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.

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