the Bible speak to all of those things? How many chapters of narrative, how many pages of God’s redemptive story speak to those same themes? What a ripe environment for spiritual discussion.


Of course the question will eventually come. “If you believe all these things, why are you here with us? Doesn’t this all offend you? We do stuff that you’re not supposed to do.”


And to that, there is an answer: “Of course it offends me. It offends God. But I care more about you than I care about being offended. I am here because you are my friend, and I want you to know there is forgiveness of sin in Jesus.”

Monday, April 26, 2010

Reaching the “Oikos”

oikos (ancient Greek: οἶκος, plural: οἶκοι) is the Greek equivalent of a household, house, or family.

When I first read the word oikos in the Bible, it was in the passage of the Phillipian jailor and his family believing in Jesus and being saved and baptized (Acts 16:30-34). It is one of many examples of households or families believing together. You may remember the examples of Cornelius and Lydia as well.


Part of my ministry in Brazil is to train church members in evangelism. One of the ways I have done this is by leading workshops in Bible Storying and Oikos Evangelism.  I thought it a rather clever name… Oikos Evangelism.


Unfortunately a quick google search showed me that Oikos has become another buzzword in the vein of: Missional, Emergent, Catalyst, Paradigm, Worldview, Metanarrative, Organic, Purpose Driven, and Praxis. So, my apologies in advance for using it.


I do intend to use Oikos as a label in the blog’s sidebar for post about reaching families rather than just individuals. Since I am short for time, the first practical post will have to come later.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Praying for others as outreach

The top 100 church planters worldwide were interviewed and studied to find what was common in what they were doing, in the hopes that a new method or process might be discovered. After it was all said and done, the only common denominator was prayer. Three hours a day of prayer was the minimum… 21 hours a week in prayer. Most of these church-planting giants also work full time secular jobs at 40 to 60 hours a week. (My source for most of the information in this post is David Watson, but I can only point you to his website, not to the related research. I heard some of this on a recording.)


Most parents who model prayer for their children do so at meal time and and bed time. Those prayers are usually two-minute prayers. Our churches model prayers in worship, and those are usually two-minute prayers as well. Sometimes an inspired pastor or deacon will pray for a long five minutes. Sadly, for many people two and five minutes is the extent of their daily prayer lives. 


Praying for 15 minutes,  an hour, or two hours can seem like an impossible feat. However if you were to write down on a piece of paper the names of everyone you know, you’re not going to pray for them all in 10 minutes.


Try something like this with your church and your prayer groups for a month:

1. When you meet together. Pass out some lined paper and pens to all who are present.

2. Have everyone begin writing down the names of everyone they know personally. This should take a long while and the list should be very long.

3. Ask everyone to go back and put a cross (†) next to the name of everyone they know is a follower of Jesus.

4. Have them put a minus sign (-) next to every name of someone who is not a Christ follower.

5. Have them put a question mark (?) next to the name of anyone that they are not sure about their faith.

6. You may also want to mark on the other side of the name with a check (√) if you know for sure that they know that you are a Christian and know about your relationship with Jesus.

If someone has a list of mostly crosses, they are probably not building relationships outside of their Christian social groups and church. People who have mostly minus signs, are often new Christians or first generation Christians. (People in this group make the best evangelists.) If someone has mostly question marks, that person is probably not engaging their acquaintances and friends on a spiritual level.


Pray for your fellow Christians in their walk and as you remember them in prayer, consider how you can stimulate them to a closer walk with Jesus and to good works. Consider how you can meet their needs and love them. Consider what it means to be living as brothers and sisters in Christ with those people, even though they may not be members of your church or denomination. Do you pray with your neighbors and friends who are Christian, but not part of your church body?


Pray for those that you know are not Christian. Pray specifically for God to break down those barriers to faith in their lives. As you pray for them, consider how you in both word and deed can disciple these friends and acquaintances of yours to faith in Christ. Consider needs they may have and how you can help them in those areas.


Pray for those that you have ignored spiritually. As you pray for them, seek to know them better so that you can change the question mark to a plus or minus. Pray for opportunities and make commitments with God and your prayer partners to engage those question marked friends and acquaintances. Go beyond the superficial and begin talking about the place of God in your lives.


