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.”

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