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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