Ask forgiveness of God for the friendships and acquaintances in which you have been spiritually ambiguous. Make a commitment with God and with your prayer partners to right that wrong. Remember that our love for God is a part of our identity. (Deuteronomy 6:5-9)


Now, all this is more than a plan of involvement disguised as prayer. Prayer makes a spiritual difference in people’s lives. God’s Spirit moves as we ask for this in Jesus name. Consider an experiment that was tried in Phoenix, AZ, as documented in the book, The Praying Church Idea Book by Douglas A. Kamstra. 

The church randomly selected 160 names from the phone book and divided then into two groups.  For 90 days they prayed for one group while they ignored the other.  At the end of 90 days they called all 160 homes, identified themselves and offered to stop by and pray for the family and any needs they might have. Of the 80 homes that were not prayed for, only one person invited them in.  From the 80 homes that were prayed for, 69 people invited them to come over and of those people, 45 invited them into their homes.  Felicity Dale

Friday, April 9, 2010


I used to cringe every time we met together for Tuesday night visitation and the minister in charge would say “Here are your prospects,” as he handed me a small stack of yellow cards. With one simple word, families became targets and people became profiles.


We would visit the families, tell them we cared about them, invite them to our church services and leave them a package of information. The ones who replied positively and came to our services became good acquaintances and even friends. The ones who didn’t show up at our church after a few weeks passed were no longer good prospects, and we forgot about them.

Jeff McQ recently posted on this very topic. His post is called Agenda Free Evangelism. Here is an excerpt.

Have you ever had a friend that got involved in multi-level marketing  and after awhile every time you talked to that person, you felt like they saw you as a marketing prospect? If not controlled, it can affect the very fabric of the relationship, because you feel like that friend has an ulterior motive--an agenda for being friends with you. And if that person really gets sold on their product and scheme, if you don't bite after awhile, you stop hearing from that person. You aren't seen as a productive prospect anymore.

MLM is a good analogy for how I've come to see our current methods of evangelism in the church. We're supposed to befriend people in the world and try to bring them to Christ. We see these "friends" as prospective Christians, and we're going to use the avenue of friendship to convince them of the reality of the gospel, get them to come to our church, or what-have-you. It's an agenda-based relationship, and just like you can spot an MLM friend a mile away, people can spot Christians the same way. Most people aren't idiots; they know when they're being targeted, and they notice when we disengage because they didn't jump through the hoops within a certain amount of time.

Jesus called people to follow him. He instructed his disciple to go and live temporarily in the homes of those who would be reached. There is something about the fellowship, friendship and union that allows people to experience God and his love and believe. I think that is what John communicates in the opening of First John.

We are writing to you with respect to the Word of Life, the one who existed from the beginning. We heard him and we saw him with our own eyes. In fact our hands touched him. This Life appeared to us, we saw him and we are witnesses. That is why we declare that the Eternal Life that was with the Father and revealed to us. We announce to you what we have seen and heard so that you will be united with us, just as we are united with the Father and with Jesus Christ his Son. 1 John 1:1-3

So, I agree with Jeff. If there is anything superficial about our care our fellowship with others… it is NOT the gospel.


My prayer: Father forgive me for when I did not act in love, but only pretended to love. Help me follow the example of Jesus, living out love and speaking truth with integrity. Help me to learn from the mistakes I made when I tried to market the Gospel.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Baptism in modern thought

This is not a theological post. I asked the question: “Have you ever been baptized?” on a message board that I frequent. Here are some of the responses:

   Yes, in 1986...at the time I thought it was an important step for me, identifying myself first and foremost as a Christian and taking a step in faith...unfortunately within 10 years I had lost my faith and am no longer a believer. I still respect those who are - at least the ones who live a life of love rather than judge others - but Christianity is no longer my bag baby....sorry, I guess that's not what you wanted to hear...
   I was baptized in 2003. The baptism itself didn't change my life, but giving my life over to my Lord and savior Jesus Christ in 2002 did. I'm a VERY different person now. Not perfect, but different. What man cannot do, God can do.
   I was baptized when I was 15, but stopped being a believer about a year later
   I got baptized as an infant. You know, every year in church those vows are renewed. It's either Holy Saturday or Pentecost, I can't remember which.
I got baptized "in the Spirit" one time when I was about ten years old, but it didn't take. I never spoke in tongues until much later. The only "baptism" that "took" was the one that I experienced in mid-life (about five years ago) when I was bathed in my own sweat and tears. Very real, and much better than holy water.
   I was baptized when I was 12 years old, the Preacher from our church came to visit our house one day and sat down and talked to me and my brother. He asked us if we believed that Jesus Christ was the Son of God and if we felt He was our personal Savior, we both answered yes. We were both baptized at church the following sunday. I can't say that there was a major change in my life and I have not led a perfect life, but I have tried to keep His teachings in my heart.
   In my experiences the majority of those who become baptized and accept Christ into their lives have really had some screwed up pasts. Drugs addicts, alcoholics, and criminals more specifically. It seems it takes near death experiences to learn to follow the good path. Then again, maybe they were the only ones who stood out?Don't get me wrong, I do drink every now and again, but I don't do drugs, nor do I steal, cheat, etc. Why should I get baptized again? I am faithful to my wife, I help my fellow man, and accept Christ as my savior. I guess I don't truly understand some things the church's do.
   I was baptized in Jesus name about 8 months ago and my life has changed for the better.
   I was baptized in a Baptist church as a kid, 9 YO or so. I think my Sunday school teacher felt it was her duty to get all the kids in her charge baptized before sending them on to the next age/grade level. What I remember the most is the interview with some assistant minister and the color wheel test to see if I was really "ready to accept Jesus Christ as blah, blah, blah ..." The conversation went something like this:

Minister: Tell me, what does the color red mean to you?
me: it means ‘Stop.’

Minister: Yes, it can mean to stop, but when I look at red I think of the blood of Jesus and how his blood washed our sins away.
me: Gross!

Minister: How about white? What does white make you think of?
me: Knee socks. We have to wear white knee socks for gym and they won't stay up, but the boys get to wear the short ones with stripes. That's not fair, is it?

Minister: Doesn't white also remind you of The Light? Jesus is the light, and has shown us the way to salvation.
me: Okay.

Minister: How about black. What does black ...
me: Batman!

Minister: To me, black represents darkness, evil. When I see black, I think of those poor souls lost to the devil.
me: Oh. Do you ever watch Batman?

Minister: What about green?. What is green to you.
me: Money.

We went through the entire color wheel, and none of my answers matched his. Despite my responses, I was deemed ready to baptize.
   I was saved around the age of 10 and then baptized. Today, I am a deacon in a Baptist church on the Northshore. Am I perfect? No, far from it. But no one is. I suggest you seek out a bible-believing church and become active.
   I was baptized when I was really young. I guess I was 7 or so. I don't really remember much about it. My father is a baptist preacher, so it was part of the drill I guess. I go to church about once every five years or so, I should go more for my dad, but I just really hate it. I think baptism is just like a lot of religious experiences, its simple emotion being called spiritual enlightenment. I started realizing that it was all a big con when I was in high school. People would be crying and feeling all spiritual and recommitting themselves to Jesus and I was wondering what was wrong with these people. I often wondered what it would be like if they put just a tiny bit of LSD in the grape juice for the Lord's Supper, and then started with all the call of the holy spirit con. Everyone would find Jesus that day.
   I was Baptized when I was in my 40's at the same time as my three children (non-infant). It was one of the most memorable days of my life.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Do you really think that’s going to work?

There is something discouraging about churches talking about winning the world for Christ, or reaching their communities for Jesus, when their primary strategy for doing this is having special meetings and inviting people to come hear the speaker.

When it is “successful” they proudly announce “God is doing big things here. We had 2 people come to know Christ in our revival services, and there were 3 rededications.”

Sporadic salvations in bi-annual revival services are just not going to get the job done.

Churches, please do better than this.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Gospel Presentations of Jesus #7

Jesus said, “No one can just come to me. He must be brought to me by the Father, who sent me. I will bring that person back to life again on the last day.

It is recorded in the Prophets that ‘All will be taught by God.’ So, everyone who hears from the Father and learns of Him come will come to me.

This doesn’t mean anyone has seen the Father. The only one who has ever seen the Father is the one who came from God. And I can promise you that whoever believes will have eternal life.”  

-- Somewhere in John 6

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Little Things

In our traditional church here in Brazil we have been having a little flood of baptisms. Ten here, three there, then six more. What is counter intuitive is that none of these baptisms are a result of any evangelistic push or visitation program. They are not the results of church programmed home bible studies nor any of our community ministries. They are just the cumulative result of members telling others about Jesus.


Our ministry forums (the preaching services, children’s church, crafts ministry, etc) are not where the real ministry happens in most cases. They are points of connection that make sharing Jesus possible.


One example is of a lady who came to our church during a Wednesday afternoon to ask for a basic basket (that is a box of rice, beans, flour, sugar, oil, pasta and salt) from the benevolence ministry. She came while the crafts ministry was meeting. During that time, she neither got involved in the crafts, or got a hold of a basic basket, because no one from the benevolence committee was there.

What she did get though, changed her life. She began talking to one of the women, who put her project down and paid attention to the newcomer. She learned her name and found out where she lived. She asked if she could pray for her during the week and what this lady needed. The week passed and she came back again the next week singing a different song. “I don’t need a basket, I need Jesus,” she said. “No one ever prayed for me like that before.” A friendship was born, and because Jesus belongs to one, he was shared with the other.

This ought to happen much more often.


So, if your church has an AWANA ministry or angel food ministry or any other kind of “outreach,” remember that the ministry forum is not the real ministry, it is just an opportunity for real ministry to happen. The real ministry happens through people, not projects.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Obeying the Great Commission

J. Guy Muse is an internet friend of mine and fellow missionary serving in Ecuador. He astutely observes key issues that impede Ecuadorian churches from fully obeying the great commission in his latest blog post. I think his observations apply very well to traditional American Christianity as well.
Matthew 28:18-20 Because of its familiarity, most of us assume what we and our church currently do is fulfilling the Great Commission. But are we?
Here is how most believers in our Ecuadorian evangelical context interpret Jesus' words...

JESUS SAID: All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
OUR INTERPRETATION? All authority has been given to to our pastor/denomination/church. They are our spiritual guides. What they have to say weighs more in what we do (or not do), than what Jesus commanded. Permission to engage in the Great Commission must first come from our leaders. Jesus is not sufficiently authoritative by himself.

JESUS SAID: Therefore, GO...
OUR INTERPRETATION? We understand "go" to mean come. Come to our church, youth group, event, concert, etc. Come is a lot more convenient for us than actually trying to find the time to go and engage relationally those who are lost and need the Good News. We go on mission trips, go to camp, go to conferences and concerts with high-profile Christian mega-stars, etc. The lost are expected to somehow find their way to us. They are supposed to come to our meetings and events planned for them. For the occasional permission granted to actually GO, those going are expected to bring home with them any who might respond. We can't have believers out there "doing their own thing" and starting "splinter churches." Real church is "mama church."

JESUS SAID: MAKE DISCIPLES of all nations...
OUR INTERPRETATION? Since we really do not know how to make disciples, we believe that what this means is that they need to hear the Gospel. Therefore, we focus on evangelistic events and invite people to pray and receive Christ. Church sports activities, Fall Festivals, youth car washes, Christmas pageants, and musical concerts are understood to be the appropriate means to reach people. Those handful who might raise their hand at one of our events are given an envelope of church literature. But "make disciples" is understood to be that they will now start coming to our church. There they will meet other believers, and hopefully learn more about God's Word and somewhere along the path turn into disciples (whatever that is).
JESUS SAID: BAPTIZING them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit...
OUR INTERPRETATION? This certainly does not mean I should be the one to baptize the new believer. If someone makes a profession of faith, it is my responsibility to make an appointment and introduce them to the pastor of the church. There they will be, 1) warmly received, 2) invited to participate in a new believer's class to prepare them for baptism, 3) when there are enough ready to be baptized and there are no circumstances which would prevent them from being baptized, 4) schedule a date on the church calendar, and 5) watch as the pastor baptizes them as part of one of our regular scheduled church services.

JESUS SAID: TEACHING THEM TO OBEY everything I have commanded you...
OUR INTERPRETATION? The newly baptized believer is then expected to begin attending church on a regular basis. There they observe how other Christians look, talk, and act. "Church Culture" is quickly assimilated about what is acceptable, and not acceptable. Basically it is understood that the new believer will learn God's Word through the listening of the weekly preaching of the pastor, and maybe a Sunday School class.
His full blog post and comments are available on the M blog
What do you think?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Red dots are churches

There are more of them in Baton Rouge than I thought. This image was taken from a google maps search with the words Baton Rouge church. There are some dots that represent non-Christian religious sites as well, but not many of them.

As impressive as this is, if you play around with the map some you will see that there is an interesting gap. Almost nothing in the Mall City area. (In Baton Rouge, this is one of the oft cited areas of high crime and poverty.)

As George Patterson said…
We need to stop trying to push the camel through the eye of the needle. Everyone plants churches in the suburbs. Go to the poor!
Food for thought
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